Giannis Antetokounmpo, 22, ranks second in the NBA in points per game (29.7), notching nearly two-thirds of those from inside the paint (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
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Since the Milwaukee Bucks took Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, he’s shown tremendous growth as a basketball player, both literally and figuratively. This season, he has planted his name firmly within the MVP conversation, even if casual fans still have trouble pronouncing it. To guide us through this episode wholly devoted to the Grecian phenom, we’ve brought on Eric Nehm, Bucks beat writer for ESPN Milwaukee and cohost of the Locked on Bucks podcast. Eric explains how Giannis’ humble upbringing, laser-like focus and basketball obsession have all contributed to his nearly unprecedented development from a lanky, unknown draftee into the all but unstoppable force he is today. Get a sneak peek of our conversation about the Greek Freak this week with these excerpts (time stamps approximate because of tailored advertisements):
10:10-11:20: “There was a part of me that kind of didn’t love it [Giannis’ nickname] at the start, just because I think ‘freak,’ the connotation of freak, there’s something wrong with you, there’s something to be ashamed about. Because I guess at some point I thought he was going to fit into a prototypical kind of archetype of an NBA player. That hasn’t happened. He is a total anomaly, so calling him something not normal? Yeah, that works out…There’s not anyone else really out there like him, so I think ‘Greek Freak’ works and it fits, and it’s ended up being kind of perfect.”
Seemingly recovered from injury, Chris Paul is playing at a high level as he chases his first championship ring (Verse Photography/Creative Commons).
We’ve reached the final day in a historic NBA season packed with nearly unprecedented statistical seasons by some players, monstrous single-game outbursts by others and a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs for almost all of the teams in the league. On Wednesday’s final 14-game slate, six playoff seeds are still yet to be determined: 1, 2, 7 and 8 in the East and 4 and 5 in the West. Thirteen teams have already been eliminated from further contention, and the rest hope that their fortunes will be on the rise. This will be the final edition of our power rankings this season, but as a reminder, you can chart how every team has fared in our rankings over the course of the season with the interactive graph atop the Power Rankings landing page.
Biggest Jumps: Atlanta Hawks (+8), Minnesota Timberwolves (+6), Los Angeles Lakers (+6)
Biggest Falls: Philadelphia 76ers (-7), Denver Nuggets (-6), Dallas Mavericks (-5) Continue reading
In his first season in Miami, Dion Waiters is playing an outsized role in the Heat’s active 10-game winning streak (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Up is down and down is up in this tumultuous edition of the power rankings, which features the most movement of any edition so far, with mighty teams struggling and lowly teams rising up. The Cleveland Cavaliers, still the consensus pick to come out of the Eastern Conference, went just 7-8 in January, giving LeBron James his first losing month since his rookie year. The Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets, both in last edition‘s top five, have lost eight of 11 and eight of their last 14, respectively. Even the seemingly unstoppable Golden State Warriors, who have occupied the No. 1 spot in our rankings every single edition except for our first, have dropped games since last edition to the Miami Heat and the Sacramento Kings.
On the other side, the Washington Wizards were just 13-16 before Christmas and have since gone 17-4, steadily climbing up the Eastern Conference standings to the third seed, and up our rankings to fourth. The Dallas Mavericks, at one point dead last in our rankings, have won six of their last seven games, their one loss coming to the Miami Heat. And finally, the twice-aforementioned Heat, unquestionably the NBA’s biggest story right now, were 11-30 and 29th in our previous power rankings, before rattling off 10 straight wins, a streak that is still active. These are some exciting times in the NBA.
Biggest Jumps: Miami Heat (+15), Washington Wizards (+8), Dallas Mavericks (+8)
Biggest Falls: Philadelphia 76ers (-8), Milwaukee Bucks (-8), Toronto Raptors (-8) Continue reading
After missing much of his rookie season with a foot injury, Jabari Parker is establishing himself in his second season as a core part of Milwaukee’s future. (Keith Allison/Flickr)
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Although the Milwaukee Bucks fell well short of expectations this season, Frank Madden, founder and managing editor of SB Nation’s Brew Hoop, explains why the team essentially got what it was looking for with the development of young bucks/Bucks Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Frank provides more insight into the Greek Freak’s “weird athleticism,” Parker’s post-All-Star-break emergence and Greg Monroe’s tenuous fit on the roster. Head coach Jason Kidd’s second season at the helm is also discussed, among other topics. Highlights can be found below:
4:27-4:57 on Antetokounmpo’s recent dominance:
“In spite of the fact that the last month in many ways has been one of his worst shooting months, it hasn’t mattered. He’s playing at a (high) level and with so much confidence in his ability to get to the rim and make plays for other people and get out in transition and use his size and length and weird athleticism. It’s just so overwhelming to most NBA defenders that it doesn’t matter if you play off him a little bit.”
12:55-13:22 on his overall assessment of the season:
“With the turnaround of Jabari and Giannis,you probably have gotten more or less what you wanted from a development standpoint, which I would argue is the most important thing from this season. But with the expectations coming from last year, there was a lot of hope that this team could certainly at least be a playoff team and maybe be better than that. And obviously for a lot of reasons – I think a lot of it dating to youth and maybe some of the pieces not fitting as well as you’d like.”