Last season for the Milwaukee Bucks was underwhelming to say the least. They finished with a record of 33-49, missed the playoffs after giving the Chicago Bulls a tough first round matchup the previous season, and the Greg Monroe experiment has not worked out thus far.
However, there was one bright spot from last season and that was the continued development of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo, who was the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft had a career year last season, taking his game to new heights.
Last season, Antetokounmpo averaged 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 35.3 minutes per game. Not to mention, he also shot a career-high 50.6 percent from the field. The main reason why Antetokounmpo’s numbers went up was because head coach Jason Kidd not only had him playing the forward position but point guard as well.
Yes, I said point guard. With his 6-foot-11, 222 lbs. pound frame, the Greek Freak showed off his versatility becoming Milwaukee’s starting point guard for the last 20 games of the season, replacing an injured Michael Carter-Williams.
Unlike the Monroe experiment, the Greek Freak point guard/point forward experiment paid huge dividends, not only for the Bucks but for Antetokounmpo. In the final 20 games, Antetokounmpo averaged 18.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.2 assists in 35.8 minutes per game. He also shot 51.6 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three-point range.
Antetokounmpo showed the Bucks’ front office that he can impact the game in multiple ways and they decided to make a long-term investment in the 21-year old. On Monday, the Bucks signed Antetokounmpo to a four-year, $100 million extension, which is six million dollars less than a max contract.
However, since Antetokounmpo is still young, he is destined to get another huge contract by the time he hits 24, 25 years old.
Also, did I forget to mention, this contract has no options? According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Antetokounmpo’s four-year extension has no options, which means both parties are committed to each for the foreseeable future.
Milwaukee is ecstatic about this deal because now they get to build around their hybrid point guard, who was a triple-double machine last season. As the Bucks’ point guard, Antetokounmpo has a great feel for the game and can push the ball up the court to initiate the fast break.
Also on the offensive side of the ball, he can use his height to his advantage by posting up smaller guards on the low block. Then if he gets double teamed, he can see over the defense and find an open teammate for an easy bucket.
On the defensive side, Antetokounmpo does a great job of using his length to play the passing lanes as he averaged 1.4 steals per game.
Antetokounmpo’s play last season left us in awe and wanting to see him playing the point guard position for an entire season. Despite, the Bucks signing point guard Matthew Dellavedova to a four-year, $38 million deal in free agency, he will not be the team’s primary ball handler.
That title will go to Antetokounmpo and with that responsibility, he will have to improve certain facets of his game.
For starters, despite averaging 4.3 assists per game last season, Antetokounmpo also had 2.6 turnovers per game. He will have to limit those because as a team, Milwaukee gave the ball away 15.2 times per game, which ranked them 25th in the association.
Outside of the turnovers, Antetokounmpo needs to continue to work on his shooting to justify his new extension. Last season, when it came to shots between 10-16 feet, the Greek Freak shot a horrific 28.8 percent. That percentage will not cut it as he needs to show opposing defenses that he can knock down the mid-range jumper. If he can do that, it will open things up for Dellavedova, Jabari Parker, and Mirza Teletovic.
The Bucks are going all in on Antetokounmpo and for good reason as the youngster has the potential to be a great player in this league. If he wants to be this new hybrid point guard that Milwaukee builds around, he has to cut down on the turnovers and shoot the ball better.
Just like the Middleton signing in the summer of 2015, the Bucks are hoping this long-term investment pays off in the form of playoff appearances and wins.