NBA Europe: Giannis carry the Bucks, Avdija is building a wall, and Bogdanovic's sharpness

Uygar Karaca
Collaborator
2021-11-22 12:17
Credit: AFP - Scanpix, GQ | BasketNews illustration
Credit AFP - Scanpix, GQ | BasketNews illustration

Last weeks’ Euro-NBA bonanza did not disappoint where Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, and Kristaps Porzingis came face-to-face, but the injury issues greyed the sky to some extent.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is back in business to lift the Bucks over .500 again, and Dennis Schroder does not show any intention to stop scoring, making Lakers fans to rethink about letting him go last summer, as he went off for 21 and 29 points performances against the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma Thunder.

Meanwhile, Nikola Vucevic (Chicago Bulls) and Jonas Valanciaunas’ (New Orleans Pelicans) back-to-back double-doubles were also impressive.

Kristaps Porzingis

Kristaps  Porzingis
Kristaps  Porzingis
MIN: 29.49
PTS: 20.27 (53.81%)
REB: 8.27
As: 2
ST: 0.82
BL: 1.55
TO: 1.36
GM: 11

Ricky Rubio’s transformed role in Cleveland maintains attention, while we should not overlook Cedi Osman’s prime night against Boston with 26 points, his best scoring number in two years.

Meanwhile, Deni Avdija’s growing role and confidence and the Hawks’ recuperation with Bogdan Bogdanovic was among the most prominent stories of the Euro-NBA weekly report. 

Giannis Carry the Bucks

After being unable to play against the Celtics due to an ankle sprain, Giannis Antetokounmpo came back with a roar to lead the Bucks to three wins last week.

After being named GQ’s Athlete of the Year, Giannis averaged 31.5 points, 13.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.2 blocks per game to anchor Milwaukee back to the upper half of the 0.500 winning ratio. 

As the numbers suggest, during all these games, the Greek Freak looked absolutely unstoppable.

His dominance in the matchup against Anthony Davis during the game against the Lakers was obvious: 47 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and one block while shooting almost flawless, with 18/23 for two-pointers and 3/4 for three-pointers.

On the other hand, he recorded and 32 points, 20 rebounds game against the Magic in only 30 minutes. Jaw-dropping and historical, business as usual for Giannis.  

Currently, Antetokounmpo has 10 double-doubles in the bag, and he is just behind  Stephen Curry (29.5 pts per game) and Kevin Durant (28.6 pts per game) in the third place for most point scored per game with 27.8, despite a 68.7% free-throw rate.

One area that he showed progress is the assist rate, which reached 31%, the second-best figure of his career. Among all the players of the league, that puts him 12th place in that category, and there is only one big player that has a better rate: Nikola Jokic. 

Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic Have Injury Problems

It was a tough week for the Denver Nuggets as they lost four games in succession against Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, and Phoenix. Their sole win came against the Portland Trail Blazers at the beginning of the week. For Nikola Jokic, it was complicated, too.

Against the Trailblazers, Jokic reached 7 assists (of 9 overall) back in the first quarter.

He ended up with 28 points and 9 rebounds and led Denver to the sole win of the week. Despite back-to-back double-doubles in his next two games against the Sixers and the Mavericks, Jokic could not stop Nuggets downfall for a losing series in the rest of the week.

After 30 pts-10 rebounds game against the Sixers, Jokic provided a season-high 35 points against Dallas Mavericks with 15-of-26 shooting. He also grabbed a team-high 16 rebounds and provided 6 assists.

But despite all his efforts, shorthanded Nuggets, who are still missing Micheal Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray dearly, could not stop the Kristaps Porzingis, Luka Doncic, and co.

Unfortunately, Doncic had to leave the court limping after an ankle sprain at the very end of the game. That was the one game of the week for the Slovenian superstar.

That gave a little worry to the Mavericks fans, as Luka’s history with ankle sprains is fresh in the short-term memories (did not play due to this particular problem in 11 games in 2019-2020).

It is good to note that despite his 11th double-double of the season, Jokic was held to 3 points in the second half against the Sixers, where rookie center Charles Bassey and Andre Drummond were quite effective with stopping the reigning MVP in the absence of Joel Embiid. 

Nuggets head coach Micheal Malone expressed his belief in a quick return for Jokic, but he did not play against the Suns last night.

His importance for Denver is impeccable as his presence makes an overall +29 difference on the court per 100 possessions. Per boxscore plus/minus, he sits in the second place of the entire NBA with +8.6 per game, among the players who are at least averaging 30 minutes on the court.

Dallas loses games, but Porzingis’ comeback looks real

While Luka Doncic was sidelined, Kristaps Porzingis kept last weeks’ momentum regarding his individual contribution but could not stop Dallas from losing games.   

As mentioned above, the Mavericks started the week with a well-earned win against the Denver Nuggets, where Porzingis rained in 12 of his 29 points in the third quarter alone.

That was also the Latvian’s best game of the season regarding the three-pointers where he hit 5 out of 8 beyond the arc.

