Over the span of the 2016-2017 season Giannis Antetokounmpo has risen to stardom in the NBA. He started out the season as a budding young talent, but has excelled in his game and raised it to the next level. He became the Bucks first All-Star since Michael Redd in 2003-2004. People around the league have come to recognize Giannis as one of the premier young talents in the NBA. He has become the focal point for teams whenever they matchup against the Bucks, yet one thing remains the same: they still can’t stop him.
Giannis Antetokounmpo came into the season with a career stat line of 12.1 points, 2.9 assists, 6.2 rebounds and a 1 steal per game. A decent stat line for your average NBA player, but Giannis appears to be far from that. The 22 year old from Greece has stepped up his game. Not just stepped it up though, he has taken incredible leaps and bounds this year. This year alone he is averaging 23.1 points, 5.3 assists, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. Not only that, but he has brought the entire Milwaukee Bucks team with him. He has lead the Bucks to be in a good position to sit at about the 5 or 6 seed within the Eastern Conference.
With him elevating his game so much this season it has allowed a young and previously struggling Bucks team to take the next step as a franchise as a whole. He has become the face of Milwaukee basketball and allowed for a community to rally behind him. Giannis has brought hope back to Milwaukee and a winning mentality.
Giannis is currently in position to be the first player in league history to ever lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and field goal percentage for an entire season (currently only trailing Greg Monroe and Michael Beasley in FG%). Along with that his player efficiency rating has jumped an entire seven points. Giannis has consistently lifted this Bucks team to success all season long efficiently utilizing the tools around him and willing this team to win. He has brought something to Milwaukee that we truly haven’t seen in a long, long time: winning basketball.
The main reason that Giannis has been able to raise his player efficiency so much starts with his defense. Giannis has anchored the Bucks defense by protecting the rim blocking shots as well as using his active hands and getting steals that lead to easy transition buckets, which has been the Bucks strength all year. The Bucks have risen to the middle of the league in defensive efficiency after being near the bottom all of last year. This has been in large part to the huge effect Giannis has had on the team.
He has also improved his footwork and low post ability. Last year it was obvious that this was an area of weakness, but through hard work in Milwaukee and other places all summer, his low post footwork noticeably improved. He also worked on his jumpshot which has elevated his game even more. He has a decent mid range game and is currently still working to improve his three point stroke, but by adding that to his repertoire he has been able to pull defenders out of the lane which has allowed for him to drive to the basket much more efficiently.
Under the guidance of Giannis the Bucks have made a surge in the east. They have risen themselves to a level that puts them among the top teams in the East. He has elevated his play so much in the offseason and throughout the year that giving anyone else the Most Improved Player of the Year award would be laughable. Giannis is the 2017 Most Improved Player and he doesn’t even need a panel of sportswriters to tell him that. The performance he’s had all year is enough, but also how he’s carried the Bucks, it’s undeniable.