We're still waiting for a real explosion from Giannis Antetokounmpo--you know, the sort of 20-point, 12-rebound, 5-assist night that sends us all into a tizzy for a couple weeks and have us vowing to name our-first born children (male, female, whatever) after him. Wait, you're already at that point? Well...OK, I get it.
But the fact that we're even entertaining the possibility of that just two months into his career says plenty, and in the meantime all Giannis does is consistently give us a little bit of everything. Some growing pains, too, but mostly a consistency no one would expect from a just-turned-19-year-old. Seven double-digit scoring games out of the last 11 contests, with no games of fewer than six points and only one game where he shot worse than 42% from the floor (and he still managed 13 points on 9 shots in that game). And on the boards, five-plus rebounds in 10 of those 11 games including double-digits twice.
So it was more of the same in Utah on Thursday night: a career-high five assists featured some fun open-court playmaking (natch), a couple of aggressive dribble-drives that earned him trips to the line, an athletic slam off a scrambled scramble, and a meaningless (to the game) three at the fourth quarter horn.
There were lessons to be learned, too. Allowing Richard Jefferson to get baseline for a reverse slam wasn't his finest defensive moment, and getting swatted at the rim in the open court by Gordon Hayward was a reminder that he doesn't have a monopoly on open-court athleticism.
And part of the fun is that the league is noticing, too. In two short months he's gone from "a likely steal at #15" to "the most exciting talent from the 2013 draft." Here's David Thorpe's latest rookie rankings, which feature Giannis at #4:
Think about this: What if Giannis had played his last year of high school at one of the great prep programs in the U.S. that so many other top players attend? Is there any chance he doesn't get recruited by almost every major college? No, there's not. And what if he had that type of exposure and experience against top competition? It's hard to imagine him falling below the top two picks of the 2013 draft.
There was also predictably plenty of chatter about Giannis in a TrueHoop 5-on-5 about the 2013 rookie crop, as he garnered most of the votes in both the "Most Intriguing" and "Most Promising" rookie discussions. Jack Winter has maybe my favorite line:
The great unknown of Nerlens Noel tempts here, but then you remember that Antetokounmpo boasts a superior physical profile, at least as much defensive potential, and hordes more room for growth offensively, too. Giannis has a league-average PER and no idea what he's doing! The sky -- if he can't already reach it -- is truly the limit for Antetokounmpo.
It's the kind of hype that's a little scary but mostly just exciting. Besides, we deserve something to take our minds off a 7-25 record, right?