Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak.
Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to set the bar higher for himself, his team, his franchise, and his fans as he improved his game in a multitude of ways during his 2017-2018 campaign. While his play hasn’t been flawless, few can argue against season averages of 26.9 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game, and 4.8 assists per game, as well as another All-Star appearance under his belt. Giannis is the Milwaukee Bucks’ franchise player and has proven it again this year.
As a start, Giannis averaged 4 more points per game and had a higher field goal percentage (52.9% vs. 52.1%) than he did last year. He set career highs in points per game (26.9), FG% (52.9), effective FG% (54.5), rebounds per game (10.0), and also got to the free throw line an average of 8.5 times per game while shooting a respectable 76.0% from the charity stripe. Giannis was 2nd in the league in free throw attempts, only trailing James Harden of the Houston Rockets who averaged 9.86 attempts per game.
Giannis was 1st in the league in Offensive Real Plus-Minus rating (2.58) and 2nd in Total Real Plus-Minus rating this year (4.16) for eligible Power Forwards. Giannis was second only to the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis for the top spot despite averaging fewer steals (1.5) and blocks (1.4) per game in comparison to the year before.
Giannis hit three game-winning shots this year (two in the regular season, one in the playoffs) and showcased his ability to be clutch in other ways as well. His steal and dunk against the Blazers helped to seal a victory in Milwaukee and a loose ball grab and layup with 5.9 seconds left in the fourth against the Cavaliers secured a win for the Bucks both prove that winning doesn’t always take a clutch shot but that hustle and defense can win ball games as well.
Giannis was voted as having “Dunk of the Year” which was created in transition starting with a steal and a lob from Khris Middleton and ending with Giannis leaping over 6’6” guard Tim Hardaway Jr. of the New York Knicks for the emphatic jam in Madison Square Garden. The Bucks would go on to win that game 103-89.
In 24 of the 75 regular season games Giannis played this year, Giannis scored over 30 points. In 4 games this year, he scored over 40. The Bucks went 16-8 in those 24 games in which Giannis scored over 30 points, proving that when Giannis puts up big scoring numbers, the Bucks have a great shot at winning. This further cements Giannis as the star Milwaukee had been missing for years and is the player that the franchise needs to build around.
Despite his high effective FG percentage and FG percentage, one category that was improved upon from last year was 3pt percentage. One might argue, as it’s an improvement, why then would this be a disappointment? Shooting 27.2% from deep in the 2016-17 campaign compared to shooting 30.7% from 3 point range in the 2017-18 season is an improvement, however it is only a small step in the right direction for Giannis as he continues to find his form from downtown. The league average this year for 3pt FG% was 36.2% and Giannis is a long way away from hitting the league average. In order to expand his game further, the Bucks can only hope that Giannis develops his range in the off-season to really round out his game as 952 of his 1523 shots were taken less than 10 feet away from the rim accounting for 62.5% of his shots taken.
Giannis had a small drop in blocks per game this year averaging 1.4 per game in 2017-18, down from his average of 1.9 in 2016-17. The steals numbers took a slight dip as well, averaging 1.5 per game in 2017-18, down from his average of 1.6 in 2016-17. However, these numbers are defensible as he was in the top 25 in the league for both steals and blocks per game for the second year in a row. The dips on the defensive end might have something to do with having a bigger role on the offensive side of the ball since Giannis hoisted up 3 more shots per game averaging 18.7 attempts per game in comparison to the 2016-17 campaign in which he only averaged 15.7 attempts per game.
The assist numbers for Giannis dipped slightly this year from 5.4 to 4.8 assists per game. The drop in production is arguably due to the acquisition of Eric Bledsoe who is a ball dominant point guard who commanded a 25.7% usage rating while he was on the floor. In 2016-17, the Bucks had less usage from their top ball handling point guard (Malcolm Brogdon) as he only accounted for 18.6% of total usage while he was on the floor. The drop in assists is disappointing but explainable as Giannis had fewer opportunities as play-maker and became more of a finisher. This reduction makes sense as he was averaging 3 more shots per game this year in comparison to last year.
Grade for the Season: A
Grading Giannis lower than an “A” would be an insult to his talent. The Greek Freak made solid strides across the board and continued to show greatness in nearly every way as the centerpiece to this Bucks team. There is always room for improvement as no-one is perfect and although Giannis does have some shortcomings, his ability to attack the rim, athleticism, and leadership were prevalent throughout the season. His impact was felt in nearly every game whether the Bucks won or not. Giannis is a superstar, an all-star, and a generational talent who is sought after across the league and Milwaukee would be wise to continue to build around him as he is the best thing to have happened to the Bucks since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Role Next Year: Superstar/MVP Candidate
As many may remember in August of 2017, Kobe Bryant issued a challenge to Giannis to win the Kia NBA MVP. Although Giannis may not remain a top contender this year, the Greek Freak was briefly at the forefront of the conversation averaging 33.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1 block per game in the month of October. That pace would not be sustainable but Giannis is still the closest thing to an MVP candidate/winner the Bucks have seen since the 70’s and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Expectations are even greater for next year’s campaign especially if the Bucks land good replacement coach for interim Joe Prunty. As mentioned afore, the Bucks will need to continue to build around their superstar and key pieces would include a true “big man” center and a point guard. Whether or not the Bucks are able to land such talent remains to be seen but we can expect Giannis to be at the forefront of the MVP conversation again as his work ethic, leadership, skill, and athleticism will be key to leading the Milwaukee Bucks to success.