The NBA’s annual media days bring with them a lot of fluff. There is a lot of the “he’s in the best shape of his life” and “we’re ready to turn the page on last year” sort of rhetoric. Every once in a while, though, fans can glean something meaningful from player Q and A sessions. That was the case with one of the NBA’s biggest superstars as Giannis Antetokounmpo made it clear he’s not satisfied with the way last year ended.
The Greek Freek capped off 2021 with his first championship as he led the Milwaukee Bucks to the promised land. But in true Antetokounmpo fashion, the two-time MVP made it clear he’s nowhere close to being done.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to an NBA title last season
The 26-year-old put Milwaukee on his back and carried the franchise to its first title in 50 years. The 2021 NBA Championship was the culmination of all the work Antetokounmpo put in during his first eight seasons in the league.
The 6-foot-11 forward played 38.1 minutes per game during last year’s playoffs (despite his knee buckling in the wrong direction during the Eastern Conference Finals). He averaged 30.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.0 steals in 21 games.
Antetokounmpo was coming off back-to-back MVP seasons and proved to be the most dominant player in last year’s postseason. He didn’t win the Milwaukee Bucks a title by himself, but he sure was the most significant contributor.
Antetokounmpo took another leap as a player in the 2021 playoffs
The 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year put up major numbers last postseason, but believe it or not, Antetokounmpo took his game to an entirely new level as the Bucks got closer to the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
In Milwaukee’s opening-round series against the Miami Heat, Antetokounmpo posted 23.5 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 7.8 assists per game as the Bucks swept Miami.
The 2021 postseason’s best series came in the East’s second round when Milwaukee played the Brooklyn Nets. James Harden and Kyrie Irving exited the series after 4.5 games, but Kevin Durant put Brooklyn on his shoulders and nearly carried the Nets to a series victory.
But Antetokounmpo improved when it was needed, averaging 31.9 points and 12.9 rebounds against Brooklyn. He scored a game-high 34 in Game 4 to tie the series at two; he had 30 points and 17 rebounds on 60% shooting and was a plus-22 in a Game 5 win; and he scored 40 points to go along with 13 rebounds, five assists and a block on 62.5% shooting in more than 50 minutes in the closeout Game 7.
As the icing on the cake, Antetokounmpo averaged better than 35 points and 13 rebounds in the finals against the Phoenix Suns. He averaged three stocks (steals plus blocks) and had two of the most memorable moments in finals’ history. He closed out the Suns with a 50-point, 14-rebound, five-block performance and was named Finals MVP.
An improved Greek Freak should have the league terrified
If he were satisfied with one title, he wouldn’t be Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since he entered the NBA at 19, The Alphabet has developed a tireless work ethic. The organization once had to put locks on the gym doors at night because he wouldn’t stop practicing.
It’s not a surprise to hear Giannis say that he’s not satisfied. Still, after taking another step as a player during last year’s postseason, an even better Antetokounmpo would terrorize the league yet again.
As he said during his media day interview via the Milwaukee Bucks, “I want to be better. I want to be better than last year. … “I’m not satisfied. I’m not even close to being satisfied.”
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.