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We’ve Never Seen A Player Quite Like Giannis Antetokounmpo

One of the best point guards in the NBA right now stands 6 feet 11 inches tall.

Let that sit for moment.

OK, so Giannis Antetokounmpo also plays positions other than the point for the Milwaukee Bucks, and Matthew Dellavedova has been eating some of Antetokounmpo’s minutes at the 1. And frankly, it doesn’t really matter where Giannis plays, given that he can rattle off stat lines like the 34 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, five steals and two blocks he produced Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The guy is good at damn near everything there is to do on a basketball court:

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Across the nine major component categories of advanced metrics tracked at Basketball-Reference.com,1 Antetokounmpo ranks among the top half of qualified2 NBA players in eight of them — turnovers are the only area where he was worse than the average player through Wednesday’s games.

But the Greek Freak is at his most transformative when he plays point guard. When 6-foot-5-inch James Harden — 6 inches shorter than Antetokounmpo — is already towering over opposing point guards after his move to the position this season, the idea of a 6-foot-11-inch terror in the open court, dunking on opponents in transition and making plays for teammates, is unprecedented. Since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976, Toni Kukoc (in 1998-99) was the only player 6-foot-10-inch or taller to have a higher assist rate than Antetokounmpo has right now — and Kukoc wasn’t also rebounding or recording steals and blocks at anywhere near the same rates as Antetokounmpo is.

In fact, the mere sight of a guy his size, doing what he does, is startling. Against Cleveland, the side-by-side comparison between Antetokounmpo and LeBron James — heretofore the greatest combination of size, speed and athleticism in basketball — was eye opening:

To visualize what an outlier Antetokounmpo is among guards, here’s a plot of Box Plus/Minus against height for players listed by Basketball-Reference as point guards or shooting guards this season:

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Antetokounmpo still needs to polish some of the finer aspects of playing guard, such as running a pick-and-roll and spotting up for jumpers. But! He’s also still days shy of his 22nd birthday. If he’s this good — and this versatile — now, watching Antetokounmpo reach his potential will be one of the NBA’s most entertaining storylines over the decade to come.

Check out our latest NBA predictions.

Footnotes

  1. i.e., categories that attempt to isolate skill in a particular area of the game, rather than more holistic measures such as PER or Win Shares.

  2. For the purposes of this story, I considered a player to have qualified for the league leaderboard for these nine stats if he has played at least 12.2 minutes per scheduled game (taking the average number of games across all NBA teams), which works out to about 1,000 minutes in a normal 82-game season.

Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

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