Every young player talks about getting better in the offseason, but any fan who's been around a while knows that some skills just never come. Remember Andrew Bogut's mid-range jumper, Luc Mbah a Moute's corner three or John Henson's right hand? Yeah, neither do I.
Still, Giannis Antetokounmpo has proven to be more than just a talker in the two years since he landed in Milwaukee, which is why we should probably be paying some attention when he talks about what he's planning to do next with his ever-evolving game. As part of his ongoing blog series at EuroHoops.net, Giannis spoke at length this week about his plans for the summer, which began with a trip home to Greece with older brother (and Knicks' prospect) Thanasis.
But don't worry -- apart from that well-deserved vacation to start the summer, Giannis seems as focused as ever on becoming the star that Bucks fans hope he can be.
"The same things I worked hard on in the season that just ended, and even more. I believe I can do everything on the court. I aim to further improve my body, get stronger. Also, I’m going to work hard on improving my shot. Another aspect that is scheduled to work on in individual training is to introduce more moves in the low post. If the opponent learns a move in the low post and he’s ready to stop you, you have to dig up a new one you’ve worked on and surprise him."
Antetokounmpo also shed further light on his relationship with Jason Kidd, specifically in regard to his limited three-point shooting this season.
"What happened this year was this. Coach Kidd trusted me and I trusted him. At the beginning, when he told me not to shoot I didn't particularly like that. I wanted to shoot! But he was right. Everything has to happen in the right timing. At some point at the end of the season he said to me, Giannis, now you can shoot. You're ready. I told him that now I don't want to (laughs!). I told my coach, don't worry. Next season I'll get it out on my own on the court, spontaneously. It'll come from my game and the work I do every day."
Giannis hit just 7/44 from deep last season (15.9%), a marked drop-off for a guy who hit a rather respectable 34.8% on 118 attempts as a rookie. Still, the regression has some reasonable explanations. Because he mostly stopped trying to shoot threes altogether, Giannis didn't appear particularly comfortable attempting them when he was forced to hoist one up, with the vast majority of his attempts coming with the shot clock running down or at the end of a quarter. Via NBA.com, he hit just 3/30 threes late in the shot clock, significantly dragging down his overall accuracy.
And while many NBA players will try to protect their field goal percentage by subtly taking an extra dribble that prevents a desperation heave from leaving their hand before the buzzer sounds, Giannis couldn't seem to care less about his personal numbers. Consider that he led the Bucks by a wide margin with eight heaves of greater than 30 feet, a non-trivial amount when you consider he only attempted 44 threes overall. See, even when Giannis is missing shots you have reason to love him.
Moreover, while the over-the-shoulder shooting style he displayed as a rookie had pretty good results from deep, he cleaned up his shot mechanics last summer and realized impressive gains from the line (68% to 74%) and inside the arc. Though he didn't shoot well in the playoffs, his balance and stroke looked demonstrably better this season, and his improvement from midrange provides reason to believe he can make similar improvements from deep. Overall, he shot a more-than-respectable 40.4% from midrange on the season, including 45.1% (64/142) from January onwards. Not bad for a guy who hit just 18.2% (10/55) of his midrange shots as a rookie and looked completely lost trying to shoot off the dribble.
It's not to say Giannis will be a 7-foot Steph Curry by October, but combining an improved midrange game with a broader post repertoire (gimme the dropstep, Giannis!) and hopefully some modest consistency from deep figures to make him an even bigger nightmare for opponents to cover. Throw a big guy on him and he can keep them honest outside while being able to blow by them off the dribble. Put a smaller player on him and he can go in the post and shoot over them with ease. He won't be a finished product by next season, but that doesn't mean he won't be a major headache for the rest of the league.