Six Month Gianniversary
In NBA history, 97 teenagers have suited up for a season.
Nine of those players ranked in the top three on their team in minutes played.
Here is that full list of nine:
- LeBron James
- Carmelo Anthony
- Kevin Durant
- Dwight Howard
- Chris Bosh
- Stephon Marbury
- Kevin Garnett
- Tony Parker
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
This is not to suggest in any way that Giannis is on his way to a career like the list of mostly superstars above. But it does mean that he is part of a very select group to have featured so prominently on an NBA team as a teenager. On the last night of the regular season during the Bucks/Hawks game, Bucksketball told me that someone asked him on Twitter why Giannis wasn’t playing more, something along those lines. Now this is a story you are reading.
Going into the season, a lot of people wanted the Bucks to play their new group of young players – namely Giannis – and a lot of people wanted the Bucks to get in position for a high draft pick. Given those wants, and I know was a rough road, a lot of people could be somewhat pleased.
Six Month Gianniversary
In a casual late-October interview, GM John Hammond gave Larry Drew his blessing, even his encouragement, to let Giannis play.
"We want to expose [Giannis] but not overexpose him. Any time that Larry Drew can find a way to get him on the floor, sneak in minutes for him, get him out there but not put him in too uncomfortable a position early on. But we'll see how things go in training camp, how things go in exhibition season, really see what he's capable of doing."
Then he played four minutes on Opening Night. One month to the day later, he was the sixth man in 27 bright minutes against the Celtics. Three weeks after that, he earned his first NBA start, the first of 21 starts in a row. Giannis played 17+ minutes in every game for three straight months to conclude the season.
Today is exactly six months after Opening Night, perhaps exactly six months until Opening Night.
Next season will be about a lot more than minutes, so here are a few numbers to build on.
Six Numbers To Build On
43.9% According to Player Tracking Data (fun first public year), Giannis rated as the best non-center in the NBA in terms of opponent field goal percentage at the rim (minimum: three attempts guarded per game). Just ahead of Serge Ibaka, Andrew Bogut, Taj Gibson and co. Very encouraging stuff, and it makes some sense, because Giannis blocks a lot of shots and gets up there for a non-center.
But teammates Miroslav Raduljica, Ekpe Udoh, and John Henson also ranked among the leaders in this category, and the Bucks finished dead last in defensive efficiency. Despite the at-the-rim heroics, Giannis struggled to recover through screens and walk the line between help and man-to-man defense – and plenty of other advanced stats didn’t paint such a flattering photo. This is par for the rookie course, and he otherwise showed awareness and instincts that suggest major capacity for improvement on the defensive end. He is his own player, but out of all the comparisons, prime Andrei Kirilenko, an absolute terror in his day, is a fun one.
39.2 % That represents his three-point percentage post-All Star Weekend. And it is a quite a few ticks up from the 31.4 % he shot from three before the break. The second half surge bumped him up to 34.7 % overall in his rookie campaign, which is pretty close to the league average of 36.0 %. The really interesting part about his three-point game is his shot chart distribution. He made just 1-17 (5.8 %) on threes from the corners, but 9-14 (64.2%) on straightaway threes. His favorite spot by far was the center-right-side, where he made a solid 18-43 (41.8%).
Giannis didn’t show off much of an in-between, mid-range game, which is not atypical for a rookie. In the meantime, cheer for him to move up into the high 30s on threes and continue what should be an inevitable progression into a very strong finisher at the rim. Those are the two highest percentages shots on the court, and he gets that.
.483 Giannis posted a really nice .483 free throw rate, which measures the number of free throw attempts per field goal attempt. The good news is that this is the third of the three most efficient types of shots, along with the two mentioned above, and Giannis already is better than most of the league at getting calls at the rim.
However, one reason that his free throw rate was so high (second best on the team behind Ramon Sessions) is that he hardly ever attempted field goals. In fact, only Ekpe Udoh among teammates attempted fewer shots per minute, which means Zaza Pachulia, Miroslav Raduljica, Nate Wolters, and everyone else managed to find more shots. Again, it is encouraging that Giannis recognized his limits even as a rookie, but to make an impact moving forward, he will need to find an offensive niche or two.
68.3% His first-year free throw percentage. If getting to the line is to be a heavy part of his game – and we should hope it is – then Giannis will want to get up into the 70s (and then 80s). Let’s do that.
67% Giannis played 67% of his minutes at small forward, 31% at power forward, 1% at shooting guard, per basketball-reference. Those numbers feel a bit off in a few ways, he played more two guard and less power forward, to start. In any event, he looked most like a three both offensively and defensively. And though he can run some point forward in transition and though he is growing into power forward heights, he is really just a tall small forward for now.
5. Giannis accumulated five assists in five different games, and that season-best number should go up next year as he diversifies offensively and evolves into a more confident off-the-dribble prober. His modest assist numbers are less a reflection of his court vision or passing skills (which are pretty good) and more a product of his limited involvement in the half court.
BMO Harris Plays of the Week: Week 22
Week 22's best plays brought to you by BMO Harris Bank.
Week 22's best plays brought to you by BMO Harris Bank.
Tyler Ennis throws it up to Giannis who knows exactly what to do with it.
Ersan Ilyasova picks up the loose ball, passes out to Khris Middleton who throws it up for Giannis Antetokounmpo for the lay in.
Ersan scored a career-high 34 as the Bucks beat the Pacers
Coach Kidd and Giannis Antetokounmpo talk about how they're focused on Thursday's game against the Pacers after winning Tuesday in dramatic fashion.
It was a playoff-like atmosphere with HUGE playoff implications and the Bucks came storming back to win it at the buzzer.
Check out the best plays from week 21.
Middleton leads the break and drops the dime for the two hand Giannis flush.
A rebound turns into a dunk in just a few long Giannis strides
Giannis Antetokounmpo forces the turnover and takes it in for the strong deuce.
Giannis keeps his dribble alive until he jams
Khris Middleton knows exactly what to do with a rebound. Chuck it to Giannis for the E-A-S-Y dunk.
Giannis shows that his left hand is just as good as his right off the nice dish from K Mid
Brook Lopez scores 32 points and grabs 18 rebounds as the Nets defeat the Bucks in triple overtime 129-127.
John Henson makes the feed to a cutting Giannis Antetokounmpo for the high-rising rim rattler!
Giannis Antetokounmpo blows into the lane and flushes it home emphatically!
Giannis Antetokounmpo makes a nice move to avoid the big shotblocker and gets a tough bucket in the paint.
See the best plays from week 20
Giannis Antetokounmpo drops the no look behind the back pass to Miles Plumlee for the dunk.
Giannis Antetokounmpo roars through the lane untouched on his way to a monster jam.
Giannis Antetokounmpo blows by Jeff Green and throws down the vicious two hand jam.
Giannis Antetokounmpo puts the nice spin move on the defender and hits the Hook shot.
With seconds left in the game the Bucks needed a bucket to seal the win and they got it with some great ball movement
Khris Middleton had 30 points and was a perfect 4/4 from beyond the arc as the Bucks held off the Magic 97-91 in Milwaukee Wednesday night.
Giannis keeps dunking on the Pelicans. This time he hits Quincy Pondexter with the wicked spin
Giannis hits the lane with a full head of steam
Tyreke Evans tries to draw the charge...it doesn't work and Giannis is cleared for take off.
Check out the best play from week 19
Anthony Davis scores 43 points, tying a career high and helping the Pelicans pull away for a 114-103 victory over the Bucks.
It was a game both teams needed to win and the Bucks came out on top.