Giannis Antetokounmpo is hard to spell and (apparently) harder to say. It’s not hard to recognize how Giannis has become a top-flight NBA player and seems to have achieved the rank of “NBA star.”
As if we haven’t done this before, let’s take a quick break and accept how FREAKIN’ COOL it is to have an NBA star on the Milwaukee Bucks. Not a prospect, not an up-and-comer, not a pretty-good player, or an underrated guy, or an All-Star-in-a-weak-field. A star!
And now that we see him at this level, there’s nobody that we would trade him for...or is there?! The Brew Hoop Staff takes a quick trip to Crazytown and asks this question: Who in the world would you be willing to trade Giannis for?
Mitchell: You would think that the Best Player Since Jordan would be a no-brainer, right? So why do I feel like this is an automatic “no?” Maybe it’s because James is nearly 32 years old and just passed 1000 regular season games, or maybe it’s because Giannis (gulp) outplayed James last Tuesday, but I wouldn’t be inclined to seek this trade out.
Adam: Lebron’s glacially receding hairline feels like an apt representation of his game. When he’s finally hanging onto mere tufts at the back of his skull, that will probably be it. Giannis, meanwhile, is rocking a full head of hair and hopefully another decade before we have to worry about that gyro-fade disappearing. I’ll take that long-term bet.
Frank: I don’t doubt that a motivated LeBron could carry the Bucks further than Giannis this year, but the problem is that last clause — “this year.” James is only locked into his current through the summer of 2018, so we’re hypothetically talking about what LeBron can do for the Bucks in the next 18 months. I don’t think he wins a title in Milwaukee in that span, so I’ll gladly take a decade of Giannis rather than two amazing playoff runs. We’ve seen Giannis grow up in Milwaukee, and I’ll gladly continue seeing that for a long time vs. watching LeBron grow old for a short period.
Brett: I’ll get my disclaimer out of the way on the first guy: Real talk, I’m not trading Giannis for anybody in a real and not hypothetical world. That’s not to say if I was starting from scratch with a team that I’d take Giannis first. Rather, given the circumstances that we drafted him, he seems to (relatively) like it here, and the team is (finally) committed to him as the face of the franchise, and (like Frank alludes to) it’s going to be a tough sell to keep most of these guys, there’s just no world where I’m trading him for anybody. But, for sport, I’ll treat it like those things don’t matter for this exercise.
For LeBron: This would be a lot easier if he actually showed signs of aging like a normal human to this point. That being said, I’ll still say no.
Corey: We’re talking about right now, right? 2016? Almost 2017? Give me the guy who turns 22 this week. Not the guy who still hasn’t decided if ‘Space Jam 2’ is worth his time. IT’S WORTH YOUR TIME, LEBRON, AND YOU KNOW IT.
Eric B: Would I trade current Giannis for current LeBron? No. However, would I want Giannis to adopt LeBron’s fashion sense, specifically the turtleneck?
Turtlenecks are trash. Long live the long-term benefit of Giannis and a franchise free of bad fashion choices.
Mitchell: If I wasn’t convinced about King James, I’m assuredly not convinced about Giannis’ most popular (and least accurate) pro comparison in Durant. I love everything about his game, but if Giannis’ ceiling is somehow higher than even KD’s? I’m betting on Giannis.
Adam: No one is really ever compared to LeBron, and it actually feels pretty ridiculous that anyone gets comped to Kevin Durant. This dude is an ambidextrous water-strider with elite ball skills and the shooting ability of Air Bud. That being said, Giannis seems to be tapping into KD’s theoretical defensive potential on a nightly basis rather than KD’s intermittent flashes. I’ll stick with Giannis.
Frank: Maybe I’m taking the cap considerations of all of this too literally, but Durant can opt out next summer so there’s no way I’d give up a long-term franchise building block for him. Still, he’s almost four years younger than LeBron and is one of the most indefensible players in league history. If your time horizon was winning games over the next 3-4 years, there may not be a more valuable guy in the league.
