By now, NBA season previews are rolling out. Countless basketball sites, podcasts and television shows are breaking down all 30 teams, projecting how each will fare based on additions and subtractions. I would like to do something different and focus on teams through the fish-eyed lens of their respective most intruiging player or players. We continue with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The last time Giannis Antetokounmpo was in the national spotlight, it was the 2015 Dunk Contest. Nothing about his routine was memorable, partly due to Zach LaVine finally bringing back the dunk contest, but by most accounts, Giannis and his Milwaukee Bucks were on the cusp of turning potential into contention. Fast-forward to this season, and the Bucks are mired in mediocrity and irrelevance, disappointingly missing the playoffs in 2016 and depriving fans of at least one series where they could see such a budding and unique talent.
Antetokounmpo is admirably weird. He is as complex as his last name: a system of simplistic functions that combine into something unique to our lexicon but natural to him. I'm not sure he's just 6'11". Hell, I'm not sure he's stopped growing. He's the most athletically graceful monument on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — a mobile, agile Colossus of Rhodes. Versatile is an understatement to describe his place on the court, and the Bucks made sure his potential remains in Milwaukee, inking Antetokounmpo to a four-year, $100 million extension.
There is a history of having forwards initiate the offense after not being drafted to do so. Jamal Mashburn and Joe Johnson come to mind. Antetokounmpo is taller and more uniquely athletic than either of those two. It is rumored that head coach Jason Kidd will use him literally anywhere on the court, testing the connotations and definitions of all five basketball positions. Point guard on offense and some center on defense — Giannis has the ability to excel at both. If he does, there should be many All-Star selections for him and playoff berths for Milwaukee.
As much as Giannis's future is exciting, it has still yet to arrive. He turns 22 on Dec. 10, so he is far from a finished product. Kidd has this budding source of liquid energy, and he's going to experiment with it. While that sounds fascinating, Antetokounmpo still has flaws in his offensive game. Because he is amorphous, he can be effective anywhere on the floor except long range (25.7 percent on threes, yet shooting 50.7 percent overall). However, he appears to lack a defined array of moves. His offense reminds me of the adage, "Throw something against the wall and hope enough sticks."
Antetokounmpo gracefully imposes his athleticism on a game, with unpolished but effective results. Giannis's contract extension now gives his potential an expiration date. If he underperforms, that excitement for a franchise cornerstone will be directed toward his unceremonious departure.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is trending upward. While he may not be a superstar yet, basketball fans should definitely work on writing and pronouncing his name. And please, try harder than Stacey King.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse's good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.