In so many ways, the Milwaukee Bucks' 2013-14 season already feels so dispensable, so avoidable, and so...over. Then again, rookie SG/SF/PF/MECHAGODZILLA Giannis Antetokounmpo has used that bleak backdrop as his canvas for jarring performance art painted in dazzling neon colors. When he makes his mark, it's usually something absolutely need-to-see.
This is not the random walk of exuberance manufactured through trends in Brandon Jennings' jump shooting. Nor is it the stilted enthusiasm generated by Monta Ellis on his good nights. This is different. Giannis demands our full attention. Anything could happen in a blink. It could be a lightning quick dunk, or a prescient pass, or a crafty cut, or an outrageous block, or a slick rebound and push in transition, or all of those things smashed into one glorious sequence that brings us closer to basketball nirvana. They've smuggled a secret weapon onto the roster, and now it's just a matter of figuring out how to use it.
For Giannis to just blend in so soon at the NBA level would qualify as extraordinary, but he's already making extraordinary professional plays. Kudos to everyone in the organization for being flexible and confident enough to experiment with the breadth of his talent and explore his upside in plain sight. The Bucks own the worst record in the NBA, so I expect to use the word "indefensible." I just had no idea I'd get to use it like this.
I'm normally a cautious analyst that treats potential like a fancy French word for "hasn't done sh*t yet," but there's something different with Antetokounmpo that melts my cold, cold heart. It's not about what the youngest player in the association has accomplished so far, or even how shockingly productive he's been, it's about how he looks out there.
Giannis is already making outright dominant plays in transition. They're the type of splash plays that allow you to believe that nobody on the planet is built to deal with him in the open floor. Veteran counterparts aren't just underestimating Antetokounmpo; they're being overwhelmed by him.
Forget about the team record, advanced stats, lineup data, positional questions, shot charts, game situations, and everything else we typically use as tools to evaluate players and performances on this site. The Bucks have something special here. In the immortal words of Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones: "It ain't hard to tell."
It's not fair to saddle a 19-year-old with serious expectations so early in his career -- we tried desperately to temper the hype at the outset of the season -- yet there's no fighting this feeling. The stinkface Giannis flashes during games may be a bit corny and affected, but the motivation and sentiment that sparks the expression feels 100% genuine. This kid isn't just happy to be here; he wants to be great. At a time where it would be perfectly acceptable to come off as intimidated or stunned by the level of competition, Giannis already expects to dominate the opposition.
Do we know what position(s) he will ultimately play? No. Can we articulate his long-term offensive or defensive value at this point? Probably not. Are future All-Star berths guaranteed? Of course not. However, one thing is clear: Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to make a serious dent in this league.
There's a unique joy that comes from watching Giannis play. Maybe it's that we can finally visualize a day when the Bucks transform from hunted to hunter again. Maybe it's the pleasure of knowing that even the worst of times for a team with Antetokounmpo are worth seeing. Or maybe it's the feeling that something great happened to the Milwaukee Bucks in their moment of need. All I know is that Giannis is already assertive enough, aggressive enough, and talented enough to provide us with meaningful glimpses into the future, and that future looks very bright indeed.
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