NBA legend Scottie Pippen is skeptical of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s readiness to win a championship this year, citing concerns about his jump shot.
Widely expected to be the big winner in this season’s NBA awards, Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is set to enter into the kind of historic territory that few players who have ever played the game have ascended to.
On top of his individual brilliance, with the Bucks perfectly positioned to mount a legitimate title challenge when the season resumes in Orlando later this week, Giannis could even finish this season as a two-time MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and an NBA champion.
Although there’s still well-documented room for improvement when it comes to Giannis’ game, it’s becoming increasingly rare to hear former players and pundits explicitly doubt the Greek’s ability to achieve anything he puts his mind to at this point.
It seems that six-time champion and seven-time All-Star Scottie Pippen, a former player whom Giannis used to draw frequent comparisons to before he blew well beyond them, remains an exception, though.
Scottie Pippen doubts that Giannis Antetokounmpo can drive the Milwaukee Bucks to a title this year, and anticipates a repeat of last year.
FanSided’s Mark Carman recently spoke to Pippen for his thoughts on a wide variety of NBA topics, including the Bucks and Antetokounmpo.
Pippen was promoting Michelob Ultra and their digital courtside experience in Orlando.
Asked whether the reigning MVP has enough offensive versatility to win a title this year, Pippen responded:
“No, not yet. I don’t think so. But I haven’t seen him for a while, and from what I hear he’s working on his jump shot. But I don’t think so. In terms of where they left off, I don’t think that he’s really got it there yet.”
Given that the Bucks were on pace for 67 wins before the coronavirus pandemic forced the season to stop and later be curtailed, the Bucks left off in a formidable spot, and only slipped slightly in part because Giannis was out injured. For Pippen, though, the complaint regarding Giannis is one that feels as old as time. The Arkansas native believes the playoffs are a different proposition, and that a jump shot is essential for success:
“When you talk about winning a title, and you talk about playing in the NBA Finals, you’re talking about making big shots with seconds on the clock, and being able to take those shots with confidence. I just don’t see him being ready right now for that, and I know that he’s made some great strides. He’s still one of the top players in the game, but in terms of his outside play, he’s not ready to carry his team to a title.”
There can be little argument that Giannis’ outside game alone isn’t ready to carry the Bucks to a title, but it would be misguided to suggest that completely rules out the prospect of everything else that will likely make Antetokounmpo a two-time MVP, and possibly only the third player ever to hold MVP and DPOY at the same time, also making him a champion.
It undoubtedly helps if a ball-dominant forward can knock down shots from outside, but if the player in question is good enough, it’s not the only thing that counts. If further evidence of that is needed, consider that in LeBron James’ three championship-winning playoff runs, he combined to shoot a below average 32.7 percent from deep (90-of-275).
James did that on just over four long-range attempts per game, in other words, at a clip that is not all that dissimilar to the 30.6 percent on 4.8 attempts per game that Giannis has averaged in the regular season so far this year.
For Pippen, the belief is that the Raptors revealed Antetokounmpo’s kryptonite last season, and that others will again use that to their advantage this year.
“When I look back at where they were last year, and we were all thinking, ‘Wow, they’re on their way to the Finals.’ And then they run into the Toronto Raptors…they really exposed Giannis to his weakness. And that’s what teams know when they get you to a series. They’re going to expose you. And they’re going to do that again to him this year.”
The problem is that view overlooks Antetokounmpo’s single-mindedness. That overlooks the drive that took Giannis from working on the streets of Greece to support his family, to now being one of the faces of the biggest basketball league on the planet.
Antetokounmpo knows that he was shown up last year, but he hasn’t ducked from working on improving those elements too. In fact, he’s determined to ensure the same doesn’t happen again this year.
Time will tell who’s ultimately right, but anyone who bets against Antetokounmpo at this point is doing so at their own risk.
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