Let's be honest: the road to Giannis Antetokounmpo's first all-star weekend was a rough one. With a wave of hype and the public fawning over every smoothie, Antetokounmpo stumbled from late January to mid February, hitting just 32.6% of his shots and 58% of his free throws over the eight-game stretch leading up to all-star weekend. Having played more competitive basketball over the past three months than in the entirety of his last season in Greece, Giannis' young legs seemed to be dragging and his energy lagging. His rebounding (3.5 rpg in 26 mpg) and shot-blocking (0.4 bpg) cratered, and he lost his starting gig in the process. The rookie wall may not have claimed his smile or enthusiasm, but it was doing a number on his effectiveness .
Thankfully, a few days off and a weekend away from home might have been exactly what he needed both mentally and physically. In four games since returning from New Orleans, Milwaukee's favorite teen looks to be on the rebound: 10.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.0 bpg, 1.3 spg and 1.5 turnovers on .500/.375/.765 shooting in 28 mpg. He's still making plenty of mistakes--witness his five turnovers in Philly on Monday, or the way Paul George victimized him defensively on a handful of occasions last Saturday. But the nightly "wow!" plays are back, and along with them the sort of two-way playmaking that we were spoiled with earlier in the year. Though he's still figuring out how to impose himself offensively, he hasn't been pressing as much as before the all-star break, and the opportunistic approach is helping. Whether it's the stability of his family settling in with him in Milwaukee, the energizing effect of all-star weekend, or just some games against some subpar competition, things have been back on the upswing.
What that means for the season's final six weeks has yet to be determined, but hopefully we'll see more of the same. It's not to say we shouldn't hold out hope for more--a 27-point explosion or a 20/10 night would be manna from heaven for Bucks fans at this point--but ultimately we're still talking about the league's youngest player. His ability to create shots in the halfcourt is still very much a work in progress--he's an ugly 7/37 on the season in P&R situations and 3/20 shooting off screens--but there's also no need to rush him into being a number one scoring option either. Via MySynergySports.com, he's already surprisingly effective in isolation (0.91 PPP, 42nd in the league) and tolerable as a spot-up shooter (0.86, 38% shooting), so it's not like he's only scoring on fast breaks and back cuts.
And for some perspective: Giannis is just a few months older than both Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, and he's a full nine months younger than presumptive first overall pick Joel Embiid. It's interesting to wonder what he might be doing if he were a college freshman right now--and where that might put him in the upcoming draft--but the good news for Bucks fans is that he's already making an impact in a Bucks uniform.
2/20 vs. Nuggets:
2/18 vs. Magic