Mike Budenholzer calls on NBA officials to ‘protect’ Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been taking a lot of hard fouls lately and Mike Budenholzer is begging the NBA to do something about it.

For the second game in a row, Giannis Antetokounmpo was brought to the floor by a massive foul, a borderline dangerous hit. Two games ago it was an open-field tackle by Joel Embiid. Last night, it was this tag-team clothesline from Jerami Grant and Justise Winslow.

Talking to reporters after the game, his head coach Mike Budenholzer said, “I just think sometimes the hits that Giannis is taking, the league needs to look at, the league needs to protect him.”

He went on to couch those comments, clarifying that he wasn’t just talking about his own star player: “It’s not just him, anybody takes those hits, the league needs to protect players.”

Does Giannis Antetokounmpo really get fouled more than other players?

Budenholzer watches Giannis night in and night out and he has seen more than his fair share of carnage. Over the past four seasons, Giannis has been fouled 1689 times, more than eight times per game, by far the most of any player in the league over that span — Trae Young is second having drawn 1440 fouls over that span.

Not all of those fouls are physical hits and with his unique blend of size, speed and strength, Giannis is often creating a fair bit of that contact. But his ability to get into tight spaces more quickly than anyone his size has any business moving means he takes a lot of hard hits.

Like, a lot.

Of hard hits.

Giannis’ size and speed do create an incredible challenge for the officials. It’s similar to how difficult it was to defend Shaq in his prime. Or why I would foul out pretty quickly in a game against third graders. Being bigger, stronger and faster creates collisions. Giannis often gets the worst of them because he’s the one off balance and getting hammered by the arms of defenders, even if his body and forward momentum is creating the contact.

I don’t claim to have an answer on how to referee him more fairly and safely. But having the best player in the league getting hammered to the floor multiple times per game isn’t in anyone’s best interests.

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