He shot with 40% behind the arc and 50% from the field as a weekly average. Unfortunately, we could not watch Euro double trouble partnership any longer in the remaining days of the week due to Doncic’s absence.

In the next three games, Dallas surrendered to important rivals from the West, losing twice to Phoenix Suns and last night against the Clippers. 

In all these games, Porzingis continued to score 20+ and extended his series in this respect to 6 games.

Last night against the Clippers, he gave a good duel against Paul George where Porzingis kept Dallas within reach of a win with some clutch time scoring, despite failing eventually.

In the different angles of observing things, Porzingis proved to be effective at the center position, as well.

With those kind of lineups where Jason Kidd went small with Porzingis playing at five, Mavericks created +23 plus/minus in 47 possessions. More of this coming in the next weeks? It would be intriguing. 

Avdija: Watchful guardian of the Wizards

After recovering from a horrible injury that finished his first season in the NBA prematurely, Deni Avdija is finding his place in the NBA while the Wizards are keeping flying high above expectations with 11-5. 

They are currently third in the East (0.688 win ratio), but the Wizards for some time were in first place during the week after the wins against the Magic and Pelicans before losing against the Hornets and Heat.  

Meanwhile, Avdija showed how effective he could be as a defensive-minded, two-way weapon.

The Israeli forward helped Wizards to wing against Pelicans with his second NBA double-double, with 10 rebounds 11 points. The latter also equaled his season-high in scoring. 

In the next game against the Hornets, Avdija recorded his first back-to-back double-digit rebounding game in his NBA career. The Wizards also finished Miami Heat’s 4 game- winning streak during the weekend, despite being 16 points down, while Avdija’s four assists and 5 rebounds were instrumental. 

Furthermore, Washington’s defensive prowess is a huge factor behind the hot start as they are in the TOP 4 in the defensive ratings. Regarding this aspect, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv youngster’s valuable contributions are a big-game changer. 

Avdija’s well-known skills in containing the opponent’s drives from the outer perimeter are currently very instrumental in Wizards’ impressive run, where Wizards are giving 7.3 points less when he is on the court. 

Combined with his well-selected shooting from the field, Avdija’s offensive contributions to the Wizards mechanism are also being felt. All these pile up for a +15.9 difference on the court, second-best plus-minus contribution per 100 possessions, after Montrezl Harrell. 

Avdija does not shoot very frequently, and when he does, he does not hit very accurately. (1/7 3PT against the Hornets).

But due to his high-level basketball IQ and strong impulses, he manages to draw fouls, which is an underestimated skill. Given the 14% of the shooting attempts, Avdija is being fouled, which puts him in beyond the 90% quantile in the league within this category among forwards. That is an impressive rate.

The sub-par three-point shooting rate (32%) needs a definite improvement, but that also depends on his role.

Avdija is more inclined to take shots near to the rim instead of three-pointers this season, and his effective field goal rate shows a slow improvement from 51% to 52%. Regarding the short-mid ranges, Avdija jumped from 45% to 50%. 

If he keeps developing like that, a certain case for the All-Defensive team of the season is being discussed as a possibility for him. 

Bogdanovic and Hawks shows sparks of recovery 

Bogdan Bogdanovic is finally coming to himself as the Hawks won all 4 games of the last week. After losing 6 games straight, this was a timely comeback for both the Hawks and Bogdanovic as well.

His best game was against Orlando Magic, where Bogdanovic was named as questionable on the injury list but played 29 minutes, scored 20 points with 4/8 shooting from the three-point range (and overall 7/11 from the field). After his corner three late in the second quarter, Hawks never trailed. 

Agreed, that good game was against one of the weakest links of the league but still, the next wins against Boston Celtics 110-99 and Charlotte Hornets 115-105 were important to lift the morale level up.

Besides, Bogdanovic’s 6 assists against the Celtics and 4/10 accuracy from 3-point range were much more impactful. 

The improvement in Bogdanovic’s shooting accuracy is quite important, as his early struggles led to a downturn trend in the Hawks’ offense. When he shoots beyond 40% from the field in all his shots, Hawks go 5-0. 

Last two weeks, he shot 31% from the 3-point range. This week, he improved that to 39.3% while the Hawks shot 40% behind the arc, the best in the week.

Certainly, correlation and causality are two different things, and putting these statistics altogether without going any deeper could be misleading. But in the current stage, this is at least worth considering. 

Besides, Bogdanovic also played with a 13% assist rate, another enhancement compared to the previous part of the season. 

In games against Boston and Orlando, Bogdanovic provided 10 assists (4 of them to Huerter, 2 to Collins, 2 to Redding, and 1 to Young).

However, those assists came quite costly - 2.56 assists to the turnover rate. In this category, he is on the top of the list of this team, among those who played at least 20 minutes on average.

Their main problem? Defense. Hawks is currently the 4th worst defense in the league. They have been giving too many wide-open shots since the beginning of the season.

Per NBA advanced stats, Bogdanovic’s defensive rating is dead last in the team, 117.5 per 100 possession.

This gives another indication of how crucial is the offensive recuperation of Bogdanovic to give his contribution. Things seem to be getting on the right track, at least.



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