Sports from the Basement

The Rise Of Giannis Antetokounmpo As A Bonafide MVP Candidate

People often say there are defining moments during a professional athlete’s career. In the case of NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, that moment came last season right after the All-Star break.

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The Greek Freak had a reputation for being one of the best young players in the league. But that wasn’t enough, and something wasn’t quite clicking with him. The Milwaukee Bucks head coach, Jason Kidd, decided to make a positional change and moved Antetokounmpo to the point guard role.

As strange as it might sound, moving a 6’11”, 222-pound forward to the point guard has been the best decision Kidd has ever made during his short coaching career.

The 22-year-old flourished as a point guard under Kidd’s tutelage, and the numbers certainly back that up. Antetokounmpo averaged 15.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists before the All-Star Game, but his stats went up to 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and an impressive 7.2 assists after the event. The main difference was his usage rage, a number that went up to 24,2% in the final 28 games of the year.

The stakes were high heading into the 2016-17 season, but the hamstring injury suffered by Khris Middleton was a huge blow to the franchise. Many thought Milwaukee didn’t have chances to make the playoffs even before the season began. However, Antetokounmpo came to the rescue; if he was good last season, this year he’s been even better. Even though the Bucks didn’t make the playoffs, it was clear there was something special in Milwaukee.

Through 29 games, Antetokounmpo averages 23.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. His 28.1 PER ranks among the best players in the league. It’s worth noting he’s seen time both at PG and SG this season. However, he tends to operate as the one leading the offense, similar to what LeBron James does in Cleveland. And even though he’s not going to win the MVP this season, he’s clearly been a Top-10 player this year. Again, let’s not forget he’s only 22.

There are several things he needs to improve in the future. He only hits less than 30% from the three-point range, and he doesn’t crack the 80-percent from the charity stripe either. But this year he’s posting career-best numbers in several percentages, including eFG% with a 54,8 mark. That suggets he’s on the right track.

It’s time the league starts to talk more about Antetokounmpo. He’s on the fast track to become a bonafide superstar. And who knows? He could easily be an All-Star this year. And as a core piece in a Bucks team that also features players like Middleton and Jabari Parker, it’s only a matter of time before Milwaukee becomes a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.

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