Prematurely, the expectations were set fairly-high for the Milwaukee Bucks. I myself, had them as a top-five team in the Eastern Conference for the last two seasons.

But it just hasn’t worked out, as they’re currently below .500 with a 30-33 record, and are 10th overall. With the events of forward Jabari Parker suffering from his second torn ACL in the last three seasons and Khris Middleton finally returning from a hamstring tear, the Bucks haven’t found an opportunity to play their three-best assets — virtually on the same court.

However, what’s keeping Milwaukee fans content is the extreme leap Giannis Antetokounmpo has fabricated, since he was drafted fifteenth-overall by the Bucks in 2013. In his fourth season, Giannis has earned his first NBA All-Star appearance, and is on his way to winning the Most Improved Player award.

2016-17 SEASON (62 games, 35.5 minutes): 23.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.0 blocks, 3.0 turnovers and 3.3 personal fouls, on 53% field-goals, 27% three-point and 78% free-throw.

As amazing of a season a player can have, there is still incredible upside for the 22 year-old from Greece. Per 100 possessions, Antetokounmpo averages 33.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.8 rejections. Needless to say, he’s rapidly becoming comfortable with his role on the team, and that’s being a potential franchise cornerstone.

When many say Antetokounmpo has improved, it’s true. He has career-highs in:

  • True-shooting (61%),
  • Assist percentage (26.5)
  • Rebound percentage (14.1),
  • Steal percentage (2.5)
  • Block percentage (4.9)
  • Offensive (6.7) and Defensive (3.4) Win-Shares

Interesting fact: Antetokounmpo’s 13.4 turnover percentage in 2016-17 is the lowest of his previous three seasons. 

And these numbers listed above are certainly not padded, of course. This young man is becoming increasingly powerful, and let’s remind ourselves that he doesn’t turn 23 until the end of October. Antetokounmpo’s Usage Rating of 28.5 ranks 22nd in the NBA — which is even lower than stars Paul George, Andrew Wiggins, Brook Lopez, Dwyane Wade and Kemba Walker.

The Bucks have an incredible future behind Antetokounmpo. The more he grows, the more it’ll be easier to build around him. His rise to superstar status alone, gives upcoming NBA free agents a great reason to consider Milwaukee as a ideal destination. A recent example is New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this upcoming summer. Rose had admitted his attraction to the city of Milwaukee, as it’s close to home for him.

Of course the devastating injury to Jabari, as well as the inconsistent lineups from Jason Kidd have led to a degree of uncertainty regarding Milwaukee. But to have a “process player,” such as Giannis, will be much needed moving forward — as he’s already one of the league’s most versatile players.

Earlier in the year, Antetokounmpo put together a fourteen-game stretch where he averaged 27.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.9 blocks (also just 2.3 turnovers). He shot 55% from the field, a strong 38% from beyond the arc, and had a +/- of 4.1.

And what practically capped off that sensational run — was a turnaround buzzer-buzzer in Madison Square Garden, as the Bucks defeated the Knicks 105-104 on January 4th.

Milwaukee began their season 11-9 through their first-twenty games. Their most notable was an eighteen-point win over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, where Giannis went bonkers for 34 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. He was also 13-for-19 from the field.

However, the Bucks have gone 19-24 ever since, and even had a five-game losing streak over the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets in late-January. Antetokounmpo’ scoring trended down to 17.8 points during those five outings.

But if there’s any part of his game that’s been haunting Giannis since he first came into the NBA — is Antetokounmpo’s outside shooting. As he’s connecting on just under 28% from three (117-419) for his career, it’ll be important for Antetokounmpo to continue expanding his game, even with such lethal attacking abilities.

And even though Giannis shoots 71% from within three-feet of the basket, he’s only shooting 39% from 3-10 feet, 34% from 10-16 and 37% from 16. But as it’s been noted before, he’s beginning to improve on his shot-selection.

  • 40% on pull-ups (13-28 FG)
  • 43% on hook-shots (18-42)
  • 57% on step-backs (11-19 FG)

At the rim, Antetokounmpo is as unstoppable as it gets for a 6’11” forward. He’s added enough muscle to where it’s become even harder to stop him from throwing down that one-handed Statue of Liberty. It’s the best (and strongest) part of his game, and as Milwaukee looks to keep him engaged in developing a consistent jumper, he’ll be absolutely lethal for beating defenders off the dribble.

Even though they aren’t one of the powerhouses in the East right now, Milwaukee still isn’t a team you’d want to count-out, especially with Antetokounmpo at the helm. After coming to terms on a four-year, $100 million extension back in September, there’s no concern about the forwards’ future anytime soon. Antetokounmpo is due to make $22,471,910 in the 2017-18 season, $24,157,303 in 2018-19, $25,842,697 in 2019-20, and $27,528,090 in 2020-21.

“I don’t even think about it,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think my game is so versatile that, without even thinking about it and just playing hard and being in the right spot, you just fill up the sheet. That’s what I’m trying to do. I have the ball in my hands a lot, so no matter what happens, the stats are going to be there.”

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And for a career with great promise, there’s an overwhelming amount of room for Giannis to grow as a player. He has such a bright personality, an attainable work-ethic, and the overall fearlessness to be around for many, many years. He’s officially a superstar in this league, and it’s happening before we can even realize it.

“We have special players that we come across,” Bucks head coach Jason Kidd spoke. “LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. And Giannis is one of those rare players we’ll be able to enjoy for a long time.”

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