Rollin' In The Rye

Giannis Antetokounmpo is starting to take over, and it’s no accident

Credit: Kathy Willens

The Milwaukee Bucks have put their future in the hands of Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he’s responding in incredible fashion.

Last night against the New York Knicks, a player widely known as the Greek Freak, put on a show on the world’s biggest stage. Madison Square Garden has always been a place where legends are born, and where the greatest are able to prove just how special they could be when it’s their time in the spotlight.

The Greek Freak answered last night, hitting the first game-winner of his young career against a Knicks team that held the lead for the entirety of the 2nd half. He responded just like any franchise player is expected to in a clutch moment, making sure he had his chance to put the game to rest with a game-winning dagger.

After hitting his game-winner, the Greek Freak was immediately circled by his teammates, as the Bucks celebrated their 3rd win in a row. With an 18-16 record, they’re on their way to passing last year’s disappointing 33-49 season, which didn’t help put their team’s young and emerging talent into perspective.

Antetokounmpo has been their best player from the start, with him taking new strides in his game practically each and every night. With coach Jason Kidd putting the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands, asking him to be their floor general for the past couple seasons, he’s finally responding while taking the NBA by storm. While it’s still a mystery as to how much he’ll continue to grow height wise, there’s no doubt that he’s growing into the leader the Bucks have always needed.

“It feels great to hit a game-winner [at MSG],” said Antetokounmpo. “But I want to hit a game-winner in Milwaukee back home.”

The Greek Freak has been playing incredible basketball to start off the 2016-17 season, literally leading his team in every way possible. He’s their leader in points with 23.9 a game, rebounds with 9.1, assists with 5.8, blocks with 2, steals with 1.9, and only sits second in shooting percentage with him hitting 53.7 FG% of his attempts. He’s reaching numbers that no other player in the league has ever averaged throughout an entire season.

What he’s been able to do on the court has been incredible for a player who is listed at 6-foot-11, and not to forget only 22 years old. Last night against the Knicks, he took over once again as the Bucks’ leader, putting up a team-high 27 points on an efficient 10-18 shooting, to go along with 13 rebounds. In the process, he hit a game-winner, while also producing other highlight reel plays, like when he elevated from the free throw line to throw down a Statue of Liberty dunk past Carmelo Anthony.

The Greek Freak has been on a tear as of late, while the Bucks continue to find their rhythm as one of the youngest teams in the league. Next to Jabari Parker, who is averaging a stellar 20.3 points a game, the future is looking very bright for the Bucks. Both of them are gaining confidence as players that can take over a game, and Antetokounmpo’s game-winner should only be a sign for good things to come.

With the Bucks not having Khris Middleton to start their season, Antetokounmpo and Parker have stepped up when it truly matters. As a pair of players that have yet to become widely respected long distance shooters, they’ve still found ways to impose their strength and athleticism, despite not having their team’s best 3-point shooter to create space.

When Middleton does make his return later on in the season, he won’t have to worry about being their leading scorer for any longer. As a natural shooter, he’ll be able to spread the floor for Antetokounmpo and Parker, which should help the Bucks continue climbing up the Eastern Conference’s standings.

After not making the playoffs last season, the Bucks look hungrier than ever to reach their full-potential behind a once-in-a-lifetime type player in Antetokounmpo. He’s stepping up in whichever situation he’s been needed, and the results have been worth noticing as the Greek Freak continues to establish as one of the best players in the league for years to come.


All stats for this article are from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com

You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97

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