Giannis Antetokounmpo finally reached the mountaintop by guiding the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA title. It’s pushed him on track toward building a resume as one of the greatest players in league history. As Antetokounmpo heads into his ninth season, he may have added another element to his game that should scare the rest of the NBA.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s dominance leads the Bucks to an NBA title
In his eighth season, Antetokounmpo finally pushed the Bucks to capture their first NBA title in five decades.
Milwaukee’s path featured some bumps that could have altered the course. After sweeping the Miami Heat in the first round, the Bucks fell to a 2-0 deficit against the Brooklyn Nets. However, they managed to move to the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games.
Antetokounmpo suffered a hyperextended knee against the Atlanta Hawks, but Milwaukee moved to the NBA Finals in six games. The Bucks experienced a rough start against the Phoenix Suns, falling to another 2-0 series deficit. However, the Suns had no answer against the star forward, leading his team to four straight wins to capture the championship.
He dominated the series averaging 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per contest, earning the Finals MVP award. He capped off his stellar showing with 50 points in the close-out Game 6 win. He joined Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan by winning multiple MVPs and a Finals MVP by age 26 or younger.
As Antetokounmpo heads into his ninth campaign, he may have added another element to his game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo may have added another element to his game that should frighten the rest of the NBA
Through Antetokounmpo‘s first eight seasons, Antetokounmpo has become an imposing physical offensive force behind his ability to get to the rim.
The two-time league MVP has asserted himself as one of the game’s best players without one key element in his game. He’s primarily found offensive success by working from inside the paint, but it appears he’s used this past offseason to work on his mid-range game.
In preseason action against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, Antetokoumpo demonstrated plenty of comfort shooting from jumpers, hitting 5-of-8 attempts. He drilled a couple of 3-pointers that he stepped into off the dribble while knocking down a couple of turnaround jumpers and a pull-up mid-range shot.
Antetokounmpo’s bread and butter will remain his dominance in the paint, but he showed telling smoothness with his jumpers. None of the outside shot attempts looked forced, but instead that it was quite evident he’s worked on improving that part of his game.
According to Basketball-Reference, he shot just 34.2% on jump shots, including 27.5% from 3-point range. He also hit just 31.5% from 16 feet to the 3-point line. Antetokoumpo isn’t going to change his approach to the game, but the jumper may become a more relied-upon aspect.
In the past, he’s had encouraging showings in the preseason involving his outside shooting. Still, he may have finally turned a corner with becoming a more effective scorer outside the paint. If that’s the case, it poses an entirely different problem for opposing teams this upcoming season.
Bucks positioned for another NBA title run
The potential improvement in Antetokounmpo‘s game aside, the reigning Finals MVP remains the pivotal factor in the team’s 2022 NBA title chances.
The Nets are the expected clear-cut betting odds favorites in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn will be a powerhouse with or without star point guard Kyrie Irving, especially if Kevin Durant can build off last season coupled with James Harden finally shaking his hamstring issue.
While there are some lingering concerns regarding Antetokounmpo’s knee, Milwaukee is returning nearly the same roster from last season. The Bucks will have every opportunity to vie for a second straight NBA title. However, this season, the road will be more arduous against the Nets, retooled Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics.
It may all come down to Antetokounmpo leading the charge to uplift his team to a championship.