As for the oft-cited Giannis/KD player comp? I agree with Mitchell that it’s mostly a physical and defensive ceiling question; offensively they operate very differently. My guess is that Giannis won’t reach the offensive levels of either LeBron or KD, but that’s OK — and at this point who’s to put a ceiling on what Giannis can become?
Brett: Again, I’m going to assume contract stuff doesn’t matter and take Durant here. He’s still young enough where he still has a good amount of time in his prime yet. His “playoff ceiling” (h/t Nate Duncan) is already so demonstrably high, and I think having him is a guaranteed five years of contention in the East, and probably more.
Corey: Give me Giannis, his desire to shoot more and his rise defensively. And he’s about to turn 22, which is cool. Durant is a fine chap, but I doubt his love of smoothies is as serious as Giannis’ is.
Eric B: Durant is great, but I’m going to take the extra 6-ish years here. It’s likely Giannis won’t reach the ceiling Durant is capable of climbing to, but I’m going to fight the impulse of shorter-term satisfaction and stick this one out, especially when Giannis’ ceiling might not be that far off when all is said and done. Durant is awesome, but Giannis is unique, and my curiosity and paranoia are kicking in to the effect of me taking Giannis.
Mitchell: There’s something about the idea of the first-ever unanimous NBA MVP (who was on the team that held a 3-1 lead in the NBA finals and lost) on a team that isn’t Golden State that doesn’t feel right to me. Something tells me that Curry would take a step down if not surrounded by teammates tailor-made for his unprecedented three-point gunnery.
Adam: Agreed on the Curry elsewhere stuff making my gut queasy, and he’s a bit older than I would like (turning 29 this year). Between that, and swapping the defensive maneuverability of Giannis for the deficiencies of Curry, I wouldn’t pull the trigger.
Frank: I didn’t realize until now that he’s actually slightly older than Durant, and he’s an interesting case in that he might be the most extreme one-way guy in our group of comparison.
Brett: I’ll go with what’s been proven here, too. Although he is 29, he figures to have a game that will be very translatable into his mid-to-late 30s (not to say his athleticism isn’t still a huge part of what he does). I’m less concerned about Steph on a different team than the rest of the crew here, and think a (good) coach could find multiple ways to utilize Curry’s underrated versatility to bolster an elite offense, despite the supporting cast around him. Though I’d be lying if his history of injuries didn’t scare me just a bit.
Corey: I have something to admit here... I’ve never been able to wrap my head around Curry. Maybe that’s normal, but some of the shots he takes should never happen. Ever, ever, EVER happen. He doesn’t make sense, and he actually makes me angry. A lot makes me angry. Steph Curry makes me angry. Giannis, with his ridiculous ball-handling skills, luscious tranisition speed and nearing his 22nd birthday, does not make me angry.
Eric B: This is where it begins to get interesting for me, because the backcourt is still a position that I think the Bucks will need to improve to hit that next level (Sorry Delly, Malcolm!) However, I have to consider this from the Bucks perspective. Would Curry/Middleton/Jabari/uhhh Teletovic?/Henson be better than what is currently in the works? Maybe a little bit right now, but Curry is much older than Giannis and not the two-way threat, so I’m going to say no again. Curry + Bay area winters? You have my attention.
Mitchell: Davis is one of the few players on this list not named LeBron who can offer the same kind of all-around contributions as Giannis. I think the injury concerns aren’t as serious as some may make them, but more importantly (to me) is the fact that The Brow doesn’t offer nearly the same playmaking as Giannis. So I might say “no,” but I would immediately start second-guessing myself.
Adam: Man, this one’s tough. AD is still young as hell at 23, has already felt comfortable committing to a smaller market once, and hasn’t ruffled feathers despite languishing in a putrid pit of basketball down in New Orleans. The injuries seem like a series of little things, but I still don’t want the prospect of our best player sitting out with ticky-tack injuries every 10 games or so. I’ll take Giannis’ durability thus far.
Frank: I think AD still wins a “guy to start a franchise with” vote among objective voters, but I think it’s gotten a lot tighter over the past month — which is amazing to say given how phenomenal AD has been in that span.
