Only a handful of other NBA players have as much potential as Giannis Antetokounmpo, the so-called “Greek Freak” who’s having a breakout year for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Giannis is just 19 years old. He’s 6’11” with a 7’3″ wingspan. Hardcore NBA followers have been watching him since he came into the league in 2013, and it’s only a matter of time before mainstream fans catch on to what he can do.
His ascent isn’t going to be as smooth or immediate as that of Anthony Davis. He didn’t attend college in the U.S. and had little experience playing against the best teams in Europe when the Bucks drafted him straight out of Greece in 2013.
As noted in his DraftExpress profile, Giannis is a “late bloomer who did not have the benefit of growing up playing against other top international talents.” He has considerable physical gifts, but will have to adjust to the talent of the NBA while learning not to dominate the ball like he did in Greece.
However, his game is coming along nicely and perhaps more quickly than expected. This season, his averages of 11.9 points on 48% shooting, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game are all higher than his rookie averages. They’re not superstar numbers, but they’re impressive improvements for a guy who’s still leaning how to play the game.
Even more exciting is the way he’s combining his physical advantages with his unique skill set this year. To put it simply, he can do things on a basketball court that no one else in the NBA can do because of his length and athleticism. He has the height and wingspan of a center, but he also has skills off the dribble.
Here he is Euro-stepping from the THREE-POINT LINE for a lay-up:
Other times, he Euro-steps, plants, and dunks in his defenders’ faces:
He can get to the rim in two dribbles and elevate quickly:
And he can start a play on one end and finish it on the other:
That Antetokounmpo now seems fully in control of his physical gifts makes him terrifying for the opposition. Though he still has several areas to improve upon — he’s only shooting 15% from three, and his steals and blocks are both below one per game — he’s beginning to harness all of his skills.
Bucks center Larry Sanders reflected on Giannis, saying, “He’s only just scratching the surface of how good he’s going to be. He’s just tapping into new abilities and trying on new things. He’s really learning about himself and it’s amazing to watch.”
He also has head coach Jason Kidd’s confidence. Over the summer, Kidd made the decision to give Giannis the ball to run the offence: “We’ve seen it in practice. When you see a player’s comfort level with the ball — no matter what size — we wanted to see it in game action. We slowly have started letting him have the ball and running the offence.”
Kidd even referenced from Hall of Famers when talking about Giannis:
“A 19-year-old to a 30-year-old is a little different in understanding [to slow the game down]. But that’s what this time of the year is for, to understand Magic (Johnson) wasn’t fast. Grant Hill had a quick first step, but he was a point forward. Scottie Pippen could play multiple positions.”
It may be a little early to put Giannis next to Scottie Pippen and Magic Johnson, but the potential and possibilities of what Giannis may blossom into are endless.
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