Hey, folks, so the preseason is almost over, which means teams are running their “dress rehearsal” games before the regular season. These are the rare spots where starters play real minutes in the preseason and try and ramp up the intensity and effort to that of an actual game. Sometimes those can get ugly if the other team is not in dress rehearsal mode — see Mavs-Hornets from Wednesday night — but they do offer us the best glimpse at what a team might actually look like come regular season time.
Wednesday night was that game for the Bucks, as they played host to the Jazz and let their starters get some extended burn into the third quarter. That meant more Giannis than we’ve seen to this point in the preseason, and one thing in particular stood out to everyone watching: his jump shot.
For years, the conversation about Giannis has been how if he can add a jumper, he’ll become unstoppable. That had finally quieted down after he won a title and Finals MVP last year, so naturally he showed up to camp this year with a reworked jump shot that seems like it might finally deliver us that final form of Giannis on the offensive end. Now, he’s not suddenly Steph Curry out here, but the rhythm of his new shot and apparent comfort with his tweaked form is quite notable from the midrange and from deep.
I am still skeptical that a Giannis three-point revolution is coming, but it’s the midrange that is most intriguing to me. He added the little post-fade counter last year, taking advantage of how opponents cede ground until just outside the restricted area where they wall up and try to draw charges and disrupt layup attempts. That leaner is still in his bag, but it appears he’s added a straight pull-up to his arsenal from the free throw line extended area, which is particularly terrifying. That is a shot he can get at literally any time off the dribble, because defenses have to be sinking back due to the ground he can cover with one stride.
He still has some of the same ticks to his jumper, like looking down at the floor and letting the ball sit in his left hand before entering his shooting motion, but it’s much less pronounced and looks significantly more rhythmic now. For someone who already has a lot of space to get his shot off, he doesn’t need a quick release, but he did need to take some of the hesitation out of his form. As for the shot itself, he just looks a bit more natural, with less bend and dip of his upper body, rising to a high point and letting it fly at a spot that is, effectively, unblockable for the majority of the NBA.
It’s the preseason, so all necessary caveats of small samples and a lack of pressure apply here, but it is notable how much more comfortable and smooth all of this looks for Giannis. We’re mere months removed from a championship run and he appears to have, once again, gone into the lab and upgraded his game for the defense of that title.