Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Rise of the Greek Freak


Giannis Antetokounmpo is literally unbelievable this season. Giannis thrives off of proving his doubters wrong, and this summer there was plenty of doubt to fuel the Greek Freak. Antetokounmpo was called overrated, and he was said to not have the ability to be a primary scorer for a team.

Through his first five games, Giannis is averaging 21 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals and one block per game. He’s done that while shooting 58.2 percent from the field, 50 percent from beyond the arc and 85.2 percent from the free throw line. The last–and most–important Giannis Antetokounmpo number: he’s only 20 years old.

I don’t know if Giannis’ ceiling is visible without a telescope anymore–he’s certainly not on a sort of run of the mill, athletic, journey man wing’s trajectory. The changes in the Greek Freak go a lot deeper than statistics though–his entire mindset seems to have changed.

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It may have been his Eurobasket run with Greece, or the departure of veterans such as Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley, Ersan Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia. Maybe Giannis just decided enough was enough, and that he was ready and willing to take that responsibility of being a leading scorer on his shoulders.

Whatever caused it, through five games we’ve seen a completely different Giannis. He has shot 50 percent from the field and scored at least 17 points per game this season. Last year Giannis did both of those things 16 times over his 81 total games played, for a total of 19.8 percent of the time.

Oct 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reacts after scoring a basket in the second quarter during the game against the Washington Wizards at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo probably won’t be able to maintain his 100 percent rate of efficiently scoring 17 points per game, but I’d be willing to bet he’ll have 17 points on at least 50 percent shooting more often than not this season.

That sentence wouldn’t have made any sense just a month or two ago, but that was before third-year Giannis took the floor in the regular season for the first time. They say the third year is when star players really start to shine–if so, then the Greek Freak is on course to become one of the Association’s elite players.

For many people, shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc is the most surprising part of Giannis’ blazing-hot start this season. After a much more timid Antetokounmpo shot 15.9 percent on three-pointers last season, he was seen as a guy without a shot–which actually was never accurate.

Giannis took just 0.1 less three-point attempts per game his rookie season than he has this season, and ended up making just under 35 percent of those looks–just around the historic NBA league average. He can shoot–he was just told not to take as many long-range shots last season, so he didn’t.

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Now that Jason Kidd has given Giannis the full green light, he’s absolutely shown that he’s ready to do it all for the Bucks. We already knew that Antetokounmpo is a gifted defender and a tenacious transition scorer, but now he’s shown that he can work wonders on offense in traditional half-court sets as well.

A player big and fast enough to earn his Greek Freak nickname, who can also now knock down both open mid-range and three-point jumpers? Good luck defending that. Giannis might just be the heir apparent to Monta Ellis–except he really might be able to have it all.

Is the sample size small? Of course it is. But being that consistent and effective of a scorer through five consecutive games likely won’t just evaporate away into thin air as the season goes on.

Next: Greg Monroe: The Fourth Quarter Scorer

The man who should’ve gone first overall in the 2013 NBA Draft is ready to once again prove his doubters wrong, as he attempts to carry the Milwaukee Bucks into title contention. It’s going to be a hell of a ride, Bucks fans.