Giannis Antetokounmpo has been having a quiet but solid year as the Bucks' 6-foot-11 guard-forward hybrid. He's averaging 12 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes per game—good numbers that any 19-year-old in just his second NBA season would be proud of—but what's more impressive is how quickly Antetokounmpo's game is evolving. Specifically, he's proving himself to be a destructive force in one aspect of the game that he didn't really mess around with much last year: drives to the hoop.
As a rookie, Giannis did a lot of his damage the way most springy and raw youngsters do: by running around like a madman, getting buckets in transition and on cuts. According to Synergy Sports, 21 percent of Antetokounmpo's plays came in transition last season, while nine percent came on cuts and another nine percent came on isolations.
Antetokounmpo is still doing plenty of running this year—24 percent of his plays have been in transition—but he's almost tripled his isolation plays. Synergy has him isolating 25 percent of the time, and he's producing a league-average .81 points per possession on those plays. But when you cut out the jumpers and just look at the isolation plays that result in to drives toward the rim, Antetokounmpo is producing a solid .968 points per possession. That's because he's able to do things like this:
The Bucks have realized that Giannis's combination of speed and length makes him a tough guy to stop when he gets the chance to jet into the paint, and so they've let him use his ability to drive to the basket as a real weapon this year. According to NBA.com, Antetokounmpo is driving nearly five times per game and scoring 4.4 points per game on those plays. That's a big uptick from last season, when he was only scoring 1.1 points per game on just over two drives per.
(He's especially deadly when he goes to his left from the top of the key, as he does in the second GIF above. He's done that 15 times so far this year and produced an excellent mark of 1.06 points per possession.)
None of this makes Antetokounmpo an elite player—although it's hard not to see shades of Kevin Durant in a bundle of limbs rocketing from three-point line to rim like that—but it's fun to see how quickly he's growing. Antetokounmpo had his best game of the season last night, scoring 18 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a triple-OT win over the Nets, and he's recently claimed a spot in the Bucks' starting lineup. Here's hoping he sticks there for a while and makes the team a little more fun and watchable than it was before.