When the NBA shut down back in March, Giannis Antetokounmpo was not healthy. A sprained knee had him out for a couple of games already and there were rumors he would be out weeks longer (opening the door for LeBron James to make an MVP push).
That was then. Now, heading to Orlando for the NBA’s restart, Antetokounmpo is back to his 29.6 points per game self, coach Mike Budenholzer told Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. And a healthy Greek Freak is bad news for every other team in the East.
“It’s a huge advantage for us that Giannis will be completely and totally healthy,” Budenholzer tells ESPN. “He’s in a great place, both mentally and physically.
“Who’s to say how things would have gone if we kept on playing? I’m not sure it would be safe to say [Giannis] would have missed a couple of weeks. Could it have been less? Maybe. Could it have been more? Perhaps. We can look back a bit and say, ‘Wow, I wonder what would have happened there.’ But the great thing is he’s healthy now.”
The Bucks would have been cautious with Antetokounmpo back in March. Considering their comfortably cushion on top of the East, the Bucks could have kept Antetokounmpo out weeks to make sure his knee was right and get his legs a little rest before the playoff push. Ultimately, he would have been completely and totally healthy anyway, but now he also is well rested.
Antetokounmpo likely will be the league’s back-to-back MVP after his 29.6 point, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists a game season. It was a campaign where, despite the fact every team knows his drives are coming, he still gets to the rim for nearly half his shots (47.8% of his attempts are at the rim, and he shoots 76.7% on them). Add in that he is playing at a Defensive Player of the Year level on the other end and he is the clear MVP.
Antetokounmpo will have a strong playoffs, he did last season (and knocked down his threes), but the question the Bucks as a team have yet to answer is “what is their Plan B?” Deep in the playoffs, the best teams take away the easy buckets for the Greek Freak and other players will have to step up. Will Budenholzer make the needed adjustments?
For a lot of people, they will not believe the Bucks can do it until they see them do it. But with a healthy Antetokounmpo Milwaukee is one step closer.