Giannis Antetokounmpo – Legitimate NBA Superstar
So far, the 2016-17 NBA season has been dominated by unbelievable performances from some of the league’s marquee names.
Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double. James Harden is redefining the point guard position with his insane combination of scoring and passing.
Anthony Davis is healthy and back to doing Anthony Davis things. DeMarcus Cousins routinely puts up games of 35 points and 15 rebounds. It’s been quite the remarkable start.
One name that flies under the radar a bit is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Maybe because it’s long and difficult to spell. However, the Greek Freak is showing this season that he belongs among the group of superstars mentioned above.
While Westbrook and Harden are the gold standard as far as point guard play this season, Giannis is defying conventional thinking regarding the position altogether.
What makes Giannis unique?
Bucks’ head coach Jason Kidd did a little experimenting in the latter stages of last season and installed Gia as the team’s point guard last February. Giannis’ game took off from that point, as he notched five triple-doubles over the season’s final two months.
Kidd wasted no time in telling the media that Giannis would become the team’s lead ball-handler entering the 2016-17 campaign, as well. So far, he’s picked up right where he left off last April.
Through the first 20 games, the Greek Freak is averaging career-highs just about across the board. He’s giving Milwaukee 22 points per game on nearly 52 percent shooting from the floor. He’s also adding 8.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.3 blocks and 2.2 steals a night.
Unlike Westbrook and Harden, who are each of conventional point guard size, Giannis is 6’11” and nearly 230 pounds. His wingspan is about the length of a football field. He is capable of grabbing a rebound, taking four dribbles to cover the length of the floor and dunking it on the other end.
Did we mention that he turned 22 earlier this week? Former Oklahoma star and current Pelicans rookie Buddy Hield is older than he is, and this is Giannis’s fourth year in the league.
Antetokounmpo starts games as the Bucks’ point guard, but he plays a variety of positions as he’s needed. He is legitimately capable of playing all five spots on the floor. He has the athleticism and length to keep up with wings defensively, and the size to bang with other bigs on the block.
His versatility helps mask the fact that he still has some holes in his game. He’s managed to score 22 points per game without really having a reliable jump shot as of yet.
He’s not yet a finished product
Per NBA.com/stats, Antetokounmpo is shooting under 30 percent from the floor this season in jump shots outside of 10 feet. That is quite awful. To his credit, though, he is clearly aware of his shortcomings and plays to his strengths.
Nearly 70 percent of all of his shot attempts come from within 10 feet of the bucket. When you’re nearly seven feet tall and have the handle he does, why wouldn’t you just force your way to the rim whenever you want?
Being able to dominate the way he does without a consistent jump shot is incredibly impressive.
Aside from his quickness and athleticism, Giannis’ floor vision may well be the most impressive aspect of his game. Most players his size don’t make strong distributors, but there is obviously a reason Kidd decided to roll the dice and try him at point guard.
How many players, regardless of size, are capable of making this play?
The way he has played so far this season is a far cry from the Bambi on ice he looked like at times during his rookie year. Giannis is oozing with confidence these days, and it’s evident that he has worked extremely hard to improve his game in just about every aspect.
The Next LeBron?
He isn’t nearly as good a shooter, but Antetokounmpo is the closest thing we have to LeBron James in the league today. LeBron’s game is more brutish, but there are plenty of parallels between the two. The way they’re each able to overwhelm opposing defenders with size alone makes them matchup nightmares.
Will Giannis ever get to LeBron’s level? That’s a lot to ask, but the potential is certainly there, especially if he can start knocking down jumpers with regularity. If a guy even has the potential to be in the same sentence as LeBron, it’s high praise regardless of whether he ever gets to that same level.
The NBA has moved into the pace and space era, but that doesn’t make a seven-foot jack-of-all-trades any more common. Giannis is a singular talent, and the Bucks will be reaping the benefits for years to come. They locked him up on a four-year deal worth $100 million during the offseason, and that may even prove to be a bargain if Antetokounmpo is able to keep progressing at such an insane rate.
After years of early playoff exits and whiffed lottery picks, the Bucks have finally found themselves a true franchise player. The Bucks still have a long way to go before they can be tabbed as a legitimate title contender coming out of the East, but Giannis’s presence will help transform Milwaukee from a random, NBA outpost to a desirable destination for big name free agents before long.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is emerging as a real superstar in the league, and his name belongs up there alongside the likes of Westbrook, Harden, Stephen Curry and the rest of the game’s giants.