We’ve done this dance before, so let’s get this out of the way: no, Giannis Antetokounmpo is not suddenly a dead-eye shooter. Call me Debbie Downer, but it’s true.
Don’t get me wrong, it would be a tremendous development for an already-stellar player. The Milwaukee Bucks are already contenders, but Giannis-with-a-J would make them invincible juggernauts. The Greek Freak has never been a consistent shooter, despite an all-time performance to close out the NBA Finals, and he knows it.
So when I review some of the impressions left by last night’s preseason loss to the Utah Jazz, I feel compelled to douse myself and become the wet blanket that Bucks fans might not want...but some of y’all need it right now.
Oh this looks like night-and-day smoother. If it sticks ... uh, good luck? https://t.co/gIIyRalYE7— Yaya Dubin (@JADubin5) October 14, 2021
Let’s review: Giannis took 12 shots yesterday, making 9 of them. Five of those attempts were outside the paint, and another three were between the free throw line and the restricted area. Admittedly, yes, he made far more of his non-basket area shots than normal (5/8 to be exact). Here’s what his shot chart looks like from last night’s preseason game:
Pretty exciting, right? That’s a great game. I mean, if only he were able to do this every single night, he’d be unstoppable! I mean, he’s already unstoppable, this would make him more unstoppable! But if we were going to base our expectations on a single game, then Dirk Nowitzki would be known as a poor man’s Yi Jianlian. We even did this pre-pandemic, when Giannis seized the crown from LeBron James in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers where Giannis made 5 threes.
But it wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. A twelve-shot sample size is not large enough for us to get our hopes up. If Game 6 of the Finals wasn’t enough to make Giannis a 90% free throw shooter, than an October preseason game against the Jazz (when Rudy Gobert is hanging back at the rim and the Jazz defense is all to happy to let Giannis pull up) isn’t transforming Giannis into an amalgam of Kevin Durant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Let’s pretend, for just a moment, that I’m wrong. What then? Well, besides it being the most delicious crow I’ll have ever dined upon, it would be over. All of it. Basketball would be pointless, the games wouldn’t matter, the Bucks would simply waltz past all challengers without even breaking a sweat. Giannis with a legitimate jump shot is basketball nirvana; he’s already an all-time scorer at the rim, and an all-time defender, not to mention his combination of ball-handling and play-making at 6’11” and 240 lbs. A real jumper would be simply unfair. He already has a custom-fit roster around him that makes up for his weaknesses and accentuates his (and their) strengths. Giannis’ biggest nemesis in this universe would be boredom and complacency, something he’s uniquely suited to avoid.
Maybe that’s where we’re headed. Let’s just give it at least a dozen games, rather than a dozen shots, before our hype reaches critical mass.