NBA Youngsters to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks

The ‘Greek Freak’ made a distinctive impact in his first season in the NBA.

Coming into the 2013 NBA draft Giannis Antetokounmpo was somewhat of a mystery.

Antetokounmpo was playing in the second division of Greek basketball before he was drafted, a level of play compared to division II or III basketball by Aran Smith of NBAdraft.net.

Given the competition he was up against, Antetokounmpo was thought to represent a seriously long-term project for whichever team drafted him, for while he possessed extraordinary physical gifts it was said that the technical side of his game needed a couple of years of work before he would be NBA ready. How Giannis has proved the scouts wrong.

Taken with the 15th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, Antetokounmpo was given immediate minutes and flourished. Averaging a shade under 25 minutes per game this season, Antetokounmpo put up per game averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks. These numbers put him in the top ten out of rookies in all of these categories bar points, attesting to the all round talent in his game.

As predicted, Antetokounmpo’s physical attributes immediately impressed.

At 6’9, with a wingspan of 7’3, Antetokounmpo is an awesome physical specimen. Those long arms are capable of interfering in passing lanes and pestering his opposition while his impressive foot speed allows him defend many multiple positions. His large stride also makes him extremely difficult to defend in transition.

While he does need some work on the technical side of his game, Antetokounmpo is nowhere near as far behind as scouts predicted he’d be at this stage in his career.

His shooting is pretty average at this point but he’s shown that he’s got potential in the right areas. He can already convert at the rim, shooting 50% from the restricted zone and his three-point shooting is on the right track.

From above the break Antetokounmpo shot 39%, a respectable for any NBA player, let alone a rookie. His corner shooting, however, was not so impressive, going 1 for 17 on the season. 

If he can improve from the corner, defences will be forced to respect his three-point shot all over the floor, allowing him to exploit the room behind him man on the drive or while cutting. While it’s probably a few years off, a mid-range game would make Antetokounmpo an true attacking weapon.

While his scoring needs some work, his passing his above average for a player of his age and position.

Antetokounmpo should begin to see more passing opportunities open up as he improves his scoring and begins to attract more attention from defences while more NBA experience will help expand his court vision and understanding of where open teammates are.

In terms of his defence, his 0.8 blocks and 0.8 steals per game are largely a product of his physical attributes at the moment. Given more time to develop an understanding of defensive schemes and rotations, we should see those numbers those numbers rise above what we would expect to see with an increase in minutes.

At the tender age of 19, Antetokounmpo is absolutely bursting with potential and he’s got a great deal of time in which he can continue to develop and improve.

By the time some players will be coming out of college into the league, Antetokounmpo already have four seasons under his belt. So keep an eye out for this young man as watching his development will sure be exciting.

How good can Giannis Antetokounmpo become?