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Giannis's Next (Euro)Steps

navid · sports · opinion · 10/10/2020 · edited

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Another season ended in disappointment for the Greek Freak. Going into the playoffs, Milwaukee was viewed by many as a top contender for, at least, a finals appearance. Here we are a few weeks later and they've been bounced in the second round by a dark-horse Miami Heat squad. So what went wrong?

An Overview
Looking at Giannis's young playoffs career, we can draw some similarities to LeBron's first stint in Cleveland. Both superstars had teams that were viewed as defensive juggernauts and held impressive regular-season records. However, when the chips were down, they usually fell short. The Bucks' supporting squad is far better than anything the Cavaliers had to offer, but they have some shared shortcomings. 

Budenzholzer's offensive system in Milwaukee is extremely Giannis-centric; as it should be. When you have a once-in-a-generation talent like Antetokounmpo, your offense should run through him. But there's also a limit there when your star is as one-dimensional as Giannis is. Although a young LeBron was far more skilled than Giannis is now, they share a tendency of relying on their superhuman physical abilities to make up for their offensive woes. When those superhuman abilities are combatted, both tend to fall short.

Specific Shortcomings
For both young LeBron and current Giannis, the paint is essential. Having inconsistent jumpshots (I'm being generous as far as Giannis goes) created an overreliance on paint penetration. In the regular season this strategy is extremely effective as teams don't have time to specifically plan around the (literal) strength the players have. However, during a seven-game series, teams key in on those strengths and neutralize them. When you don't really have a fallback and the rest of your team is reliant on your drives to create offense, the train starts to veer off the tracks.

I will say, LeBron's skillset was far more mature than Giannis's is now. Even so, teams like the Celtics and Magic were able to take away what made him great. Factor in the point that he was surrounded by subpar talent who couldn't take advantage of his amazing playmaking ability, and you'll see why those Cavs teams were early exits so often. Giannis's far-more-limited talent is that much easier to dismantle. 

To be completely honest, Giannis is not a particularly skilled player at this point in his career. Yes, LeBron had a streaky jumpshot, but Giannis's is a dumpster fire. Never have a seen a form so broken and a player who is so insistent on utilizing it. At this point, I'd trust Shaq more with a three-pointer than I would the Greak Freek. If I was held at gunpoint and Giannis needed to make a jumper to save my life I would just take the bullet. 

Giannis's offense relies heavily on his ability to generate momentum from the top of the key and string some gazelle-like strides together to get to the rim. His playmaking ability is decent, but it relies heavily on the opposing team's inability to close to the corners. Against teams like the Heat who have fast, agile wings, that playmaking is far-less impactful. 

Like LeBron, Giannis's back-to-the-basket game is...limited. I can't think of a single go-to move that he has down there. Considering he's 6'11 240, not having a post game is a major hindrance. 

The cherry on top of the shit sundae is his relatively loose handle. For a guy his size, his handle is pretty decent. But that's more a comment on guys his height's inability to handle the ball than it is a compliment to him. Watch him in clutch, intense moments, and you'll see him lose the ball on key drives scarily often.

His offense is one-dimensional, but it's not the end of the world.

Next Steps
In 2011, when Miami lost to Dallas in the finals, LeBron struggled in a lot of the same areas. Over that summer, he worked on his post game with Hakeem and came back a noticeably better and more-versatile player. Watching him now, the post is somewhere he feels extremely comfortable and even thrives in. Add in an improved jumpshot and you have 17-years of dominance.

Giannis has a bit more he needs to work on than just a postgame, but I think that's a good first step. This summer needs to be dedicated to working with someone on post technique, fixing that awful jumpshot, and tightening up his handle. Even if he improves only one of the three, his Bucks are a real threat going into next year. 

Best of luck to the guy, I'm rooting for him.

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