Can Giannis Antetokounmpo keep getting better
As far as year-on-year improvements go, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better in the NBA than Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Greek Freak has improved year-on-year in pretty much every possible metric since moving to Milwaukee in 2013, and he’s a big part of the Bucks becoming favourites to win the Central Division and pretty much a lock for the playoffs at the end of this NBA season.
The 2017-18 season saw Antetokounmpo reach 10 rebounds per game for the first time in his career and also achieving a career-high field goal percentage of 0.529, but it’s the points per game metric which really jumps out.
It has more than doubled in the last three years, going from 12.7 in 2014-15 to 16.9, 22.9 and finally 26.9 in 2017-18. Only three tallied higher (Damian Lillard also posted 26.9), and Antetokounmpo is both the youngest member of the top 10 for the stat, at 23 years of age, and the only European to make the cut.
The 2018-19 season could be even more devastating, though – but just how much better can he get?
Last season, Antetokounmpo showed he can do it not just in the regular season, but in the playoffs too.
Milwaukee might have lost out to the Boston Celtics in a 4-3 series, but their main man notched 30 points or more in three of the games.
“This feels like the year of Giannis,” Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard writes in his look ahead to the 2018-19 season.
He has pointed to the Bucks becoming a more well-rounded team, better equipped to take advantage of Antetokounmpo’s skill-set, while the man himself has room for improvement – or at least room to polish parts of his game – despite those frankly ridiculous numbers for someone so young.
He has already made it onto the cover of the NBA 2019 game, the first international player to earn the accolade since the game came into being. This confirms how many people see him having a ridiculously high ceiling even if he hasn’t reached it quite yet.
Of course, he threatened to do just that in 2017-18, hitting 30 or more points in each of his first four games to create some early MVP buzz, and we’re sure to see more of the same if he has another fast start.
The 44-point haul against the Portland Trail Blazers, at least when viewed in the context of the 30-point games either side, was the sort of performance that forces you to remember where you were when you witnessed it.
The fact that he doesn’t even turn 24 until December shows just how much he could have left to perfect.
This season, Milwaukee have a new head coach in the form of Mike Budenholzer, and are looking healthier across the board.
Last season’s 44 wins marked the Bucks’ best return since 2010, and the new coach has every chance of helping them improve on that further.
We’ve known for the last year or two that Antetokounmpo has the tools at his disposal to properly step things up, but he also has the personnel around him to become the lynchpin for a side where merely reaching the playoffs is no longer the pinnacle.
If the other pieces fall into place and he continues doing his thing, perhaps he could step up and become the first non-American MVP since Dirk Nowitzki back in 2007.