Fantasy Basketball: Will Giannis Antetokounmpo Be Worth the First Overall Pick Next Year?

The Greek Freak has been the top player in fantasy hoops for almost two months running. Is it time to start treating him as the game's top asset?

Giannis Antetokounmpo's rise in fantasy hoops has been meteoric.

As a rookie in 2013-14, at the ripe young age of 19, he was not even a standard league asset in the nine-category format, ranking 232nd. Now, in 2016-17, he is currently the third-ranked player in fantasy basketball and is still on the rise at only 22 years of age.

Season Age 9-Cat Rank 8-Cat Rank
2013-14 19 232 205
2014-15 20 93 79
2015-16 21 28 25
2016-17 22 3 3

In each of his four NBA seasons, Antetokounmpo has seen incremental improvements in five of the nine standard statistical categories in fantasy hoops (points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks). In his current breakout campaign, he's averaging career-highs across the board:

2013-14 24.6 6.8 0.5 4.4 1.9 0.8 0.8 41.4% 68.3% 1.6
2014-15 31.4 12.7 0.1 6.7 2.6 0.9 1.0 49.1% 74.1% 2.1
2015-16 35.3 16.9 0.4 7.7 4.3 1.2 1.4 50.6% 72.4% 2.6
2016-17 34.6 23.3 0.7 8.8 5.6 1.9 2.0 53.0% 78.0% 2.9

What's more, he's been even better over the last two months or so after a few duds (by his standards) in mid-November. Since November 19th, the Greek Freak has been the top player in nine-category leagues with a legendary stat line. Over that 25-game span, he has averaged 24.3 points, 0.9 triples, 8.8 boards, 5.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.9 blocks, and 2.8 turnovers in 34.9 minutes per contest, while shooting a blistering 54.2% from the field and 78.9% from the free throw line.

Has Antetokounmpo become the top player in fantasy hoops? Is he shaping up to be a potential first overall pick in fantasy hoops drafts next year?

Well, his all-around line certainly makes him an enticing option.

Of the top 156 fantasy players in nine-category leagues this season (the cutoff for "standard-league value" in your default 12-team league with 13-player rosters), Giannis ranks high in a number of categories:

Category Mark Rank
Points 23.3 17th
Three-pointers 0.7 125th
Rebounds 8.8 22nd
Assists 5.6 28th
Steals 1.9 6th
Blocks 2.0 6th
Field goal percentage 53.0% 34th
Free throw percentage 78.0% 102nd
Turnovers 2.9 144th

As you can see, he's not going to win you any one stat necessarily, but he's also not really going to hurt you anywhere (with the exception of turnovers, but that's common for first-round fantasy assets). The three-pointers and free throw percentage are the closest things to holes in that line and they are still bordering on average standard-league returns and rising.

Meanwhile, you get six categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and field goal percentage) where Giannis ranks in the top 35 and can anchor your team.

While the combined points, rebounds, and assists are flashy enough as it is (he and stat-stuffing machine Russell Westbrook are the only players in the NBA to average at least 23, 8.5, and 5.5, respectively, this season), it's the combination of top-tier steals and blocks that sets him apart. He's the only player in the NBA bordering on averaging both two steals and two blocks per game.

In fact, if he does manage to pull that feat off, he'd be only the fourth player to do so in NBA history and it would be just the seventh such occurrence ever:

Player Year STL BLK
Hakeem Olajuwon 1987-88 2.1 2.7
Hakeem Olajuwon 1988-89 2.6 3.4
Hakeem Olajuwon 1989-90 2.1 4.6
Hakeem Olajuwon 1990-91 2.2 3.9
David Robinson 1991-92 2.3 4.5
Gerald Wallace 2005-06 2.5 2.1
Giannis Antetokounmpo 2016-17 1.9 2.0

Beyond being one of the closest things to a nine-category threat in fantasy hoops (hello, Kawhi Leonard), the best thing about Antetokounmpo is his position eligibility has about as many letters as his name. In Yahoo leagues, you can slot Giannis into your point guard, shooting guard, or small forward slots, while on ESPN, he can play anything outside of center.

From there, his true value comes in where you play him. If he's your point guard, you're getting top-tier rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage from the position. If he's one of your forwards, you're getting solid out-of-position assists and steals. No matter what stat category you're stacking in, Giannis is as solid of a building block as you'll find.

Also worth mentioning is he doesn't miss that many games, or at least he hasn't yet in his young career (knock on wood). With his skinny 6'11" frame, you would think he'd be susceptible to regular injuries, but so far so good. To this point in his NBA career, he's played 274 of a possible 283 games (96.8%), while never missing more than two in a row. When you're looking at oft-injured guys like Anthony Davis at the top of your draft board, the reliability factor that comes with Giannis is huge.

So, can Giannis Antetokounmpo be the top pick in fantasy hoops next year?

If you consider his versatile and relatively wart-free stat line, historic defensive contributions, multi-position eligibility, lack of injury history, shockingly young age, and room for even further growth (as scary as that is), it would be hard for anyone to fault you for taking the Greek Freak with pick number one. For the rest of this season, at the very least, he should be treated as one of the absolute top assets in the game.