Only a few minutes after penning down my thoughts on Philadelphia Sixers prospects for the upcoming season in my piece, The tougher Task begins for Sixers now and mentioning Giannis Antetokounmpo as the perfect analogy for the Sixers vaunted experiment to have big man Ben Simmons play the Point Guard position somewhere along the season, word got out Giannis had extended his contract.
The Milwaukee Bucks and the man popularly known as the “Greek Freak”, had finalized a deal that will pay him $100 million for four years beginning 2017-2018 season.
The slightly below the league average contract which sits about six million dollars shy of the maximum a team can pay a player in Antetokoumpo’s stead works well for Milwaukee moving forward as the side’s impressive collection of young studs will be due for massive raises in the coming seasons beginning with Forward Jabari Parker who will be eligible for an extension next season.
Aside having the flexibility to knock out deals in the future, the Bucks are creating a path the league is destined to follow. As the NBA continues to evolve, players have become faster, stronger, bigger, longer and taller over the years. In the burgeoning years of the league, players but for a few weren’t as tall nor athletic as today’s generation of mini giants running on hardwood before a worldwide audience.
According to Ethan S. an analyst with Bleacher Report, there were only four players in the NBA in 1960 that stood at 6 foot 8 inches and that included 6 foot 9 inch Bill Russell and 7 foot 1 inch Wilt Chamberlain. The average height in the NBA-the last time it was checked-is 6 foot 7 inches which clearly beats out the numbers of old. So in this era of big guys everywhere on the court, how does a team find a guy capable of manning the Point position which has been historically done by guys much closer to the ground? Easy get a big versatile enough to do it for you and the Milwaukee Bucks look to have one in Antetokounmpo.
Originally drafted as a Small Forward who stood 6 foot 9 inches tall and was exceptionally raw in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Greek international’s game has developed in his three seasons in the league just as he has grown two inches taller to check at an inch shy of standing seven feet tall. His shooting still leaves much to be desired but what has made him a multi-millionaire is his ability to adapt to playing several positions on the court. Despite his malleability, the most difficult position on the court-point guard- was more or less a no trespassing zone for him until NBA legend Jason Kidd took over as Coach. In his second season at Milwaukee, where his side failed to build on the success of the previous year, he moved him to play the position without fearing any consequences as the quest for a playoff spot faded midway through the season.
In doing so, Kidd had found his eureka moment as it gave his side the tallest and longest Guard in the league and the chance to get minutes for Kidd to allot minutes for big guys Miles Plumlee, Greg Monroe, John Henson and draftee Thon Maker. After the change, Antetokounmpo racked up five triple doubles for the season after picking up the role midway through the season. He almost doubled his assists numbers in the past season as 4.3 per game proved to be far better than what he averaged in the prior seasons (1.9 in 2014 and 2.6 in 2015 per basketball reference.com). With further tutelage from Kidd and the rest of the technical team, those numbers are likely to jump considering his ability to read plays is sure to improve which makes it possible to believe his 2.6 turnovers per game will see a drop.
Seeing how technology is fueling the rise of guys who are super humans, the league is likely to be flooded by guys who are adept at playing three to all five positions on the court. The starting lineup of Milwaukee at some point in the season could offer a glimpse into the future line ups of teams in the NBA as the side is filled with tall players all over the floor. Antetokounmpo at Point Guard, 6 foot 7 Khris Middleton at Shooting Guard and Jabari Parker at Small Forward with his 6 foot 9 inch frame would take over in the backcourt and on the wing. In the frontcourt, any combination of near seven footers in Monroe, Plumlee, Henson and Thon Maker make for a tantalizing spectacle with Middleton being the shortest guy.
In years gone by, the likes of plus sized floor generals Magic Johnson and Shaun Livingston were anomalies but in the modern fast paced game where players of Antetokounmpo’s ilk can run with shorter guys and survey the floor better due to their superior height, such anomalies are mooted and the Milwaukee Bucks are showing the way.
By Yaw Adjei- Mintah