Giannis Antetokounmpo
(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Giannis Antetokounmpo Doesn’t Guard Jimmy Butler

The Milwaukee Bucks lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Miami Heat. Jimmy Butler scored a playoff career-high 40 points, and Milwaukee find themselves in a 1-0 hole for the second consecutive round. Reporters asked Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 2020 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, why he wasn’t guarding Butler. Here was his response:

I’m sorry, what? Giannis is supposed to be the best defensive player in the entire league, yet he’s shying away from the other team’s best offensive player just because his coach didn’t specifically tell him to guard them? What a load of garbage. Any player who prides themself on defense is taking that assignment. Anthony Davis and Ben Simmons absolutely switch onto Jimmy Butler once the shots start falling.

Here’s a take: anyone can win DPOY if they actively choose to only guard the third or fourth best player on a given team. If this was how Giannis approached the rest of the season, he didn’t deserve DPOY. Maybe there are stats to back that up. We need to stop fawning over him just because he’s a freak of nature. Phoning it in isn’t impressive. Other NBA players had their own words for Giannis’ comments:

Why Giannis Didn’t Deserve DPOY

Giannis Antetokounmpo is very good at basketball. He’s most likely going to win the MVP again this season. That’s why this is so egregious. How did Giannis win DPOY when he clearly doesn’t care enough on defense to guard a guy dropping 40? Yes, he finished towards the top in many defensive metrics. However, those defensive metrics are skewed if he wasn’t guarding the toughest assignment.

I personally don’t think we even have statistics that are accurate enough to gauge a player’s true defensive value. For MVP it’s easy. A guy tallies 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists a game? Boom, MVP. DPOY depends on the eye test because the evaluation isn’t as cut and dry. There’s not a lot on a stat sheet that shows how good someone is defensively. Giannis Antetokounmpo looks the part. He’s long, athletic, protects the paint, and gets boards. That’s what a DPOY looks like. Those attributes don’t mean he should win it though.

Voting for awards has to be more than just narrative and the eye test. You know who takes the toughest defensive assignments? Ben Simmons, for one. I’m not a huge fan of Simmons’ game, but I really appreciate what he provides on the defensive end. Not to say Giannis isn’t a great defender. He is, but he has to try. Long story short, the Bucks aren’t winning anything if Giannis Antetokounmpo, the supposed best player in the league, is complacent on the defensive end. For the voters, be better. This kind of nonsense shouldn’t happen.


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