Giannis Antetokounmpo Has Made the Leap

What has the 21-year-old playing the best basketball of his young career?

For NBA prospects, there is always a question of potential.

Yes, talent is a big aspect of a player's pre-NBA profile, but players can improve, and sometimes it's the player's potential that really matters.

Of course, not every player reaches that ceiling, and sometimes that ceiling may have been more of an illusion than a reality.

In the case of Giannis Antetokounmpo and his initial ascent into NBA stardom, there was still a question that needed answered. Had he already made the leap -- even before this season?

It sure has taken a while, but I think we finally have an answer.

A Budding Star

Prior to the All-Star break, I think we'd all have to agree that the jury was still out on whether or not Giannis had what it took to be a star in this league. 

In 52 games, the 6'11" forward averaged 15.9 points, on 50.5% shooting, and 7.1 rebounds in 34.6 minutes while contributing nearly as many turnovers (2.5) as assists (2.8) per night. For all the physical talents he possesses, Giannis wasn't impressing anyone.

However, in his very last game leading into the break, a game in Milwaukee against the visiting Washington Wizards, he provided us with a sign of things to come.

In nearly 37 minutes of action, Antetokounmpo produced 17 points, 13 rebounds (4 offensive) and 3 assists. At the time, it seemed like just another big stat line against an inferior opponent, but we can see now that it was much more than that -- it was foreshadowing.

Since the All-Star break, Giannis has been some kind of star.

In his first two games back, at home against Charlotte and on the road at Atlanta, he averaged more than 38 minutes of action, 18.5 points -- on 15-of-34 shooting -- and 12 rebounds per contest.

That was just an improvement on Antetokounmpo's scoring and rebounding totals that we all have seen flashes of in earlier games this season. What came next was so much more.

Starting with a triple-double against the Lakers on February 22nd, Giannis showed us firsthand what was behind all the superstar expectations.

In the next eight games, he tallied a total of three triple-doubles and two double-doubles all the while averaging 19.3 points (on 47.9% shooting), 9.9 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game.

Potential -- consider it realized.


What really forced Antetokounmpo to show us what he's made of though?

Above all things, it seems as though the season-ending injury to Michael Carter-Williams was the biggest catalyst.

Since Carter-Williams showed up as a late scratch prior to last Monday's game against the Rockets, Giannis has become "Point-Giannis," taking it upon himself to make up for the 5.2 assists left on the sidelines along with the Bucks' injured point guard.

In the last five games absent Carter-Williams, Antetokounmpo has become the primary catalyst for the Bucks by upping both his Usage and Assist Percentages over that timespan.

Antetokounmpo Usage Rate Assist Percentage   Offensive Rating
Season 21.8% 21.5% 103.0
Last Five 24.8% 47.9% 106.8

Antetokounmpo's uptick in playmaking responsibilities has not damaged his efficiency either. He's tallied an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.88 and has turned the ball over just 10% of the time of his own possessions.

His increase in playing time -- from his season average of 35.3 minutes to 39.6 over his last five -- has led to a lower shooting percentage, but he's been taking more than three more attempts per game over his recent run.

To make up for the slight decline in shooting from the field, Giannis has been much more aggressive in taking the ball to hole, averaging 7.8 points on 10.6 drives, and 3.4 more free throw attempts per game over the last five.

DFS Monster

Where has Antetokounmpo's recent revolution taken him in the daily fantasy basketball world?

Well, in terms of salary, here's where.

Date Salary (FanDuel) Salary (DraftKings)
February 11th $7,300 $7,100
February 19th $7,400 $7,000
February 22nd $7,500 $7,100
February 25th $8,100 $7,700
March 2nd $8,400 $7,900
March 7th $8,700 $8,200

After seeing a few double-double performances, FanDuel slowly bumped up Antetokounmpo's price tag while DraftKings waited to see more from the youngster. After his massive triple-double against the Lakers, both sites were on high alert and added an extra $600 to his salary.

And even though his salary has continued to climb all the way up to $8,700 and $8,200, respectively, he's been outperforming his salary-based expectations.

In his last five games, Giannis has exceeded his value at FanDuel on three occasions while he's also done so all but once on DraftKings.

It'll be interesting to see where his price goes from here, as Milwaukee takes on a tough Miami defense tomorrow night before a couple of favorable matchups with New Orleans and Brooklyn. 

No matter the price, Giannis has proven that he can not only produce for his team but also that he can go big for yours on any given night as well.