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Milwaukee Bucks

Is Giannis Antetokounmpo actually at only 60 percent of his potential?

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Giannis Antetokounmpo (NBA Getty Images)

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Earlier this summer in an interview with ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk, newly minted MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said, "I think I am at 60 percent of my potential, as good as I can be."

Well then.

Before diving into to that frightening thought, a refresher on where we stand on the Greek Freak:

  • He turns 25 in December
  • He just averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game
  • He just finished with the 12th-best Player Efficiency Rating of all-time, trailing only seasons by Wilt, Jordan, LeBron and Curry
  • He just scored more points in the paint than anyone since Shaquille O'Neal with the Lakers
  • He finished runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year

So yeah. He's good.

I'm not even sure how to process the thought of him being only 60 percent of his full potential.

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I'm guessing this is going to become mostly a conversation about his jump shot, and for good reason. Not only did Giannis average 27.7 points per game last season, he did so on 57.8 percent shooting from the field without being much of a threat outside the paint.

According to Basketball-Reference, those are numbers we've only ever seen from four other players before, two of them being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal.

So if he can add a somewhat reliable jump shot to his game, the sky really is the limit for him.

Adams: We might as well start with the elephant in the room, but I think there's more nuance than it simply being "wait until he learns how to shoot."

Yes, the 3-point shooting is a weakness.

Yes, the lack of pull-up jumpers is an area for improvement.

That's the elephant.

But one of the dirty little secrets which should frighten the rest of the league? He's not yet a good finisher, even in the extended painted area where he already destroys everyone.

62 players last season took at least 100 shots from 5-9 feet. Care to guess where Giannis ranked among them in FG percentage on those shots?

Rafferty: I'm guessing pretty low, otherwise it wouldn't help your point. 55th?

Adams: 61st. Ahead of only Josh Jackson. That's it.

Rafferty: That's insane.

Still, I do think him not being a threat outside of the paint matters just as much. To steal a page out of your book, Giannis was one of 262 players to attempt 100 3s last season. Want to guess where he ranked in 3PT percentage?

Adams: Dead last?

Rafferty: Close - third-last, ahead of only Dragan Bender and Trey Lyles.

Adams: Not great company.

Rafferty: Nope.

Here's another one: Giannis was one of 112 players to attempt at 100 shots from midrange last season. Care to guess where he ranked in FG percentage?

Adams: Haha this is quickly going to dissolve into "here's how many ways we can show that Giannis has mountains to climb as a shooter" but ... an even 100?

Rafferty: 101st, in the same range as Dennis Smith Jr., Aaron Gordon and Andrew Wiggins, among others.

Adams: It's wild to think he can finish third in the league in scoring while essentially having zero semblance of any consistent scoring ability outside of even five feet.

Rafferty: Right, which is why I sort of buy the whole "60 percent of my potential" thing he's pushing.

MORE: Is Giannis already the best player in the NBA?

Adams: I actually do think as a scorer, 60 percent feels about right. He's a non threat as a catch-and-shoot guy, he doesn't attempt pull-up jumpers and he's still just a so-so finisher in the paint if he's not dunking.

That of course has bigger ramifications for his ability to serve as a shot creator at the end of games, which then has consequences for Milwaukee reaching its full potential.

In the series against Toronto, it was Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon doing the heavy lifting with their season on the line.

Rafferty: Something else the Raptors did in that series was expose his weaknesses as a passer. Ben Taylor of Thinking Basketball made a really interesting video about it, noting how they doubled him in a way that forced him to make passes that aren't yet in his repertoire.

Giannis already draws a ton of attention because of how much pressure he puts on teams as a driver and finisher. The better he gets as an all-around scorer, the more teams are going to look to get the ball out of his hands, putting an even greater need for him to develop into a better creator for others.

Adams: I agree on the passing. He's a good passer, but not a great passer. I think there's this general feeling that he's in the mold of a LeBron James or Ben Simmons, when in reality he's very far from that level. Which is OK!

One specific area there's room for improvement given his ball-handling responsibilities and potential as a passer is in pick-and-roll. Milwaukee didn't utilize him much in that regard at all, as he averaged fewer than two per game.

This is despite the fact that when he did run them, he was the single most dominant pick-and-roll ball handler in the entire league last season. If he improves as a passer, I'd venture to guess that raises the frequency with which Mike Budenholzer unleashes him as a pick-and-roll threat.

Rafferty: I doubt he would be able to sustain that level of efficiency if he were to run a lot more pick-and-rolls, but I do agree that the Bucks could put him in more of those situations, particularly with Brook Lopez.

Lopez averaged only 1.6 possessions per game as the roll man last season. Even if Giannis doesn't have much of a jump shot yet, Lopez's ability to pick-and-pop beyond the 3-point line would create a ton of space for him to attack.

Adams: These are all connected. He can't shoot so everyone goes under. Fix the shot and it forces more honest coverage. Given he's the biggest matchup nightmare in the league, it's easy to start connecting the dots on how incremental improvement in one area starts to impact everything else.

What's also bizarre with that level of efficiency is that he's doing it despite turning the ball over on nearly 20 percent of those pick-and-rolls, which ranks towards the bottom. Clean up the ball handling a bit and perhaps he just might be able to sustain that or at least stay within shouting distance.

Rafferty: What about on defense? How much better do you see him getting on that end of the floor?

Adams: He's already the best help defender in the league by a mile. His ability to not only help and recover for weakside blocks but to also close out on shooters and in rotation is unlike anything we've truly ever seen.

While he's an elite rim protector, I also think the most dangerous version of Giannis is when he's playing the five. If that means more time guarding the likes of Joel Embiid, he probably could use some bulking up to help better stand his ground as a one-on-one post defender.

Rafferty: Giannis is unique in that he's probably the first player to me where I don't know what position he truly is. Right now, he's a hybrid of a point guard, power forward and centre, often alternating between the three positions on a single possession.

In saying that, I think Lopez is good for him. Not only is he a gunner from 3, which helps make up for Giannis not being much of a shooter at this point of his career, Lopez's size prevents him from having to bang with Embiid or Jokic. Giannis can do that, I'm just not sure you want him to for an entire game.

Adams: I'm not sure there's a center in NBA history better suited to play next to him than Brook Lopez. That's not hyperbole either given he's the first true stretch five that's also a banger defensively.

Anyways. This isn't a Brook Lopez discussion.

I will say that I think Giannis is already in the conversation for best defender in the league and while he can get better on that end, it's marginal in comparison to his room for growth elsewhere.

Let's end this here...

Two questions:

  1. Do you actually think he's only 60 percent and if not, where do you think he is?
  2. What does 100 percent look like in your eyes?

Rafferty: Realistically, I think it's more like 75-80 percent. And 100 percent Giannis is without a doubt the best player in the league and perhaps the scariest player we've ever seen. He'd be a modern day version of Shaq with a jump shot. I'm not sure how you stop that.

Adams: Agreed. He's the same age as LeBron when he won his first MVP and he went on to win four of them in five years. There's more talent now than there was a decade ago, but I wouldn't put it past 100 percent Giannis to win five MVP awards.

Look, he's already dropping 28 a game on 58 percent shooting. It's not a stretch to say he gets to 30 on 60 percent shooting.

That's never been done in the history of the game.

Given he just turned in a borderline top 10 PER season, if he tightens up the handle and makes those improvements as a passer, he's going to annihilate PER records as well.

100 percent might not be the best player ever...

...but I wouldn't rule it out either.

100 percent Giannis has the highest ceiling in NBA history.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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