Remember the last time the Milwaukee Bucks were relevant? We can’t blame you if you answer with a shrug. The question, after all, is easy to answer because the Bucks haven’t moved the casual fan needle since the glory days of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, and Sam Cassell. That was 15 years ago.
But times sure have changed because Milwaukee is making some noise in the basketball world, and it’s all because of a 22-year-old who has thrown the traditional paradigm of basketball positions right out the window.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the world of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Before we embark on the thrill ride that is the Greek Freak, it’s important to establish the kind of basketball player he has evolved into. On paper, he’s listed as 6’11,” which means he’s tall enough to play center in today’s NBA, except that his natural position is small forward given that he’s built more like a wing. He’s actually the Bucks’ starting point guard, a position he has thrived in ever since Jason Kidd threw him in there after former Bucks point guard Michael Carter-Williams went down with an injury last season.
So what exactly is the Greek Freak’s position? The short answer is everything, but the more accurate answer is a lot trickier to define because Giannis Antetokounmpo has become a “he’s-not-supposed-to-do-that” type of player. Okay, we just made that classification up, but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Tell me, when was the last time a player an inch short of 7-feet has taken a loose ball from the opponent’s side of the court, dribbled once after crossing the half-court line, and then dunked the ball?
Just as you’re trying to comprehend that situation, try answering this question: ever seen a point guard block a shot from one end, execute a fast break perfectly by driving down the middle of the court, and then finding a cutting teammate for a dunk?
So many things happened in that burst that make you wonder how Antetokounmpo can process the play he makes on the end of the court, jet off to the other, and still have the patience for the fast break to develop (wait for his teammate to catch up) before dishing it at the perfect time. Miles Plumlee, who by the way is also 6’11”, didn’t have to do anything but run, receive the pass, and dunk. Plumlee gets the score after Antetokounmpo does pretty much everything else.
At the risk of flooding this story with too many videos, check this one out too.
That is Giannis starting another fast break and getting bumped by Raptors rookie Pascal Siakam. Whereas most players will probably fling the ball to the basket in the hopes of getting a three-point play, Antetokounmpo still has the length and explosiveness to jump off his weak foot and dunk with his left hand, doing that entire motion just as his balance was disrupted by Siakam.
Beyond the highlights, Antetokounmpo’s 2016-2017 season has been elite on all levels.
Consider the stats of these two players from this season and see how similar they are.
Player A: 21.9 PPG, 9 RPG, 5.9 APG, 2.0 SPG, 2.1 BPG, 52% FG, 25% 3FG, 77% FT, 34.3 MPG, 25.9 PER
Player B: 25 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 9.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 52% FG, 36% 3FG, 70% FT, 36.7 MPH, 26.5 PER
The entire bodywork of stats is largely similar for both players, having advantages in certain categories. Player A, of course, is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Player B is LeBron James.
Obviously, Antetokounmpo still has a long way to go before finding himself in the same conversation as one of the greatest to ever play the game. But even that shouldn’t take away from the historical air that the Greek Freak could attain if his current stats hold up for an entire season.
If it does, he’d be the only player in NBA history to average at least 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, and two blocks in one season.
It’s completely understandable if players like James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Anthony Davis, and those guys at Golden State are getting all the headlines. The NBA is a star-driven league and the individual exploits of these players are just as ridiculous in their own right. But remember, the next time you celebrate the next Westbrook triple-double or the next Davis 40-15, you might want to flip the channel over to the Milwaukee Bucks every now and then.
It’s got its own superstar-in-the-making who’s breaking just as many as glass ceilings as any of the marquee names. And he just turned 22 one week ago.
Once more, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the world of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
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