Beginning with his smoothie-sipping days as a wire-thin rookie, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been an internet darling seemingly since the day he landed on American soil.
But the Greek Freak's stat-stuffing past month has elevated him from gyro-stepping teenage novelty to burgeoning future all-star. And while the potential might have always been there, let's not underestimate the enormous (Giannis-sized) leap that's been required to get him from there to here. For all the highlight plays, rookie Giannis was still light years from a finished NBA product, or even an above-average rotation player. And while last season saw Giannis establishing himself as a legitimate NBA starter, his advanced metrics didn't exactly scream future superstar.
Fast forward to today and the real leap finally seems to be happening. Aside from his continued inconsistency from the perimeter, Antetokounmpo's numbers since the all-star break are nothing short of breathtaking: 19.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.8 assists, nearly two blocks and two steals per game to go with 56% true shooting and a superstar-ish PER of 24.8. There's no perfect analogy for what Giannis is or what he might become; it's like the Basketball Gods saw Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, prime Lamar Odom and pre-injury Grant Hill and said, "Yeah, those guys are cool but they're not tall enough." It's not to say superstardom is a lock, but we're heading in that direction. Hell, it's gotten to the point where Antetokounmpo dropping 24p/6r/6a against LeBron James feels like just another night at the office, and a two week triple-double drought feels like an eternity. How quickly we become spoiled, eh?
Despite the Bucks' ongoing irrelevance in the Eastern playoff race, the Giannis Leap hasn't gone unnoticed either, underscoring how unprecedented the exploits of the Bucks' 6'11" point guard really are. A sampling of the reactions Giannis has drawn in recent weeks:
Levy: Giannis Antetokounmpo awakens as a 6'11" point guard-playing terror | Sporting News
Ian Levy (one of our favorite writers, BTW) has some fascinating data on the difference between Point Giannis and everything that preceded him.
For most of the season, Antetokounmpo had been fluctuating around a DRE of 0, which represents an average level of production. Over the past few weeks, he's rocketed up and has been hovering around +5.0. That mark is roughly comparable to the season-long DRE marks of Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry â two elite point guards.
Sharp: How Giannis' rise explains Ben Simmons Future | SI.com
A couple weeks ago Andrew Sharp and I emailed about how Giannis' rise could provide a template for exploiting Ben Simmons' point forward tendencies -- here's Andrew's resulting take, which is thankfully much better written than anything I could have produced.
This year's Milwaukee team has been a disappointment after crashing the playoffs last season -- like most NBA stories, that one's been written since January -- but the Giannis Awakening is new.
It's scary. It's thrilling. He's a human triple double playing point guard and guarding power forwards, and even now, you get the sense that he's only scratching the surface. I watch entire Bucks games and I still have no idea what this team is doing, or where it's all going.
How Point Giannis is unlock Jabari Parker | BBall Breakdown
Will Gottlieb looks at Giannis through the lens of Jabari's parallel emergence.
The rhythm between the Bucks two 21-year old stars are finally starting to materialize the way we hoped prior to the season. Their potential is tantalizing and their connection is blossoming. In the past 10 games, Antetokounmpo has assisted Parker 31 times, which is 53.4 percent of his assisted buckets over that time.
Sure, both Antetokounmpo and Parker are individually playing their best ball of the season, and part of that is simply finding a groove. Ultimately, their more focused roles in the offense unleash a new level of potential that will prove to be a force into the future.
Giannis Antetokounmpo turned into a real-life Monstar when the Bucks moved him to PG | SBNation.com
You're not a star until you get a Space Jam comparison, right?
Antetokounmpo is averaging more than nine drives per contest over this 15-game stretch, which would be among the 20 best in the league on the season. He's also shooting better than 66 percent when he does get to the basket, per NBA.com.
Within this mini run of brilliance, Antetokounmpo has effortlessly transitioned into a facilitator. Unlike many young players, even those who grow up playing point guard, Antetokounmpo already seems to understand that the point of attacking the basket is to generate points for someone, not just himself. He's creating 16.3 points per game with his passes in this 15-game stretch, one of the best marks in the league according to NBA.com.
Lowe: Point Giannis | ESPN
It's not a trend until Zach Lowe chimes in on it, and a couple weeks ago Zach offered this:
Oh my god. I'm not sure what's even going on here, but I like it. In the opening stretch of last week's win over Minnesota, the Wolves assigned Rubio to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo -- probably to keep Rubio's basic defensive job the same -- while the Bucks had Antetokounmpo defending Towns on the other end. What do you even label a player who defends the opposing center and then runs the offense against the other team's point guard? A ... freak?
Arnovitz: The Extraordinary Measures of Giannis Antetokounmpo | TrueHoop
In talking to members of the Bucks' training staff and P3 Applied Sports Science, ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz uncovers the secrets of Giannis' incredible physique.
The length of the average adult male hand, measured from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinkie, is 7.4 inches. For Antetokounmpo, it's 12 inches. (For reference, Kawhi Leonard's hand is 11.25 inches, and LeBron James' is 9.25.) The breadth of Antetokounmpo's hands enables him to get a strong "pinch grip" on a 29.5-inch basketball (what's commonly known as palming). Not only does palming the ball allow Antetokounmpo to gain maximum control, but by virtue of making the ball an extension of his arm, he effectively gains 2 more inches in height.
Pelton: Can Giannis Antetokounmpo or Russell Westbrook ever average triple double? | ESPN
No one's expecting Giannis to average a triple-double -- the pace of games is way too slow compared to the speed-inflated days of Oscar Robertson -- but Kevin Pelton writes that if anyone's going to do it...
Since the All-Star break, Antetokounmpo has averaged 20.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game. His assist average (8.8 APG) has been even better in the eight games since Carter-Williams was lost to a hip injury that required season-ending surgery, thrusting Antetokounmpo into the point guard role full time.