Most people can pronounce Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name by now. The 6’11 Point/Forward/Center (who knows?) with a 7’3 wingspan better known as the ‘Greek Freek’ has been making movements in the league for the better part of two seasons. Since being taken with the 15th pick in the 2013 draft, Giannis has steadily rose to become one of the premier rising stars in the NBA. He came into the league as a skinny and under-polished 18-year-old but in just 4 years has transcended the history books. There’s just so much more to come.
Let’s look at what he’s already done…
After a steady rookie season averaging 6.8 points, 1.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds, Giannis began to hit his stride towards the end of the season, garnering a selection All-Rookie Second Team honours. The Bucks made the Playoffs the following season where Giannis averaged 12.7 points, shooting 49% from the field, but bowed out in a first round loss to the Bulls in 6 games. The next season was primed to be Giannis’ breakout year and although he didn’t quite blow up the way everyone thought he would, he still averaged 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists, shooting 50% from the field at the age of 21; a feat only achieved by Lakers legend and one of the greatest point guards to play the game; Magic Johnson.
This season was one of historic proportions as Giannis produced a stat line never seen before; averaging 22.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks in 35.6 minutes a game. The only other player to amass those stats (minus the steals) was none other than former Buck, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If we take away the blocks, Giannis is up there with some elite company; with the likes of Larry Bird, Russell Westbrook, Chris Webber and Antoine Walker compiling the list. What’s interesting is how these players all had these great regular season stat lines in what was arguably their prime seasons. Giannis is only 22! Just let that sink in.
It doesn’t matter how many defenders there are, whenever Giannis is within two feet of the basket it’s a long armed dunk over anyone that bothered to get in the way.
Watching him is just crazy. He can pick up his dribble at the 3-point line and finish at the rim.
He posts up smaller defenders and beats bigger, slower defenders off the drive. When he’s playing the point he causes havoc for opposing matchups because who can you genuinely put on a 6’11 point guard?
As the league moves towards players who can defend multiple positions, Giannis acts as the ultimate counter as he appears literally unguardable for any matchup. In the open court he is unstoppable as he can hit the open man or drive in for the dunk over multiple defenders. Other players find it impossible to stay in front of him in transition due to his length and quickness to be able to scoot by defenders and into the paint for the finish.
Now no player is complete at such a young age. Giannis’s 3-point shooting leaves a lot to be desired. He’s a career 27% finisher from 3-point land and cashed on only 49 out of 180 3-point attempts during the regular season. He’s got a slow gather on his shot as he needs the time to get set. He brings his arms up to his head meaning most of the power in the shot is coming from his arms and not his legs. When Giannis is rushed into a shot it tends to flail off the side of the rim as he shoots the ball before he’s planted his feet. His own uncertainty in his shot cost the Bucks dearly in their Game 6 loss to the Raptors in the first round of the Playoffs. Giannis had the chance to go for the 3 to tie the game up but instead elected to take the layup at the rim with 3.5 remaining on the clock. Tony Snell then blew the inbounds pass after Derozan made two free-throws and the Bucks lost the series.
The good news, however, is that Giannis received an invite this past December from Holger Geschwinder -the man who taught Dirk Nowitzki how to shoot- to train with him in Germany. It still remains to seen if Giannis will make it over to Germany to train with Geschwinder this summer but if he does this could be the training he needs to develop into an in-and-out scorer that poses even more of a threat for opposing matchups. Players would no longer be able to give Giannis the space he needs if he can become a risk from outside.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascendance and when it peaks will in part be down to the continued development of the Bucks. The Bucks already have the foundations of a young core featuring Giannis, Parker and Middleton and with solid rookie seasons from both Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker, the future is bright. Parker and Middleton are both coming off injuries and dependant on them staying healthy it will be exciting to watch them play a full season together with Giannis. With Giannis’s contract extension coming in to effect next season, the Bucks will not have enough cap space to sign a max-contract free agent but they can look to add some shooters and some forwards who can space the floor. There are some interesting pieces hitting the market this summer. With the likes of J.J Redick and Patty Mills both affordable shooters who averaged over 40% from 3 last season; and forwards such as Serge Ibaka and Ersan Ilyasova who can both add depth and experience to the team.
The Bucks have shown they’re pretty damn good at drafting in recent years and hopefully they can get lucky again this year. This year they’ll draft 17th in a stacked draft class and could take someone like 3-point specialist Luke Kennard out of Duke or an inside-out power forward like T.J Leaf out of UCLA if they’re still available.
Seeing as this year the narrative for the MVP race largely depended on historic stat lines (as opposed to actually winning games; but that’s just my opinion), so even if the Bucks don’t have a winning season expect to see Giannis in the MVP race as his points and assists numbers only grow as he gains more control of the Bucks offense and the Bucks get better. It may take another couple of seasons for the Bucks to be true contenders in the East but next year Giannis is projected to have another incredible year and will most likely cement himself as one of the key stars in the league. There’s just so much more to look forward too from Giannis Antetokounmpo, and provided he doesn’t sustain a career ending injury, he is going to dominate the league for years to come.
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