Brett: I think what Adam’s on about durability is huge here. I’ll take Giannis.
Corey: Finally, a player who gives me pause in this hypothetical discussion! It’s hard to hate anything about Davis. He’s dominant in the paint. He spreads the floor. You can place things on his unibrow when your fireplace mantle is full. He’s still young enough (only a year older than Giannis, who is about to turn 22), so while his injury past is concerning, there’s still plenty of life in that brow of his. Gun to my head (don’t put a gun to my head, please), give me Giannis. Ideally I can have both. Let’s make that happen.
Mitchell: “Gun to your head?” What is this, the Locked On Bucks podcast?!
Eric B: Assuming that AD doesn’t sign with Milwaukee as a free agent when his next deal is up, (*puts down hallucinogen*), I think this is the first one where I’d probably say yes. I do have concerns about the injury history, but I think having legitimately good players around him would help lessen the burden of having to everything. AD is a touch older than Giannis and offers a lot of the same skills, so I don’t feel like the Bucks would be making too much of a sacrifice, either. I also think having a dominant big is important and cool, so whatever.
Mitchell: I have to think long and hard about this one. Giannis may have superhuman length and athleticism, but few players offer the tenacious defense that Leonard does, while also scoring, rebounding, playmaking, drawing fouls, and spacing the floor.
Adam: Another toughie. I think his workmanlike attitude would fit in well in Milwaukee, and he’s capable of shutting down a team’s best player on any night, something the Bucks still lack despite Giannis’ many attributes. He’s also a ludicrous sharpshooter who nearly pulled off a 50/40/90 last season. His game feels more “yeoman” than “Yo, Man!” though so Giannis will have to wait on enjoying that Riverwalk.
Brett: Tough one. Again, this is another guy whose relative age discrepancy is slightly muted by how well his game figures to translate in his post-prime years. At the same time, I’m skeptical about how far a Kawhi-Leonard-is-your-best-player team can go without a roster like the Spurs and a coach like Pop, and will stick with Giannis.
Corey: I see what Mitchell has done here. Big names but easy answers at the top, slightly smaller names but harder cases to make at the bottom. You’re a savvy beast, Mitchell. [Editor’s note: ;) ]
Kawhi Leonard is a joy to watch for all the reasons I don’t like watching Curry. He’s a sniper, but a more well-rounded player. When he takes a shot, you don’t roll your eyes at it when he makes it. Then he suffocates you on the other end and makes teams find secondary ways to beat you. He’s fun. Yet, will he be that successful in a place not governed by Popovich? San Antonio is the prototypcal “system” franchise in the league. I’ll stay with Giannis, who I need to buy a gift for for his 22nd birthday.
Eric B: I’m going to agree with what Brett said. Sorry, Kawhi. Sorry, other writers who had good answers.
Mitchell: I would actually consider it. KAT may not be as revolutionary as a big as Giannis is as a wing, but the versatile skill set, elite production as a 2nd year player, and strong potential to be the best NBA big man for the next 10 years is tempting.
Adam: This is the only guy that makes me think long and hard. KAT’s prodigious early career production already had people considering him a top-ten player in his second year. The ball looks like a yo-yo in his hands, and he’s making stepbacks like he’s Jamal Crawford. Giannis probably can’t snuff it as a 5 during entire games, but KAT could. I can’t trade someone as endearing as Giannis though, and I’m too afraid to think how he would get back at us for ever wronging him.
Frank: Like Davis, I think most GMs still take Towns over Giannis and I think that’s fair. In a couple years he’ll probably do everything you’d ever dream a big man to do — defense and rim protection are not quite elite in my book yet — so I think a lot of the question for Giannis vs. Towns is a philosophical one about the value of a shape-shifting, playmaking forward vs. a 7-foot unicorn.
Brett: What Frank said. Also, as someone who is still a bit worried about the looks Giannis has yet to see in a playoff atmosphere, I’ve got to like Towns’ versatility and playoff ceiling more. At his peak, he just seems much less potentially exposable to an opposing coaching staff, something I think we ultimately underrate when it comes to judging these kinds of guys and their future value.
