The continuous evolution of Giannis Antetokounmpo


Giannis Antetokounmpo has already come a long way.  He started out playing as a teenager in the Greek A2 League and is now becoming a household name after a stellar first half of the 2014-15 season, competing in the rising stars challenge his first two years in the league, and just recently participated in the slam dunk contest.

Oh, I forgot to mention he hasn’t even completed two full NBA seasons yet.

The progress Giannis has made in this time frame is nothing short of remarkable.  What should make Bucks fans even more giddy is the fact that Giannis hasn’t even come close to reaching his full potential.  He has gone from an absolute unknown, to being one of the faces and hopes of a revitalized franchise; and he’s 20 years old.

Jun 27, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Giannis Antetokounmpo poses for a photo with NBA commissioner David Stern after being selected as the number fifteen overall pick to the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee took 18 year old Greek sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft.  This pick was widely regarded as a big risk, and rightfully so.  There were so many unknowns about Giannis entering the draft.

Many wondered how playing against competition in Greece’s 2nd tier basketball league would translate to the NBA.  There were questions about how his 6’9, 196 pound frame would hold up against NBA competition.  Was he too young and too raw to accumulate any redeeming signs of success in a league that is not even in the same universe as the A2 league?

What made this aspect of the unknown even more prominent was what teams had to work with.  All of the questions above could have been enough to scare off teams WITH an archive of college or international footage for a player.  Giannis lacked game play footage, and what scouts could obtain looked like it was gathered from your local high school about 20 years ago.

Thanks to DraftExpress, you can view that footage for yourself here.

And even with all of these question marks, Milwaukee went and picked Giannis anyway.

Milwaukee has had its fair share of flops when it came to “potential” picks.  Names like Yi Jianlian, Joe Alexander, and Tobias Harris come to mind.

And yet this pick didn’t have that kind of feel to it.  There was no “perform now or disappoint” feel to the Giannis pick.  Part of that was due to the pick being 15th, not sixth or eighth like it was for Jianlian and Alexander.  Another part dealt with the spectrum of expectations.  The aforementioned “busts” were expected to perform after being drafted.

Where that level of performance ranged depended on who you asked.  When it came to Giannis, people had no idea what to expect.  They knew his potential could be the steal of the 2013 draft, or his down side could be being a non-factor in the NBA.  In a sense he had no expectations, you just had to throw him out on the court and see what you had to work with.

So that’s what Milwaukee did his first season in the NBA.

Giannis played a total of 77 games in the 2013-14 season and averaged a healthy 24.6 minutes a game.  He averaged a marginal 6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.9 asp, 0.8 stpg, and 0.8 blkpg.  Looking at the stat line, it would be easy to say Giannis had a minimal impact on the court.  You would’ve had to watch him play to see the impact.

The Greek Freak added a wrinkle of excitement to the Bucks.  He gave fans a taste of that potential while still playing a very raw style of basketball.  Giannis had a very limited offensive game but played his A2 league style of basketball anyway.  While it didn’t translate to success on the stat sheet, many saw that this kid was going to be something special.

This video shows all of Giannis’ dunks from his rookie year, and you’ll be able to see some of that raw style; some of that swag that Milwaukee was lacking.

Entering this season, the Milwaukee Bucks organization was revitalized.  The additions of coach Jason Kidd and Duke star Jabari Parker along with a change of ownership put the Bucks on the map.  Fans were excited to see the next step Giannis was ready to take with all of these new pieces around him.  His evolution from last season to this season has been scary.

Like, I am frightened at how good Giannis can be over time.

Not only is Antetokounmpo putting up far better numbers in his second season, but it’s how he is doing it that has everyone talking.  Giannis has developed in so many different aspects since Jason Kidd has arrived.

Giannis has developed his one dimensional, drive and slash style of basketball into a multi-faceted NBA game that includes an outside shot and vision a second year point guard would kill to have.

Kidd’s defense first approach has made Giannis a defensive nightmare for opponents too.  His length and athleticism paired with understanding and basketball knowledge is the deadly formula the Bucks envisioned when drafting him in 2013.  I don’t think they envisioned it developing at such a rapid pace though.

The longer Jason Kidd has time to teach Giannis about the game of basketball, the more we can expect him to improve.

Now I can tell you that Giannis is averaging 12.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, and 2.5 apg, but honestly, I don’t think that matters too much right now.  The stats will come as he continues to evolve.  What is important for fans to understand is that he is in fact improving; improving at an extremely rapid pace.

Watch this kid play and you’ll see an aggressive, edgy style of play that has people across the league talking.

Have you ever watched a basketball game, witness a player put up 20 or so points in the first quarter, and jokingly think to yourself “ha, he’s on pace for 80 points tonight”?  That’s Giannis.  He’s the player on track for 80 points.  And boy is it exciting to watch.

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