Giannis Antetokounmpo is a sensation. He stands 6'11", though his mantis-like limbs and slim build (he's listed at 216 pounds) make him seem even longer than that, if such a thing is possible. He can cover the length of an NBA court in five steps (possible hyperbole, but he can do it in two dribbles). But his physique and athleticism aren't the only reason we celebrate him here. He can play.
The 20 year-old Milwaukee Bucks forward is the reigning NBA Eastern Conference player of the week. His performance in this weekend's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest was disappointing, but turns out to have been a one-man protest against his teammate Brandon Knight's loss in the Skills Challenge*. On the year, he's averaging 12.0 points and 6.6 boards a game, authoring a .564 true shooting percentage, as he matures physically and athletically. But in February, he's taken another (impossibly long) step.
* - wink, nod, noted
G:TB NBA expert Mark Hughes offers this scouting report on the Greek native:
"He's an actual point forward. This term is thrown around far too often but Giannis was able to develop this skill as he was always the most athletic, talented guy on the mid to low level Greek youth teams he played on. That plus European basketball's emphasis on all around skill development for all allowed him to grow into a huge, athletic point forward. He doesn't pile up huge assist numbers but he's a willing and creative passer who allows the Bucks to run Brandon Knight off screens for open jumpers."
At 20 years old, Antetokounmpo is still growing into his abilities. He's capable of insanely athletic feats, extending his legs, giraffe-like, and galloping from end line to end line before defenders can block his path. As Hughes notes, "Defensively he's still figuring out how to best use his skill set and despite that and still only playing 28 minutes a game he's basically averaging a block and a steal a game. As he continues to mature physically and mentally its not unreasonable to imagine him averaging 2.5 steals and blocks per game."
Finally, and it's no small thing, there's the matter of his name. Pronounced [ˈʝanis a(n)detoˈku(m)bo], it's one of the more fun things to say in all of professional sports. Come on, do it with me. Yannis...Ahn/De/To/Kuuuuuuuumbo!!!
Made you smile. So does Giannis. Learn to spell his last name, 'cause this certainly won't be the last time we talk about him.