Giannis Turns 22, Gets a Visit From a Future Hall of Famer and Continues to Take the League by Storm
What a time to be a Bucks fan. It’s not often the Milwaukee Bucks or their players are in the national spotlight, but it’s impossible to ignore Giannis Antetokounmpo’s recent rise to stardom. Not only did he turn a still scarily young 22 years old on Tuesday, but the Greek Freak has been filling up the stat sheet night in and night out while being a human highlight reel.
To put Giannis turning 22 into perspective, he is already in his fourth NBA season and is still younger than a lot of guys in the league including rookie teammate Malcolm Brogdon, who is already 23-years-old. Antetokounmpo is averaging 22 points, 8.9 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.3 blocks and 2.2 steals with a player efficiency rating of 27.07. Those are all team highs by the way. If he keeps these stats up, he will be the first player in NBA history to end the season with averages like that in each of those five categories.
When you compare the Greek Freak to other super star players such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant when they were 22 years old, the numbers are pretty mind-boggling. Check these out, which don’t even include his triple-double in last night’s win over the Trailblazers (which I’ll get into later).
Giannis Antetokounmpo's 4th season (2016-17) compared to Kevin Durant's (2010-11) and LeBron James' (2006-07)... pic.twitter.com/mt9NaFex4e— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) December 7, 2016
Want even more validation that he’s for real? The only other player in NBA history to have as many assists, steals, and blocks by their 22nd birthday is Tracy McGrady.
Giannis Antetokounmpo turns 22 today 🎂— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 6, 2016
T-Mac is the only player ever with as many assists, steals, and blocks by 22 pic.twitter.com/FIeYzCwsc9
Eastern Conference Player of the Week
During the Bucks’ four-game win streak last week, Giannis averaged 22.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, three steals and three blocks per game while earning the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award for the second time in his career. That included their big win over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers where he tied his career-high in points with 34 to go along with 12 rebounds, five assists, five steals and two blocks in 35 minutes. It was a well-deserved honor for the Greek Freak and should help increase his All-Star chances if he can keep this play up. Judging by the way this season has gone with the Bucks record at 11-9, there seems to be nothing slowing him down at this point.
The Bucks validated their win over the Cavs with back-to-back victories over the Brooklyn Nets and had a lot of confidence heading into Monday night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, who came in undefeated on the road at 11-0. It was a fun game to watch, to say the least, but Giannis getting into foul trouble, a late Spurs surge and a missed wide-open three by Mirza Teletovic in the closing seconds allowed San Antonio to escape with the 97-96 victory. Despite the loss, Giannis made his imprint on the game once again with 22 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
One problem is that Antetokounmpo was on the bench for all of the fourth quarter except the last two minutes. It was evident that his presence was missed on the floor, but his teammate Jabari Parker picked up the slack in his absence. Parker, who scored 23 points with eight rebounds and three assists, was instrumental in keeping Milwaukee in the game. He showed much-needed aggression and simply put the team on his back. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. I hate to say it was a moral victory since there is no such thing, but the Bucks can hold their heads up high as they made San Antonio earn that game all the way to the final buzzer.
Getting back to Giannis, he continued to wow with what have become quarterly highlights. Even with Kahwi Leonard, one of the premier defenders in the league, gaurding him, Giannis showed he belonged in a major way. During the second quarter, Leonard was driving hard to the basket and as he gathered to go up for a layup attempt, Giannis swatted it into the stands and pursued to flex and stare him down in the process.
Leonard may have finished with a team-high 21 points and nine rebounds, but he was just 9-22 from the field including 1-5 from three. It’s a good sign that the Greek Freak can hang with the league’s superstars as his game grows.
Visit from KG
It was rumored late in the offseason that future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, who retired before the start of the season, would be a special consultant for the Bucks at some point this season. Well, those rumors came true as he made his first visit to the Bucks practice facility on Tuesday to serve as a mentor especially to guys like Giannis, Jabari, and 19-year-old rookie Thon Maker. With KG being one of Giannis’ idols growing up, it was quite the birthday present for the now 22-year-old.
Having the presence and voice of a former MVP and NBA champion like KG is huge for the young team’s development. He may have been known as one of the leagues most notorious trash talkers, but he played the game with a lot of passion and was one of the best two-way players of his generation. With Antetokounmpo drawing comparisons to Gernett, it’s only fitting that he imparts his 21 years of NBA knowledge onto the up-and-coming star.
Not only did the Bucks avenge their one-point loss to the Spurs on Monday night with a 115-107 win over the Portland Trailblazers last night, but Giannis recorded his second triple-double of the season, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists to go along with four blocks and two steals. It was the seventh triple-double of his young career, which puts him in second place in franchise history behind the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
It seemed like a quiet night for Giannis as he only took 11 shots while playing a team-high 40 minutes. Sure, it would be nice to see your star take 15-plus shots a game, but it takes pressure off him when his teammates are able to make shots especially Jabari Parker, who finished with a team-high 27 points on 11-of-23 shooting in last night’s win. In fact, the Bucks had six guys finish in double figures including Matthew Dellavedova (17 points), Greg Monroe (15), Michael Beasley (12), and Malcolm Brogdon (13). When the Bucks have that kind of balance on any given night, it’s no surprise that Giannis gets a triple-double.
When you look up “freak” in the dictionary, it might as well just say Giannis Antetokounmpo at this point. There’s so much this guy can do and it’s become a nightmare for team’s night in and night out. The only blemish in his game to this point is that his outside shot still needs to be polished and he tends to be over aggressive on the defensive end. As frustrating as his foul trouble may be, I can live with it because it shows that he cares a lot about defense while trying to be the most complete player he can be on both ends of the floor.
Milwaukee is now 11-9 and currently holds the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference with three quarters of the season to go. After an abysmal 33-49 record just last year, the Deer seem to be hungry to get back to the playoffs this season. I know it’s still early, but the attitude of this team seems to be much different this season and they have started to realize what they are capable of. It’s evident the Bucks can hang with anyone on any given night as we’ve seen them do with the Warriors, Cavaliers, Spurs, Raptors and now the Trailblazers.
They have a tough schedule coming up this December and the early part of January. They have already had a back-to-back setting after sweeping the Brooklyn Nets last week, and will have four more similar sequences with the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards and New York Knicks over the next month. This brutal part of the schedule will be important and give indication whether this team is a contender or pretender as we head into 2017.
Milwaukee’s short three-game homestand ends on Friday night as they welcome the 11-12 Atlanta Hawks to the BMO Harris Bradley Center before they head to Washington on Saturday. The Hawks dropped the Bucks 107-100 back on November 16 in Atlanta behind 21 points from Paul Millsap. Giannis had 26 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists while Jabari had 23 points, respectively, but the Bucks only got 25 points from their bench in the losing effort. Tip for tomorrow night will be at 7:00 p.m. and can be found on Fox Sports Wisconsin.