The Rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Ben Leibowitz
Greek philosopher Aristotle is credited with saying, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
Antetokounmpo, affectionately called the "Greek Freak" for his nationality, monstrous hands and albatross-like 7-foot-4 wingspan, blossomed throughout 2015-16. He averaged career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, all while notching a career-best field goal percentage during a breakout year.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, regressed back to a lottery-bound team just one season after making the playoffs via a 26-win improvement under head coach Jason Kidd in 2014-15. Despite the disappointing slide, the decision to give the team's 21-year-old phenom more responsibility as a primary ball handler translated into a statistical explosion.
In 27 games since the All-Star break, Giannis' usage rate has risen from 21.4 percent to 24 percent. While essentially acting as the Bucks' floor general in the second half of the season, the lanky up-and-comer is now averaging 7.3 assists per game -- far superior to his pre-All-Star average of 2.8 dimes.
In fact, if sustained throughout the course of the entire season, the 7.3 assists per game mark would slot Antetokounmpo No. 8 in the league -- ahead of guys like LeBron James, Kyle Lowry and Reggie Jackson.
When Giannis is handling the ball, he attracts immense amounts of attention. Drawing eyeballs from multiple defenders has allowed the young stud to develop point guard instincts and find teammates for good looks. In the following clip -- during a game against the Orlando Magic -- two defenders hone in on Antetokounmpo as he brings the ball up the court, allowing him to drive to the basket and wrap a pass backward to Jabari Parker for a layup.
The third-year pro has also shown the ability to psych out defenders with pass fakes, and then use his cheetah-esque strides to glide effortlessly to the bucket for easy dunks -- as he did here against the Brooklyn Nets.
His numbers for the season are the best of his young career, and Antetokounmpo's month-by-month rise has been the key reason for his stellar campaign.
In April, Antetokounmpo has averaged a video-game-like 21 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.5 steals while shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from three-point range. He somehow managed to build off a ridiculous month of March in which he averaged 18.4 points, 7.2 assists and 7.1 rebounds in 15 games.
Even though he's still just 21 years old, the Greek Freak is hitting his stride and putting up scary numbers. Once viewed as a totally raw prospect whom 14 teams passed over during the 2013 NBA Draft, Antetokounmpo is showing flashes of brilliance that hint toward a ludicrously high ceiling.
The one attribute that eludes him at this point of his career is three-point shooting. A career 28.2 percent shooter from distance, Antetokounmpo had converted just 26 percent of his tries from beyond the arc this season. If he develops a reliable outside shooting stroke, there will be virtually nothing the face of Milwaukee's franchise can't do.
With Kidd -- one of the greatest point guards in league history -- teaching Giannis the ropes as he adapts to becoming Milwaukee's offensive creator, his seemingly limitless potential will be far from a myth.
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Article: Courtesy PointAfter.com.
NBA Basketball: "The Rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo"