Giannis Antetokounmpo: Tracing the origins of ‘Point Giannis’

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 14: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 14: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Everything changed for Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo when the ball was placed directly in his hands, unlocking his vast potential as a result.

Long before he became the reigning Most Valuable Player, a perennial All-Star, and one of the most dominant players in the NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo was beaming with potential.

That was certainly on display during his rookie season in 2013-14, which stands as the lowest point in Milwaukee Bucks history and a year in which Antetokounmpo and the squad won 15 games. Through all of the darkness, Antetokounmpo’s incredible flashes gave all Bucks fans hope for the future with very little to cling to in the present.

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Bottoming out as hard as the Bucks did, their future quickly changed in the summer of 2014 with not only the second overall pick in that year’s draft, but also a new ownership coming into the mix as well.

Antetokounmpo would soon have a new running mate in Jabari Parker and a new coach in Hall of Fame point guard, Jason Kidd, in what came under a questionable set of circumstances and optics for the ownership trio of Wes Edens, Jamie Dinan and Marc Lasry.

Still, the future remained bright for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks and not very long into getting the Bucks’ job, Kidd made his intentions loud and clear for the unique way he saw how Antetokounmpo could be weaponized.

During Antetokounmpo’s run during the 2014 Summer League in Las Vegas, Kidd wanted to put the ball in the growing teenager’s hands as he told Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time:

"“We’ve seen it in practice,” Kidd said. “When you see a player’s comfort level with the ball — no matter what size — we wanted to see it in game action. We slowly have started letting him have the ball and running the offense…“A 19-year-old to a 30-year-old is a little different in understanding that. But that’s what this time of the year is for, to understand Magic (Johnson) wasn’t fast. Grant Hill had a quick first step, but he was a point forward.”"

As Gardner later noted, taking on such a primary role directing the team’s offense was a refresher for Antetokounmpo in Vegas:

"“I did it like two years ago in Europe, but last year I didn’t do it at all,” Antetokounmpo said of his rookie season in Milwaukee.“As time goes on, I feel more comfortable.”"

While he certainly took his lumps, such as compiling 18 turnovers in four games, seeing Antetokounmpo run wild up and down the floor and use minimal dribbles, his gangly set of limbs and primal explosiveness to throw down a dunk was only a continuation of seeing him play in the second division in Greece at that time. Also, remember when Giannis’ jumpshot looked like this?

Experimenting with running your team’s offense, albeit in Summer League, through a 6’11” raw, lanky physical specimen like Giannis Antetokounmpo could have easily come off as some hyped up test run that never went anywhere.

Strangely enough, that was largely the case as Kidd’s grand declarations didn’t become fully realized until midway through the 2015-16 season after the Bucks’ season was going nowhere fast and they were out of playoff contention. That immediately gave hope to Antetokounmpo’s future as a superstar, and that’s exponentially grown over the last two seasons since the arrival of head coach Mike Budenholzer.

As much as the Kidd era brought much distress and believe me, my co-site expert Adam McGee perfectly detailed those flaws and many shortcomings in this piece focusing on the period in the franchise, Kidd empowering Antetokounmpo to the degree that he did helped him find the path he’s on today.

Saying such a thing should acknowledge all of the other ways where Kidd’s presence could have easily derailed Antetokounmpo’s progress, such as telling him not to shoot threes or running his body into the ground, which brought on the knee injury and controversy that came about during the summer of 2017.

For Antetokounmpo, working and running through three-hour practices regularly to the point of pain was one that he was happy with at the time as he told Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes the following earlier this season:

"“It’s tough. It was tough, but that’s not happening this year,” Antetokounmpo told Yahoo Sports about getting upset with his coach’s decision to rest him periodically. “I was used to [former Bucks coach] Jason Kidd. He was breaking us down, but I was happy about it. I think I was the only one that was embracing that. I came from nothing and worked hard every day. That’s what I was used to.”"

As Antetokounmpo later acknowledged in the interview with Haynes, the present clarity and lines of communication that the Bucks’ coaching staff and medical team have with Budenholzer in the mix couldn’t be further from how that dynamic was under Kidd. And thankfully so.

If there’s one thing to give Kidd credit for, it’s being able to recognize the talents of his top players, especially Antetokounmpo. Of course, Kidd could only get through with players that held such high aspirations for himself like Antetokounmpo as that’s all Kidd knew as a former player himself. A star player-turned-coach’s mentality doesn’t recognize any other method than to push yourself for greatness.

Where Kidd ultimately failed, aside from failing to build up a team that didn’t get past the first round in the playoffs and the ever-present tension and ego involved that stemmed from how he arrived in Milwaukee in the first place, was in building up a coherent picture and system to further elevate Antetokounmpo’s dominant and all encompassing strengths into a viable team construct.

Next. Imagining a documentary on the Jason Kidd years. dark

And again, that, among a whole slew of things such as winning to the level that the Bucks have done over the last two seasons, is where Budenholzer and his staff have so successfully built an incredibly clear, productive picture to propel the Bucks to the top of the NBA over the last two years.