Giannis Antetokounmpo (or the “Greek Freak” as he’s more commonly referred to) captured the collective imagination of basketball fans, players and experts alike last season.
In a draft class that was one of the worst in recent history, a medley of busts, injuries and wholly disappointing players, Giannis was a breath of fresh air. Even the shining lights, didn’t exactly ‘shine bright’.
The 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams is probably the perfect symbol for his draft class. Averaging 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists, the numbers look exceptional on paper…..except basketball isn’t played on paper. Carter-Williams put up these aesthetically pleasing stats on a ghastly Philadelphia team that struggled through a record of 19 wins and 63 losses. Furthermore, he did so playing porous defense and with a spectacular rate of inefficiency, as evidenced by his shooting percentages of just barely 40% from the field, and only 26.4% from three.
This was your Rookie of the Year.
Then there was Giannis.
His modest numbers – 6.8 points per game on 41.4% shooting and 34.7% from three – won’t jump off the page at you, but he passed the eye test like so few others in his rookie class.
At just eighteen years of age, his 6’10” frame seemingly perpetually expanding, Giannis looks the part of a future superstar. There was a gazelle-like ability to just float up and down the court, able to cover almost the entirety of the court in a single dribble. There were highlights that would make you drop your jaw, and just think that this kid could be anything. On a miserable Milwaukee Bucks team, in a miserable draft class, Giannis was both exceptional and the exception.
Fast-forward to the 2014 NBA Summer League and Giannis is still dropping jaws and flashing potential, though there appears to be more substance and production. If his output begins to match his potential, watch out. While he was somewhat passive in his first season like a lot of rookies, at this year’s Summer League Giannis appears to have been given the green light to attack the rim with reckless abandon. Whilst this has sometimes resulted in a series of ugly drives leading to turnovers and blocked shots, it has more often than not resulted in a basket for Giannis or one of his teammates. Occasionally it’s culminated in a poster dunk that brings Summer League to a standstill.
Averaging 17 points per game and almost 6 rebounds, on an ultra efficient 46.2% from the field, Giannis has looked the goods. Whilst we must always temper our expectations of any performance at Summer League as it is often a mirage, and rarely an accurate forecast of NBA output. This remains difficult with Giannis, as with every swished three pointer, every chase down block and every big dunk, you can’t help but see stardom in his future.
The 2014-15 NBA season should see the Greek Freak develop his game exponentially. For starters, Antetokounmpo has reportedly grown to be almost seven-feet tall. Such is his court vision, that new head coach Jason Kidd has stated that Giannis will likely see minutes at the point this season.
The selection of Jabari Parker at pick two in this year’s draft will be key for his development, pairing Giannis with a high-upside, scoring machine in the front court should lower both the burden and expectations of Antetokounmpo. For a sophomore who last season was selected outside of the lottery and is still a teenager, there are now almost impossible to exceed expectations placed on him. The challenge for the Greek Freak to be great is now ahead of him and his play this upcoming season should serve to answer many of the questions we have about Giannis.
For now, he’s a near seven footer with unmatched athleticism, ridiculous court vision for his size, a defensive menace capable of defending multiple positions, and a sweet shooting stroke to boot. The ingredients are all there, the onus is on both Giannis and the Bucks organisation to work hard and tap into that significant potential.
We don’t know just how good Giannis can or will be, but the narrative will be a whole lot of fun to follow. The summer of Giannis is upon us.
Is Giannis a future All-Star? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.