Okay, I’ll admit it – I have no idea how to spell his last name. Don’t look at me though! You probably didn’t even notice that it wasn’t spelt right anyways. Plus, by the time this article is done neither of us will have learned it, and if you do congrats, but there’s a reason you won your high school spelling bee and I didn’t. Okay, okay, all jokes aside though, I’m going to cut right to the good part. We might not know his last name, but by the end of the season we will all know one thing for sure: Giannis Antetokounmpo is the MVP of the NBA.
Flash back to the 2013 draft (sorry Cleveland, Anthony Bennett was kind of funny though). I’ll never forget when we drafted Giannis. The young and lanky player out of Greece was only known by about 0.037% of Milwaukee Bucks fans, and I don’t think many of us liked the pick considering big name players from big name schools were still available. Shane Larkin from Miami – taken 18th. Gorgui Dieng from Louisville – 21st. Mason Plumlee from Duke – 22nd. Reggie Bullock from UNC – 25th. You get what I’m saying; we watched these guys play for NCAA championships, but all we’ve seen of our new franchise player was a highlight mix-tape on draft night! I hadn’t ever even heard a Greek accent before either. I didn’t even understand his interview that night.
“This is why the Bucks won’t ever win,” a close friend said that night. He’s begun eating his words, but he hasn’t even made a dent yet. Giannis really broke this whole NBA draft thing, because looking back at it a player of his caliber should not, should not, have been able to fly under the radar on his way into Milwaukee – although we do have a pretty nice airport. Four draft classes later and the last four players taken with the 15th pick have been Adreian Payne, Kelly Oubre Jr., Juan Hernangomez, and Justin Jackson. I know it’s not fair to compare them to Giannis since he has more time in the league, but honestly, are any of those guys going to become this good? Nah, and even if we stick within the 2013 draft class, the 15th overall pick still became a whole head and set of shoulders better than everyone else.
Come back to present time and Mr. Antetokounmpo has been improving every time he steps on the court. It only took four seasons for him to jump from All-Rookie 2nd Team to All-NBA 2nd Team; along the route picking up last season’s Most Improved Player, a couple Player of the Weeks, and an All-NBA Defensive 2nd Team too. Speaking of improvement, Giannis’ Points, Assists, Rebounds, Steals, and Blocks have increased every year since joining the league and most of them are on pace to do the same exact thing this year. Due to these increases, Giannis is also a member of an elite club including Dave Cowens, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James as the only players to lead their team in all 5 major stat categories for an entire season. It doesn’t stop there either; last season Giannis became the first player in NBA history to be Top-20 in the league in all 5 of theses categories. The dude fills a box score like it’s his job (which it is).
Stuffing the stat sheet isn’t going to win Antetokounmpo an MVP though. Russell Westbrook did it last season by averaging a triple double, but he also played in the Western Conference, had a cool storyline all season long, and the Thunder still won 47 games. Not only that, but Russell Westbrook was the first player in 20 years to win MVP without being a #1 or #2 seed in their respective conference and was also the first player in 35 years to win MVP without winning 50 games that season. If Giannis plans on claiming the MVP trophy this season his best option to is win some games too.
Through the first week and a half of the season the Bucks are, 4-2, on pace for 55 wins, and currently sit 2nd in the East. Also consider that their only two losses have been to the Cavaliers and Celtics. Hey, all good signs – so we can probably expect the Bucks to rack up some wins in bunches this year. Antetokounmpo has lead the Bucks thus far with averages of 34.7/10.7/5.5/2.0/1.0 on a True Shooting Percent of 67.5%, so if Milwaukee can win and Giannis can keep this up then he has a likely case for MVP. After all, veteran teammate Jason Terry said it best: “You know how those accolades come quicker? If your team wins.”
Giannis being drafted by the Bucks was probably the best thing to happen to the franchise since most of us have been born. His constant improvement and ridiculous stat lines are freaky to say the least for a man that’s only 22 years old, and at the level he’s been playing it seems extremely likely that he should cause some MVP raucous this year.
Let’s bring this full circle. Spell it with me: A-N-T-E-T-O-K-O-U-N-M-P-O for M-V-P.