After an historic stretch of play, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s superstar potential has never appeared more real.
The Greek Freak.
The name alone suggests some sort of novelty. Something that isn’t normal. Something that shouldn’t exist. Something that you’ll only get to see once or twice.
For much of his rookie season, that was an accurate description of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s game. Once or twice a game, you would see something that made your jaw drop.
Last season, Antetokounmpo’s development as a player meant that once or twice a month, he would put together a game that few other players in the league could manage.
In the last few weeks, he’s put together a stretch of play that has rivaled one or two other players in the history of the NBA.
From Elias Sports Bureau on ESPN.com: “Antetokounmpo has scored 242 points, grabbed 114 rebounds and handed out 104 assists over his last 12 games. No other player in Bucks history had that many points, rebounds and assists over a 12-game span, not even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Sidney Moncrief, Marques Johnson or Bob Dandridge.”
From CBS Sports’ Chris Towers: “Antetokounmpo is averaging 19.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game in 14 games since the All-Star break, numbers no player has matched in a season since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967-68. No player has ever done that with Giannis’ averages of 1.8 steals and 1.9 blocks per game.”
In just a matter of weeks, Bucks fans have gone from dreaming about what Antetokounmpo could one day accomplish to watching those dreams projected on to the hardwood nightly. It is what a number of people call “the leap.”
Normally, in Year 3 or 4 of a talented NBA player’s career, they have seen enough different plays to understand the best way to use their skills and start taking advantage of their opponents. Right now, it appears as though that’s exactly what Antetokounmpo is doing.
“It’s amazing that a 21-year-old can do the things that he does on the floor,” said coach Jason Kidd. “We talk about it every day, about what it means to be a leader and what it means to be a point guard on the floor, directing your teammates.”
Just think about that sentence. Two months ago, the Bucks were just hoping for more consistent play from Antetokounmpo. Now, they expect him to be the point guard and the team’s leader on the floor.
Since the Bucks selected Antetokounmpo, there have been people raving about his potential and declaring that he could one day become one of the league’s ten best players. But those were just far off visions in the future. Recently, though, he has owned the future everyone has been predicting for him for years.
Antetokounmpo has been one of the league’s best players in the last three weeks and his far off future has never appeared more real. For the last few years, I’ve tried to manage fans’ expectations for him, but that no longer seems necessary.
Go ahead, Milwaukee. Dream the wildest dreams.
Clip of the Week
Three weeks ago, when I first talked about #PointGiannis, I mentioned that he was starting to handle more of the typical responsibilities of a point guard, but still not really creating like the league’s elite point guards. Well, in the last few weeks, that has changed.
Take the above play as an example. Antetokounmpo attacks the middle of the floor in a pick and roll with Monroe. As he gets into the lane, Antetokounmpo notices Thaddeus Young sneaking towards the lane to help on Monroe and immediately whips a pass to Jabari Parker in the corner with his weak hand. That is next level point guard play.
What to Read
Greek Freak Isn’t the Only Milwaukee Buck Flashing Superstar Potential – While much of the focus has been on Antetokounmpo, Jared Dubin of Bleacher Report broke down the film and took a closer look at the developments Jabari Parker has made since the All-Star Break.
The promising return of Jabari Parker – At Sports Illustrated, Jeremy Woo also wrote about Parker’s recent breakout, but focused more of his piece on the setbacks Parker has experienced as a basketball player. Woo tracked down a number of wonderful anecdotes from Parker’s high school career.
Klutch? Examining Khris Middleton and the Bucks’ late-game strengths and weaknesses – Bucksketball’s Jeremy Schmidt dove into the numbers to examine the Bucks’ late-game tendencies and found some worrisome trends. The Bucks have not performed well in crunch time and Schmidt has a few suggestions for improvement.
Week in Review
Saturday – Anthony Davis went for 29 points and 11 rebounds, but his Pelican teammates didn’t offer him too much help as the Bucks beat the Pelicans 103-92. It was a pretty quiet night for Parker and Antetokounmpo, but all five Bucks starters scored 15 or more points in the game, which is always nice to see.
Sunday – Antetokounmpo put on an absolute show in Brooklyn to pick up his fourth triple-double (28 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds) of the season in the Bucks’ 109-100 victory. Parker also had a solid night with 23 points.
Tuesday – After winning both games of their weekend back-to-back, the Bucks had one of their most disappointing losses of the last month as they were blown out 107-89 by Toronto, who were without three major contributors in Milwaukee. The game’s silver lining was undoubtedly Antetokounmpo finishing an assist short of a triple-double.
Next Week’s Preview
Thursday – The Grizzlies will be in town this week, but you’ll likely not recognize them as they have a staggering eight players on their injury list. The Grizzlies beat the Bucks in their first meeting this season, but their injury-riddled roster has dropped their last three games.
Sunday – The Bucks will end their week with one more game at home against the Jazz. Utah will be desperate for a win as they currently sit two games outside of the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot.
Monday – After a three-game homestand, the Bucks head to Detroit to take on the Pistons for the final time this season. The Pistons have won two of the the teams’ three meetings this season, so this final meeting will give Milwaukee a chance to split the season series.
Wednesday – As they move through the Rust Belt, the Bucks stop in Cleveland to take on the Eastern Conference’s best team. Cleveland and Milwaukee have played each other just twice this season, so they will see each other again on April 5th after next week’s meeting.
Stats of the Week
-27.3 – Since the All-Star Break, the Bucks have been 27.3 points per possession worse when Khris Middleton has been off the floor, which speaks to the poor state of the Bucks’ bench and the great impact Middleton has on the squad. (h/t to Jared Dubin, featured in this week’s What to Read)
16 – Jabari Parker has scored ten or more points in 16 straight games. That is the longest such scoring streak of his career.
32.3 – Antetokounmpo’s ever-increasing offensive role has led to him recording the league’s 15th highest assist rate with Antetokounmpo assisting on 32.3 percent of his teammates’ field goals.
Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine’s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can also find his work at SBNation’s Brew Hoop or you can find him on Twitter @eric_nehm and tell him about what you think the new arena looks like.