Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo Starting Strong

Nov 8, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives for the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) in the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives for the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) in the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Since entering the league last season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been one of the NBA’s most interesting players to watch for fans and media members alike. Everyone is interested in this guy, and for good reason. I mean, they call him the “Greek Freak” for a reason: he is a freak of a human being athletically.

Not only is Antetokounmpo 6-foot-11, the size of a big power forward or center, but he also plays like a small forward or guard. He is quick and has a good handle for a guy his size, making him one of the most unstoppable offensive players in the league.

People may not realize it, but guarding this guy just might be as difficult as covering LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, or Anthony Davis, and the league is going to start noticing that sooner rather than later.

With a new coach in Jason Kidd and a ton of underrated talent to sort through, predicting Milwaukee’s starting lineup for this season was almost impossible.

The common assumption was Antetokounmpo would start at shooting guard, and while he seemingly could play all five positions, Kidd did not believe he was the team’s best option at the 2. Instead, Kidd has been starting Jared Dudley while bringing Antetokounmpo off the bench.

Showing off his immense potential in the starting lineup is something Antetokounmpo would probably love to do, but instead, he has not complained, performed well, and has been earning starting minutes as of late, just coming off the bench.

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Through nine games this season, Antetokounmpo has improved upon last season’s numbers greatly. After averaging 6.8 points (41.4 percent shooting) and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, he has averaged 11.8 points (52.4 percent shooting) and 5.3 rebounds per game this season in the same amount of time for both years (24.6 minutes per game).

A contributing factor to Antetokounmpo’s improved scoring numbers is the fact that he is simply taking more shots, attempting 4.8 shots per game (making 9.1) this season compared to 2.2 (made 5.4) per game last season.

Aggressiveness can be an issue for rookies, and that seemed to be the case for Antetokounmpo last season. With a polished offensive game, there is no reason for him to not take shots now.

Before talking strengths, let’s talk negatives just so we can close out positive.

There are not too many issues with Antetokounmpo’s game, but he no doubt has things to work on. While his offensive game is strong, he has never been a good shooter, which he has apparently noticed, taking the majority of his shots near the rim (73.1 percent of shots are within 10 feet of the basket).

The Greek Freak will still take the occasional 3, and needs to move away from that unless he develops a good jump shot.

That won’t be necessary for him, however, and could still put up good numbers–like he is now–with his current playstyle.

Another struggle for Antetokounmpo is on the defensive end, and that is defending the perimeter. Playing as a 3 coming off the bench, Antetokounmpo will have to defend the perimeter most nights, and that is something he struggles with.

As shown against the Magic–where Antetokounmpo posted a career-high 19 points–Tobias Harris stood behind the arc on plenty of occasions with Antetokounmpo guarding him, yet he was not doing too much actual guarding. Being so big, Antetokounmpo seemingly plays with a big man mentality and stays close to the lane.

With his assignment on the perimeter, obviously that can be a problem. It did not hurt him in this game specifically, but he can’t continue to play off his guy or he’ll get burned eventually.

Being as athletic and quick as Antetokounmpo is, he should not have a problem keeping up with small forwards and I don’t see him getting beat to the rim by too many players. And if that does happen, he has those long arms to stuff them from behind with.

Most of Antetokounmpo’s strengths are offensively, while his overall defense is not necessarily bad.

Antetokounmpo is really, really good at getting to the rim. A good majority of his points vs. the Magic came on isolation drives from the top of the key, where he would drive the ball to the left (sometimes to the right or middle depending on what the defense gave him, but clearly favored the left side) and just simply attack the defender.

Being the freak he is, they did not stop him, and that is why he now has a new career-high.

After watching Antetokounmpo play early on, these isolation drives seem to be his way of choice to get points, and understandably so. No one has been able to stop him thus far, and only a solid rim protector could do anything in the future, it seems.

With all the expectations for Antetokounmpo to have some sort of a breakout season, he has gotten off to a good start. His iso offense is money every time, and going to that night in and night out at least four or five times is going to not only help him retain his average, but even improve upon it.

With the athleticism and skill set Antetokounmpo possesses, it is going to be hard for anyone to stop him this season. When he figures that out, he just might be one of the NBA’s best players.

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