Ahead of the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, the Greek national team was deemed as one of the unpredictable underdogs that could surprise anyone. They were not regarded as favorites to win it all, but they would occasionally come up in the medal conversation.
Greece was lead by NBA’s most valuable player in 2019 — Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was surrounded with extremely high expectations. This world cup was supposed to be the best tournament of his life, considering he took the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals and ultimately won MVP for the year. Hopes were high.
Unfortunately for Greece, they finished 11th. Giannis averaged (for his standards) a mediocre 14.8 points in 25 minutes per game. This performance went under the radar a bit and following the Bucks preseason game vs. Utah, Giannis addressed the world cup briefly.
I felt like playing in FIBA; I was like a prisoner. I just got out of the cage, the cell. I’m free now. But it’s good to be back… The rules the way of basketball is played over there, the spacing. I felt like I was playing one against five every time I had the ball. It’s different; it’s totally different. I prefer the NBA.
The Greek national coach and staff went on record several times saying,
We don’t want to count on Giannis a lot, we appreciate his help, but we’ll share the offense evenly.
It seems weird that you don’t want to focus on Giannis, who just won the MVP in the best league of the world. The coach was either bluffing or consciously didn’t play to Giannis’ strengths.
If you watched Greece play, you saw teams like Brazil neutralize Giannis and not allow him more than a measly 13 points. No one will argue Giannis is a ridiculous talent, who’s yet to reach his potential, especially if he manages to improve his shooting game. However, this tournament exploited some of his most significant weaknesses that opposing teams will be sure to put into account when preparing the scouting report.