You never know what might spark a debate during the dog days of the NBA summer, but Ben Dowsett of Basketball Insiders discovered at least one such topic on Friday:
While I don't think it's crazy to take a pessimistic view of how much better Giannis can get, Dowsett's contrarian tone apparently riled up plenty of fans who still expect much bigger and better things from the Bucks' 21-year-old, with references to "Cult Giannis" only further fanning the Twitter forest fire. And not long thereafter other media members -- CBS' Chris Towers, Zach Harper and Matt Moore -- were also weighing in with their tangential takes on Giannis, Andrew Wiggins and whether it was even worth getting mixed up in the debate to begin with. In short, if you wanted to write an anatomy of how a random opinion can become a 2-hour firefight on Twitter, this would be a good case study.
Admittedly, in the grand scheme of things an Internet flamewar doesn't really matter, but Eric Nehm and I thought the reactions by both sides provided an interesting lens through which to consider what Giannis has accomplished thus far and how much better he might still get:
As you may recall, the 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.9 blocks that Giannis averaged after the all-star break are numbers that no player in NBA history has posted over the course of a full season, and his full-season combination of points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and scoring efficiency have only been bettered by the likes of Kareem, David Robinson, Charles Barley, Kevin Garnett and Dr. J., none of whom did it before the age of 23. Not bad for a guy who has yet to find consistency from the perimeter and only been given the green light as a primary ball-handler for 27 games.
And while there's no guarantee he ever becomes a good shooter, Antetokounmpo's ability to impact every phase of the game is exceptionally rare. I think people often over-index on scoring as the leading indicator of stardom -- that's probably the case for anyone who prefers Wiggins at this point -- but I'd argue that Giannis doesn't actually need to make another huge leap to be counted among the league's elite. Considering what he did last year, simply applying his existing skillset in a more consistent manner will likely make him an all-star at some point in the near future, making the big question just how much further he can go from there. It's difficult to say anyone at the age of 21 is a lock to become a top five or ten player, and Giannis is no exception. But he certainly has a chance, and he's probably closer to realizing it than many might think.