In a league dominated by stars, there are few players in the National Basketball Association as mind-boggling as Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo, affectionately known as the Greek Freak for those who can’t pronounce his name, is a 6-foot-11 point forward hailing from the streets of Athens, Greece and if you don’t know him by now, you soon will.
Drafted 15th overall by the Bucks in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Greek Freak has launched into superstardom and become the face of the franchise, and could soon become the face of the league. In my opinion, Antetokounmpo should even be in consideration for the MVP award as early as this year.
Yes, this year. A year in which Kevin Durant has shined for the Golden State Warriors alongside Steph Curry and company. A year in which LeBron James continues to show why he is one of the best players of all-time. And even a year in which James Harden and Russell Westbrook are putting up 40-point triple-doubles what seems like every other game. This is Antetokounmpo’s case for MVP.
Let’s start with the facts. Although the Bucks are a very young team (two-thirds of their roster is under the age of 25), the Greek Freak is the best of them all, having just turned 22 in December. He leads the team in every major statistical category. Every single one. Points? He averages 23.7 PPG. The next best scorer is Jabari Parker with 20.4. Assists? Antetokounmpo is the best playmaker on the team too, averaging 5.6 APG. The giant point guard also averages 8.7 rebounds per game, nearly two boards per game better than center Greg Monroe. The Greek Freak also leads the team in the hustle stats, averaging 1.8 and 2.1 steals and blocks per game, respectively.
Besides the fact that Antetokounmpo is leading his team in every major statistic, which by the way has only been done four times in league history, it’s the way he plays on the court that is so incredible. Offensively, the young star is essentially unstoppable. The Greek Freak is bigger and far more athletic than most people who guard him, especially since he started running the point, making it very easy to find the open man or just drive by his defender. Given he can throw down a double-clutch dunk from just inside the free throw line and get from half court to the hoop with one dribble, it is pretty hard to stop Antetokounmpo if he gets into open space.
The Greek Freak has also consistently improved his jumper every year since entering the league, to the point that he is a serious threat from anywhere inside of the arc. His 3-pointers aren’t something to scoff at, however, as his numbers from the perimeter are getting better as well, especially under the tutelage of head coach Jason Kidd.
On the defensive end, Antetokounmpo uses all of his 7-foot-3 wingspan to lockdown opposing scorers and can quickly turn a block or steal into points on the other end. His huge reach also helps bail out teammates who get beat by their man. He isn’t the best defender in the league by any means, but he is one of the hardest defenders to get by, and a big reason why the Bucks rank seventh in opponent field goal percentage at 44.6 percent.
Ultimately, it is not likely that Antetokounmpo will win the MVP award this season, and I understand that there are other freak athletes in the NBA that also deserve the honor like the aforementioned Harden and Westbrook. However, there is no doubt in my mind that no player in the league does as much for his team than the Greek Freak does for the Bucks. Westbrook may be the exception here, but he has solid talent around him, such as Steven Adams and Andre Roberson among others. Outside of a still-improving Jabari Parker, Antetokounmpo has pretty much no one else to really carry the team with him.
Antetokounmpo is a true example of someone putting a team on his back, and for that reason he should genuinely be considered for the 2016-17 MVP award. If it doesn’t happen this year, then fans of the NBA should be on the lookout in the future, because the Greek Freak is going to be one of the best players in league for a long time.