No player in the NBA has had a faster start to the 2017-18 season than premier young Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Over the first two weeks of the season, he was the NBA’s leading scorer at over 35 points per game. In addition to his obnoxious scoring abilities, the “Greek Freak” scored at least 30 points in the Bucks’ first four games, and surpassed NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s prior record with 147 points scored in the first four games. It’s a franchise record.
His scoring numbers this season has since slipped to 29.5 PPG, but he is still without a doubt a major force to be reckoned with for all teams.
Last year, he led the Bucks in all five major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals), and became the first player in NBA history to be in the top 20 in all of those aforementioned statistical categories.
May I remind you, Giannis is only 22 years old.
When Giannis was drafted in 2013, most people had absolutely no idea who he was.
The then-18-year-old was already 6’9” and less than 200 pounds when he was drafted. He has since grown to 6’11” and 222 pounds.
Giannis’ size and length provides him with a unique offensive stronghold, allowing him to drive to the basket and score on most occasions. His lanky characteristics also allow him to have an advantage on the defensive side of the ball a lot of other players do not have (remember what I said about him leading the Bucks in all five statistical categories?)
Since entering the league Giannis has developed a solid mid-range jump shot, however he is still struggling with his three-pointers, as he is shooting only 26 percent from that range.
But, if the “Greek Freak” can figure out a way to hit his threes consistently, well, let’s just say that is not really fair.
With all that has been said, the Bucks now have a superstar they can rely on in all games he plays.
Milwaukee’s record to start the 2017-18 season is somewhat disappointing. The team is currently 9-9, although they did have an incredibly tough schedule to start the season. The Bucks have already faced top Eastern Conference teams including the Celtics, Cavaliers and Pistons twice, and have gone 2-4 in those six games.
When the Bucks started the season 4-6, the squad turned the tables and made a blockbuster trade in acquiring star point guard Eric Bledsoe from the Suns in exchange for center Greg Monroe and two protected draft picks. Bledsoe has added his strengths in speed and defense Milwaukee was desperately missing at the start of season. The 27-year-olds strengths have played a positive impact to the entire team as a result, as the Bucks are 5-3 since acquiring him.
So, the Bucks have two guys that can score when needed. But, don’t forget about the sixth-year and heavily underrated forward Khris Middleton. Despite having a slow start to the season shooting wise – he is only shooting 31.2 percent on threes – Middleton is still putting up 19.3 PPG, which is a career high so far. Middleton is a career 39.6 percent three-point shooter, too, so expect his three-point percentage to increase over the season.
That leaves the Bucks with three guys that provide scoring, who have a combined scoring average of 63.9 PPG so far. The one issue that has been ailing Milwaukee, however, is the team’s lack of scoring depth. Yes, they have players like guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Tony Snell that are capable of scoring at least 10 PPG, but they are not the most consistent scorers.
Brogdon is the reigning Rookie of the Year, but he has struggled coming off the bench since Bledsoe got acquired. Snell is a sixth man that usually starts because the Bucks do not have anyone else that can replace him yet.
If Milwaukee is going to go deeper into the playoffs this year, the team is going to need more than the three consistent scorers. Getting forward Jabari Parker back in February will certainly help with scoring, but his weak defense cancels out his offensive capabilities.
Almost all of the pieces are there for the Bucks to make a deep playoff run, but the team’s record goes to show that they need at least one more superstar in order to do that. How the team gets another superstar is a question mark, because Milwaukee is currently right at the luxury tax that is preventing them for getting another star player.
The Bucks are certainly capable of reaching the postseason with the roster they have, but it would be quite an obstacle to beat teams like Boston, Detroit, Cleveland or Toronto in the first round with their current personnel.
Milwaukee has so much potential right now, and if the team can get at least one more superstar that can provide consistent offense and defense, look for the Bucks to make a run at the Eastern Conference Finals. Another superstar would undoubtedly put less pressure on Giannis, Bledsoe, and Middleton to score 20-plus points every night.
If the Bucks are able to somehow acquire at least one more superstar, what Brandon Jennings infamously said four years ago could become a very real possibility.