Giannis Antetokounmpo Set to Justify Huge Contract

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NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10: Lou Amundson (L) of the New York Knicks drives the ball against Giannis Antetokounmpo (R) of the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden on April 10, 2015 in New York, New York. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Last month, Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a four-year, $100 million contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. Although an eye-popping figure, it was $6 million less than the max deal that Antetokounmpo clearly deserved. He was unselfish enough to forgo the extra money, allowing the Bucks a better chance of re-signing Jabari Parker next off-season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Set to Justify Huge Contract

Antetokounmpo’s altruistic nature is replicated on the court, too. His move to point guard last season yielded an average of 7.2 assists per game after the All-Star break, improved from 2.8 before it. But he still has work to do. Despite his boost in numbers towards the end of last season, the Bucks comfortably missed the playoffs with a 33-49 win-loss record. In fact, they were marginally worse after the All-Star break, going just 11-17.

Although Milwaukee’s demise is far from the Greek Freak’s fault, the team needs to work out how to translate his obvious talent into team success. The Bucks’ major flaw last season was their lack of three-point shooting, posting a league-low 440 makes from downtown. An injury to sharpshooter Khris Middleton adds to their woes in this regard.

But Antetokounmpo has the passing talent to find open shooters, and the addition of premier catch-and-shoot threat Mirza Teletovic will be a danger to opposing defenses. Antetokounmpo vowed to improve his own three-point shot over the summer. His quiet performances in the Bucks’ two preseason games are too small a sample to display any improvement just yet.

Besides his outside shooting deficiency, Antetokounmpo has virtually every other attribute to be an elite player. He seems destined to make his first All-Star appearance next February if he can continue his monstrous numbers from the end of last season. He is a great rebounder and – as the main ball handler – this ability will allow the Bucks to be deadly on the break.

Antetokounmpo’s Improvements

Antetokounmpo’s talent as a ball handler goes beyond his good assist numbers. Last season, his usage went up from 18.5 to 21.8 percent, but his turnover rate went down from 13.2 to 11.9 percent. Antetokounmpo went against the usual trend and was more efficient despite higher usage.

The only other question for Antetokounmpo to answer is: how will he handle his newfound stardom? Based on how his NBA career has gone so far, it seems that he can absolutely stay grounded. Milwaukee is the ideal place for such an easygoing player; it allowed him to stay relatively under the radar early in his career.

Even with the extra spotlight that his production and contract have garnered, the Greek Freak looks unaffected. On the Bucks’ media day, he cracked jokes and spoke humbly when asked about his new contract.

Antetokounmpo is clearly focused on his duties on the court, rather than distractions off it. The Bucks have to hope that his unquestionable abilities will take them back to the playoffs in 2017.

 

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