Sports

For Giannis, ‘greatness’ is an enigma


Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have dispatched the Brooklyn Nets.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have dispatched the Brooklyn Nets.
Photo: Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo is becoming another NBA enigma.

After watching him for seven games against the Brooklyn Nets and arguably the best player on the planet right now in Kevin Durant, I don’t know what to think about the two-time MVP.

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During this series, his game was exposed in so many ways. His shooting ability, or lack thereof, made hima virtual non-threat anywhere outside of 10 feet. Blake Griffin and Jeff Green were able to match his physicality for large parts of that series and, at times, Giannis had many people questioning his credentials as an All-NBA player.

However, when you look at the final numbers for the Greek Freak in this series, you see 31.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and one block per game on 57.4 percent shooting. Not to mention his team won the series and is advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. I wouldn’t say those are the numbers of an individual who should be receiving so much slander from basketball Twitter.

Granted, this man did shoot 25.8 percent from three and 48.3 percent from the free-throw line in this series and, for a significant part of that series, his shooting struggles made it hard for the Bucks offense. Because, as Twitter would say, Giannis has “no bag,” meaning he doesn’t have any offensive moves off the dribble to create openings for himself.

Once Milwaukee’s coaching staff actually started making adjustments to help Giannis’ game by giving him more post-ups, using him as a screener in the pick and roll, and allowing him to cut off the ball more, the game started to become easier for him and he was able to flourish.

It’s interesting to dissect Giannis as a player following this series. He went up against the best player in the world and tried to match him as best as he could. And he didn’t do a bad job at that, except for the fact that he never really took the challenge of guarding Durant in any crucial moment. As a former Defensive Player of the Year, you can’t let that happen.

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The weaknesses in Giannis’ game were glaring during this matchup with Brooklyn, but, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter, because he was still dropping 30-plus a night on their heads. He put up 40 in Game 7. He’s so dominant at attacking the basket because of his size, athleticism, and physicality that it just didn’t matter that he couldn’t shoot. The Nets knew what was coming every single possession and couldn’t stop this man from giving them buckets.

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Obviously, getting a more consistent jumper and making free throws would help his game tremendously, but I doubt that he’ll ever become a knockdown shooter. If he ever morphs into a three-level scorer he would be the best player on the planet by a wide margin.

Yet, it’s fascinating to see him play in this era where everything is so predicated on outside shooting. He’s great in an area of the game that isn’t popular anymore.

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It’s hard for many to accurately rate his greatness compared to the best in the game today because of both his limitations and his strengths, and he will only get harder to characterize as time progresses.

Can you only be dominant at one thing in this day and age and still command respect as truly one of the top five players in this league? Especially when that one thing he lacks is the focal point of the NBA game today?

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I have no idea. All I know is Giannis’ “greatness” is another NBA enigma that we might never be able to solve.

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