The FanRag Sports Offseason Rankings counts down the top 100 NBA players throughout the offseason. Methodology, voters and the full countdown are all detailed in the introductory post.
A little over a year ago, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN wrote about what an extraordinary physical specimen Giannis Antetokounmpo is. He’s 6-11 with a 7-3 wingspan. He has 22 pounds of lean muscle mass. His Achilles’ tendon is almost double the length of the average adult male, enabling him to accelerate and explode.
Each year, The Greek Freak has added skills to that tremendous physique and is gradually emerging as one of the premier players in the league. This season, the Milwaukee Bucks are hoping he can join the MVP conversation — and lead the team to home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs while he’s at it.
Barring a major injury, it’s inconceivable that Antetokounmpo will drop out of the top 10. With his age (still just 23), continual improvement (his Player Efficiency Rating has risen by at least four points every season) and role, it’s hard to imagine him regressing. He’s not so distant from a few of the players behind him, however, that an MVP-caliber performance couldn’t help them to leapfrog him.
It’s not likely to happen this year, but it’s not impossible that he will take over the role as the best player in the world. If he can add shooting to his arsenal, he’ll be a complete player who can score off the bounce, pass, rebound and defend virtually anyone on the court. A lack of holes seems to be emerging as a major factor in assuming the title of “best player, ” and he’s getting close to that. If he starts making 3s and the Bucks poke north of 50 wins, he could be the MVP.
The freakish one is decent in half-court offense, but he can improve there. He’s only in the 68th percentile, according to Synergy Sports, at 0.965 points per possession. When you include his passing, it’s a little better — 1.269 PPP. He’s around average as the ballhandler in the pick-and-roll (54th percentile), isolation (40th percentile) and as a spot-up shooter (48th percentile). He does a better job when he can exploit his physical advantages on cuts (91st percentile) or as the roll man (97th percentile).
That’s why his next step is developing his shot and honing his handles. If he can improve there, he’ll be unstoppable.
His bread and butter is in transition. He’ll gulp up ground in two or three strides and deliver a thunderous dunk:
Last year, he scored 492 points in transition on just 394 possessions. For comparison’s sake, Russell Westbrook led the NBA in transition points with 542 but took 550 possessions to get there. That’s only 50 more points on 166 more possessions — and it’s not as though Westbrook is a slouch in transition.
Defense is a tricky thing to measure sometimes. The best defensive plays are those where there’s nothing to measure. Good defense is forcing a missed shot; the best defense is not giving up a shot at all.
Also, teams are more inclined to attack poor defenders than good ones. That helps explain that while Freak’s 0.852 PPP against (79th percentile) is very good, it’s not indicative of how good his defense is. He “only” defended on 817 possessions.
He plays a roving style of defense, using his long strides to lope about and help wherever necessary.
Sometimes that’s in the post, sometimes that’s sealing off the perimeter, sometimes that’s closing out on open shooters. He’s particularly effective against spot-ups because of his ability to close gaps quickly and take away sight lines with his long reach.
He also is a defensive playmaker. Last season, he was the only player to average 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals. What’s even more amazing: He was the primary defender on 817 plays and registered 282 combined blocks and steals. Some of those came when he wasn’t the primary defender, but it gives you an idea of why teams are reluctant to challenge him:
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