2018-19 Off the Glass Breakout Player Series: Giannis Antetokounmpo
With the 2018-19 NBA Season here, Off the Glass is making predictions on who the breakout players of each team will be. Today we look at Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
I know what you are thinking, picking the guy that finished 6th in MVP voting last year is not really choosing a breakout player. However, I would argue that this season is going to be the season that we see Giannis jump to another level, which is hard to believe is possible given what he can already do on a basketball court.
If there was any doubt about Giannis coming into last season, it was quickly removed as he opened the season with a monster stretch of games. He shot over 59% in six of the Bucks’ first seven games while scoring over 30 points in five of those games and going for 28 in each of the other two. Even without a reliable jump shot, Giannis was unstoppable putting up 27 points per game on 52% shooting. At just 23 years old, he will turn 24 in December, Giannis cemented himself as one of the best ten players in the NBA for years to come.
Athleticism, Length, Athleticism, Length, Length, Athleticism
Giannis’ biggest strengths as a basketball player are his once in a generation combination of length and athleticism. Offensively, he can get to the basket in an instant. He becomes almost unstoppable in transition and is able to get separation in an instant.
Defensively, Giannis’ long frame and ability to cover ground quickly make him a player that is almost incapable of making mistakes. Even if caught out of position, Giannis is able to cover so much ground that he can often still manage to get back in the play for a block or a steal.
But What About the Jumper???
If Giannis has a weakness, it would be his inability to consistently knock down jump shots. When breaking down his shooting numbers, you can see that at the rim, Giannis was almost automatic last season. He hit 75.6% of his shots at the rim. However, the rest of his percentages are not impressive. Last season, Giannis shot under 35% from past 16 feet and only 30% from three. His lack of a jump shot gives team a sliver of hope to contain him by clogging up the paint and making it difficult for him to get to the rim.
In Bud We Trust
My belief in Giannis breaking out this season begins and ends with the hire of new head coach Mike Budenholzer. In his time in Atlanta, Budenholzer showed himself to be a coach that gets the most out of his roster. Milwaukee’s roster is not short on talent and I would argue that this Milwaukee team is more talented than any of the Atlanta teams he coached. Giannis is such a unique player with a unique skill set giving me the belief that Budenholzer can unlock so much for this team with how he chooses to unleash the Greek Freak.
Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova
The signing of Lopez and Ilyasova could be huge for Giannis’ breakout season. Both big men have shown the ability to step out and hit the three ball. Pairing either big with Giannis opens up so much room on the offensive end. Giannis’ most frequent partner in crime in the front court last season was non-shooter John Henson. Giannis and Henson played over 1500 minutes together. While Henson’s ability to block shots is useful on the defensive end, replacing some of those minutes with a real three point threat opens up the floor for Giannis and the other Milwaukee wings. Ilyasova and Lopez should both get a steady diet of open three pointers as their defenders leave them to help. If defenders decide to stay home, there are less big bodies between Giannis and the rim, which means more of these.
There is no reason to believe that Giannis is not an MVP favorite at this moment. Putting up comparable numbers to last season in addition to the Bucks possibly being a top 4 seed in the East could push Giannis into the award. Numbers alone will not win the award for Giannis, but it is not out of the realm of possibility to believe that he could put up 30 points a game in addition to 10 rebounds and 5 or 6 assists. That type of season combined with 50 wins from the Bucks would give Giannis his first MVP. With Budenholzer at the helm, Giannis is in a great position to do big things for the Bucks.