Corey: I’ll say this, if you want KAT, get him shortly before Tom Thibodeau succeeds in shoving him into a meat grinder and destroying him for good. He makes me happy and defies the laws of what a big man should do. And he’s younger (Giannis is almost 22). Damnit, Mitchell. You’re a fantastic beast, but I know where to find you. [Editor’s note: :o ]
I’m staying with Giannis, damnit.
Eric B: I think I’d do it? I don’t know. This one hurts my brain. They’re both so wonderful. I just want them to be happy and I don’t want to be the one to upset either one of them.
Mitchell: He was drafted in 2014 but just started playing this season, and is still on a minutes restriction, but wooooo does he look good so far. Per-36 minutes, Embiid is logging 29.1 points/12.3 rebounds/3.5 blocks while shooting 51.4% from the three point line on 4 attempts! He also outweighs many centers by 15 pounds while still maintaining the agility to keep up with wings on the outside. He’s not as good as Giannis is today, but in two years might join him as a top-10 NBA player.
Adam: Embiid’s numbers are just as illogically historical as Giannis’, and his athletic attributes are just as bonkers. His upside may be higher than Giannis if he develops a better passing eye in the post, but betting on Embiid staying healthy is never a gambit I’d want to make.
Brett: Yeahhhhh, I love Jo, but there’s no way in hell I’m touching him with a thirty nine and a half foot pole (‘tis the season) with his injury history.
Corey: Need soooo much more from Embiid before I consider this. Giannis, turning 22 on Tuesday, has stayed on the floor since he came into the league. That may change, but Embiid has to prove he can stay on the floor, too.
Eric B: Not at the moment, but Embiid is scary good and if he stays healthy, lord help us. Watching him and Giannis battle in future playoff series is a threat to all of our perceptions of reality.
Mitchell: I’m a Kristaps-hater, but I recognize how impactful he is on the floor. He trades ball-handling ability for long-range shooting (40.8% from deep this season), and at 7’3” and 240 lbs he has the size advantage. Ultimately, the reason why I say “no” is how conventional Kristaps feels, even acknowledging how rare “stretch-5s” are in the league. I guess “point-5s” are rarer!
Adam: For someone who looks like Groot, it’s crazy how fast he gets his shot off. It looks smooth as hell too and like Mitchell said, he’s an elite gunner. He lacks the ball skills of Giannis, but he’s similarly stingy around the rim with opponents only shooting 45.7% against Porzingis on shots within six feet of the hoop on a healthy 5.8 shots per game. Giannis is at 53% on four shots per game. Still, Giannis athletic ability and ultimate upside trumps Porzingis for me.
Eric B: I’d say no because Porzingis doesn’t have the athleticism and versatility that Giannis does. I also don’t want Phil Jackson to pollute Giannis’ mind with triangular thoughts.
Mitchell: If Giannis wins NBA games by being awesome, a lesser version of Giannis would win fewer NBA games by being less-awesome. Hard pass; Simmons’ game is a near-copy of the Greek Freak’s, without the elite finishing ability.
Adam: Ben Simmons makes dope passes, but he also looked apathetic at LSU and he may be using the wrong hand to shoot. No thanks, give me the dude people are saying would be Simmons ultimate upside.
Frank: I think Simmons is a better passer...and inferior in pretty much every other way (even shooting!). I’m good.
Eric B: Simmons’ upside? Ben there, done that. BOOM. NAILED IT. #VOTEGIANNIS
Mitchell: James Harden is a notable absence from this list, but I don’t think anybody in Milwaukee would be willing to make that deal, regardless of how friggin’ productive Harden is at point guard. Same goes for Russell Westbrook.
Corey: Giannis is life.
What do you think? Are we way off on our unanimous “no thank you” response to the hypothetical Giannis/LeBron swap? Who else would be on your list? Tell us in the comments!
[Editor’s note: Oh! Corey was making a topical reference with all that “fantastic beast” talk! I get it now!]