Giannis Antetokounmpo was called for stepping out of bounds twice in the first six minutes of his season. That’s right — guys, he can barely fit on the court anymore. Soon enough, the other players will start making fun of Giannis for being “a big foot freak.”
The Greek Freak, as he’s affectionately called, has broken out in three games this season, showing a comfort on the offensive end that his wild limbs wouldn’t allow during his freshman and sophomore campaigns. He’ll take smaller players down into the dungeon and roast their bones.
He’s a cheat code on the fastbreak — arriving at the rim in half the number of leaps it should take.
Oh, and he’ll dart into the lane and clean the glass or rock the opposing center’s world.
After missing game one for charging Mike Dunleavy like a rhinoceros in the playoffs last season, Antetokounmpo is off to the best offensive start of his career. He’s averaging 22.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists with a career-high usage rate of 25.3 percent (six points higher than last season).
The Greek Freak has shot 58.1 percent from the field, and he’s even connected on 3 of 7 3PA. And he’s getting to the line six times per game with a clip of 83.3 percent, up from 74.1 percent.
Just finished Bucks-Nets. Greek Freak looks a half-step faster/more explosive this season. Monroe has more confidence in his mid-ranger.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) November 3, 2015
Giannis is arguably the most important player in Milwaukee’s long-term plans (we’ll finally see where Jabari Parker stands when he returns to the floor on Wednesday after last season’s knee injury). Where Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have tuned out during this young season is on the defensive end, which comes as a surprise after the numbers the Bucks posted in 2014-’15.
Milwaukee is getting crushed on the perimeter. Opponents are hitting 43.2 percent of 3-pointers against the Bucks, the worst mark in the league. And it’s not like they’re playing the Warriors and Rockets — their opponents have been the Knicks, Wizards, Raptors and Nets — but the Bucks are 1-3 through four games, fluctuating between playoff hopeful and dumpster fire.
The Wizards nailed seven 3s on the Bucks during a fourth quarter comeback. The Knicks hit eight 3s against Milwaukee, including four by undersize wing Langston Galloway, with Antetokounmpo suspended. Milwaukee is allowing 112.7 points per 100 possessions, what would be the worst mark in the league last season, and the Bucks have left room to be desired on the glass, posting the seventh-worst rebounding rate (47 percent).
The issue is turnovers. There was no better defense at stifling their opponents in 2014-’15, but through four games, Milwaukee has a middle of the pack turnover-margin. The belief existed adding Greg Monroe could deflate the Bucks’ No. 2 overall defense. Milwaukee must recommit to taking the ball away, and Monroe needs to elevate the Bucks on the boards.
Interestingly enough, Milwaukee is thriving on the offensive end of the floor. The Bucks are scoring 103.9 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com, the seventh-highest in the league. They’re sixth in free throw rate (35.2) and second in free throw percentage (84.4).
Milwaukee’s wiry team moves well around Monroe’s post-up game, and Khris Middleton and a cast of improved shooters will see more open looks with The Moose on the block.
The team has an offensive rating of 108.5 with Antetokounmpo on the floor, and a transformative season from perhaps the steal of the 2013 draft (shhh, don’t tell Rudy Gobert) is a very, very good thing for Milwaukee. It will mean little in terms of making the playoffs, however, if Milwaukee doesn’t recapture its elite form on the defensive end.