Milwaukee Bucks

One Play: Giannis Antetokounmpo is picking teams apart with a new and unconventional pick-and-roll partner

Welcome to "One Play!" Throughout the 2020-21 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.

Today, Giannis Antetokounmpo takes the spotlight.

Context: If you had to guess, who do you think Giannis Antetokounmpo has assisted the most on the Milwaukee Bucks so far this season?

Khris Middleton? Not even close. According to NBA.com, Antetokounmpo has assisted his All-Star teammate four times through 13 games, tying him with Bobby Portis for sixth-most on the team. Jrue Holiday? You're on the right track, but no - he ranks fourth. Brook Lopez? He's one spot ahead of Holiday, ranking third.

So ... what's the answer? Donte DiVincenzo, who has been assisted on 14 baskets by Antetokounmpo, leads the way, followed by Bryn Forbes, who has been assisted on 13 baskets.

Forbes being second will probably raise more eyebrows than DiVincenzo being first, if only because Forbes (114) has played less than half the amount of minutes next to Antetokounmpo as DiVincenzo (250) has. And yet, Forbes ranking that high is a testament to the chemistry he's quickly established with Antetokounmpo.

There's one particular action the Bucks like to run between Antetokounmpo and Forbes that is proving to be a headache for teams to defend.

You know what that means - onto the film room!

The play:

Breakdown: The five Bucks on the court are Antetokounmpo, Forbes, DiVincenzo, Lopez and Pat Connaughton.

Antetokounmpo brings the ball up the court while DiVincenzo and Lopez park themselves in opposite corners and Connaughton sets up shop in the dunker spot.

As for Forbes, he makes a beeline towards Antetokounmpo almost as soon as the two-time MVP crosses halfcourt.

Once Antetokounmpo reaches the top of the perimeter, Forbes sets a screen on his defender, Thaddeus Young.

Garrett Temple, who is defending Forbes, drops back to buy Young some time as he ducks underneath the screen.

With several feet of space, Antetokounmpo picks up his dribble as though he's going pull-up for a 3-pointer. (Antetokounmpo made only 28.9 percent of his off-the-dribble 3-point attempts last season, but he's up to 35.6 percent this season).

Temple steps up to contest Antetokounmpo's shot in case he does follow through...

...only he doesn't.

After setting the screen, Forbes slips to the 3-point line. With Young not wanting to switch and Temple focused on Antetokounmpo, Forbes finds himself wide open and receives a pass from Antetokounmpo.

The result? Three points for the Bucks.

Why it matters: That inverted pick-and-roll, with Antetokounmpo serving as the ball handler and Forbes serving as the screener, forces the defence to make some tough decisions in a hurry.

It all starts with Antetokounmpo being almost impossible to stop when he gets downhill. Against most limited shooters, dropping underneath the screen in a pick-and-roll would be enough, but Antetokounmpo needs very little runway to get going. It's why Young goes underneath the screen and Temple hangs back - the Chicago Bulls are walling off the paint, where Antetokounmpo ranks behind only Domantas Sabonis and Andre Drummond in total points scored on the season.

The problem, of course, is that leaves Forbes unguarded for a split-second.

Forbes has proven himself to be a knockdown shooter since going undrafted in 2016, converting 39.5 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-points attempts last season, 45.3 percent in 2018-19 and 39.4 percent in 2017-18. (So far this season, Forbes is up to 42.9 percent). He's one of those you-expect-him-to-make-every-shot-he-takes-when-he's-open type of shooters, which makes him a natural fit next to someone who commands as much attention as Antetokounmpo does with the ball in his hands.

Had Temple not hung back out of fear of Forbes slipping to the 3-point line, it would've put Young at risk of getting caught up in the screen, thereby opening up a runway.

And when Antetokounmpo gets a runway, it's curtains.

Those aren't the only options either. If someone else provides help, it paves the way for one of Milwaukee's three other shooters to get open.

This possession features D.J. Augustin as the screener as opposed to Forbes, but it's the same idea:

If all else fails, it puts Antetokounmpo in position to attack his defender in isolation while everyone else around him spaces the floor.

That's not to say it's impossible to defend - most teams will live with Antetokounmpo settling for a pull-up of any kind if it means he's not bulldozing his way to the rim - but it requires all five defenders to be on the same page. Otherwise, they're one small mistake away from Antetokounmpo, Forbes or someone else on the Bucks getting a high percentage look.

The scariest part? The Antetokounmpo and Forbes connection is only going to get stronger.

As they get more reps, sequences like this, where Forbes fools the Detroit Pistons by flipping the screen at the very last second without committing an offensive foul, could become more common:

In which case, best of luck to whoever has to defend it.

"He's willing to sacrifice his body and he's physically strong, so he can actually set a good screen to the four man and still be able to like (smacks hands) slip out for the shot," Antetokounmpo told The Athletic's Eric Nehm of Forbes. "He's smart enough to read my eyes and know where I want to go and which way I want him to come set it.

"We're building a good chemistry there."

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