When Giannis was drafted the expectations were low, with analysts saying in two years he might be a rotation player. Fastforward to now and he is coming off an impressive season and is expected to take yet another jump and possibly be in all star conversations.
Prior to the draft Giannis was regarded as a long and semi-athletic forward from Greece. What I think the pre-draft stuff failed to convey was just how athletic he was, which this recent ESPN article did. Giannis is a freak and you can see it in everything he does. Another thing that was totally missed in pre-draft stuff was the advanced vision Giannis displayed even as a rookie was nothing short of astonishing. At his size to have the feel for the game he has is what has spurred so many comparisons to Kevin Durant and Lebron James.
To be clear, Durant’s proficiency as a scorer and shooter make him an entirely different player and at 27 he is already a near lock for the hall of fame. Lebron is probably a better comparison as his game is more the all around game that Giannis projects to have rather than the superb scorer game that KD has shown. Giannis being anything close to either of these two would be essentially unprecedented for Bucks fans, so why does Giannis get mentioned in the same breaths as these hall of famers?
Of guys 6’7″ or taller only fourteen guys had an assist percentage of 20 or higher. Giannis being tied for the tallest on that list with Joakim Noah. (As a side note, Giannis became a featured ball handler in the second half of the season his assist percentage likely would be much higher, but basketball reference does not do assist percentage splits) That list can be found here another thing that jumps out about that list; Giannis has the 5th highest true shooting percentage amongst those guys. Showing that he has an advanced shot selection for his age, which by the way Giannis is the youngest guy on that list, by almost four full years.
Giannis was 6th in the league with 143 dunks last season, this is particularly impressive due to the fact that everyone above him was assisted on many more of their dunks than Giannis was. Comparing Giannis to the league leader in dunks, Deandre Jordan, Jordan was assisted on 90% of his dunks compared to Giannis’s 65%. When looking at a shot distribution for Giannis he had a sweet spot on the left side of the free throw line, but he made his killing at the rim, with over half of his shot attempts coming at the rim. Accounting for 68% of his makes those shot attempts were incredibly efficient for him, if he is able to make some progress on the jumper, he could be a ridiculously efficient scorer. At the same time, Giannis could see a jump in his efficiency playing with better shooters, his most used lineup last season was with Carter-Williams, Middleton, Monroe, and Parker with almost 540 minutes (close to 250 more than the next one which simply swaps Bayless for MCW). Jabari taking a leap forward so defenses pay more attention to him could have very positive effect for Giannis.
Giannis joined a very elite club last season as one of nine guys to average at least 1 block and 1 steal per game. 3 of those guys have made All-Defense teams the last two years and two more have made All-NBA teams. It is truly elite company, it shows that Giannis is beginning to tap into his elite defensive potential. Hopefully this season he takes a step forward with the team on that end of the court, he has defensive player of the year potential and has seen small improvements on that end each year. Well his offensive game gets all the glam, his wingspan and athleticism allow him to make plays on defense very few players in this league are capable of making.
Giannis will in my opinion average 20 points 8 rebounds and 7 assists next season, which is only a small upgrade over his 2016 post All-Star break stats, but could cement his appearance in his first ever All-Star game. The Bucks will break their fourteen year drought and finally have a Buck in the All-Star game. Those type of numbers coupled with defensive competency could elevate him to a fringe top-15 player. The Bucks have not had a guy like that in a very long time, which is super exciting for Bucks fans.