The 2017-18 season was very kind to Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 23-year-old exploded for career-best numbers (26.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game with 52.9 percent shooting) in his fifth NBA season and, in short, Antetokounmpo made something of a leap into the upper echelon of the league.
However, there is a school of thought that Antetokounmpo, given his young age, could reach even a higher level and the addition of new head coach Mike Budenholzer might be able to unlock it in the near future. James Herbert of CBS Sports prompted teammate and fellow standout Khris Middleton on whether Antetokounmpo had another jump in his game and he said the following.
“I think so, definitely. I think you’re going to see a whole new Giannis this year. With that being said, it’s more of a guy not hesitating more and shooting more freely. [He will take] 3s and midrange and whatever, but without him hesitating or trying to force the issue. I think this offense is going to be perfect for him, where he won’t have to put too much stress on his body. He can take what the defense gives him. And then there’s going to be times when he just puts his head down and goes and does what he does best. But I think you’re going to see a new Giannis regarding shooting 3s more and just playing more freely.”
Budenholzer was famous for his free-flowing offense in Atlanta, particularly when it came to a season in which the Hawks won 60 games without the presence of a dominant No. 1 scoring option. While that kind of explosion may be unlikely from a team standpoint in Milwaukee, the notion of Antetokounmpo operating on a spaced floor and with an improving jump shot is absolutely terrifying for opposing defenses and, frankly, the entire league.
In addition, Middleton shed further light on how the changes may help Antetokounmpo and others in Budenholzer’s debut campaign, particularly with regard to the spacing that might exist.
“I see the gaps that I’ve never seen before regarding spacing this year. It’s going to work to Giannis’ benefit and Eric [Bledsoe’s] benefit the most. Those guys are very quick and players that can attack the paint and find lanes and gaps and whatnot. With this offense, it’s going to be a lot easier. They’ll be able to get by one guy and then there’s gonna be a late defender and they’ll have the decision to lay the ball in, make their play, or kick it out and find somebody on the perimeter with that 5-man being out beyond the 3-point line.”
Of course, it remains to be seen as to whether Antetokounmpo can actually break out as a shooter. At the moment, he owns a career mark of 28.4 percent from beyond the arc and that peaked with a 30.7 percent clip last season. Still, Antetokounmpo needs only to establish a solid baseline of a perimeter threat to devastate the opposition and Budenholzer is the kind of creative offensive mind that could (finally) give him the situation to fully unlock his already ridiculous skill set.