Over the last few years, Giannis has gone from being labelled as ‘overrated’ to ‘MVP’. He has done this by becoming the best interior scorer in the NBA with his signature move the unassisted dunk. When he drives to the rim, you know he’s going to dunk no matter who it is on.
Giannis ‘The Greek Freak’ Antetokounmpo is only 24 yet is recognised as one of the best players in the league. In 2018/19, he was the best offensive player on a top 5 NBA offense, and he was also the best defensive player for the league’s best defence. Despite leading the Bucks to the best record in the NBA and picking up MVP, the Bucks fell short in the Eastern Conference Final. He showed you don’t have to hit a lot of three-pointers to win MVP.
In 2019/20, Giannis is determined to take the Milwaukee Bucks to glory. He has improved which is scary for the rest of the league. The 18/19 MVP has become a human highlights reel, and no one is better known for their dunks but when you delve into the numbers, he is more than that.
Antetokounmpo has surpassed LeBron James as the best interior attacker in the league. In fact, the Bucks star is doing stuff the NBA hasn’t seen since Shaquille O’Neal which has led to the nickname ‘the new-age Shaq’. In the past 20 years, only five individual seasons better Giannis’ 1,226 points in the paint during 2018/19, all five are Shaq from 1999-2003 and 2004/05. The Greek basketballer is putting up prime Shaq numbers in an inferior side to Shaq’s Lakers.
The Milwaukee Bucks get a lot of praise for their spacing when taking three-point shots. However, a lot of the space is created by their MVP. He creates this space by driving into the paint which makes the opposition follow him, this leaves his teammates open for a three-point shot.
When Mike Budenholzer arrived in Milwaukee in March 2018 he had a clear plan, build the offensive around Giannis. He filled the court with shooters and let Giannis attack the paint. Budenholzer deserves some credit for Giannis’ dunks, but the star has still become the most self-sufficient dunker in the NBA in decades, the majority of the credit goes to him.
In 2013/14 as a rookie, he dropped 19 unassisted dunks. This rose to a monstrous 116 in 2018/19. He is the only player to reach over 100 since the NBA has started tallying unassisted dunks. Over the last 23 years, the next best was Dwight Howard who got 95 unassisted dunks for the Orlando Magic in 2006/07.
Mike Budenholzer told ESPN “I think the thing that’s so unique and different about how Giannis is dominating in the paint is that lots of times he’s starting with the ball outside the three-point line and still finishing in the paint” and this is true. Most of Shaq’s and Howard’s dunks started near the rim whilst Giannis is driving into the paint from downtown. The league has never seen its most dominant interior player use their dribbling ability like this.
Players like Ben Simmons can drive to the basket in transition for an easy dunk but Antetokounmpo will start from half court against an organised defence. This is really highlighted by 75% of these unassisted dunks coming against set defences. Another crazy stat is that his average take-off distance is 2.6 feet away from the rim which is first in the league for players that do this often. He makes it look easy. He took them to the best record in the NBA for 18/19 and looks to do it again for 19/20.
When Mike arrived at Milwaukee in 2018, they were coming off a season where they were the 27th best for three-pointers. In 2018/19, they were second best. It goes without saying that no one assisted more of those threes than Giannis. It doesn’t stop there; he was number two in the league overall for three-point assists opportunities created by passes from the paint. Teams did clock on to the spacing for three-point shots, so they went out to mark them. However, this gave Giannis more space which led to there being no ‘help defender’ on 42% of his drives.
Most NBA defences are designed to protect the paint, but Giannis simply doesn’t care. He’s dunked on some of the best NBA players and at only 24 years old, he’s bound to dunk on many more.