When we last left two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo he was ordering a cheat meal fit for a champion: 50 (not 51, not 49) chicken minis from Chick-Fil-A, with a large Sprite/lemonade. This was a month after narrowly defeating the Brooklyn Nets while we all complained about his jump shot holding back the Milwaukee Bucks from living their best life.
The Bucks have played two preseason games, and there is a real chance that Antetokounmpo might finally break the NBA by adding a consistent jump shot to his game.
He only took two on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder and missed both, but then came Wednesday night against the Jazz. Antetokounmpo took seven shots outside the paint and made four on his way to 21 points on 75 percent from the field. However, this wasn’t simply a hot night from the field. The shot looked legitimately different.
Against the Jazz it wasn’t as obvious. He only took nine shots in that game, two outside the paint, and that Charles Barkley golf swing pause at the top of his jump shot was still there even though the bend in his elbow was clearly better. On Wednesday though, his elbow looked like it got hit with a reflex hammer. The shot release was that quick and clean.
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All three of his 3-point attempts had that look, and the only one he missed was blocked. Antetokounmpo also showed a solid midrange game. He made three of his five shots from that part of the floor, but what should terrify the NBA from owner to video coordinator is the turnaround jumper.
Antetokounmpo took two and made one, but the shot was butter. The ball was high, but not in that awkward pause spot. The elbow bend was great, as was the release, and then there was the footwork. On the one that Antetokounmpo made you would’ve sworn it was Kevin Durant if not for those boulders for shoulders. He backed down Royce O’Neal twice outside the paint, took one step into the paint and squared up, bang!
The one that Antetokounmpo missed was a catch and one dribble turnaround that probably would have gone in, but the defender behind him disrupted the shot.
His free throws still look the same, but he’s a career 71.7 percent shooter from there during the regular season. If he simply maintained that throughout the postseason, no one would discuss foul shooting anymore and maybe Antetokounmpo figured that out. He did go 17-19 from there in that all-time great 50-point closeout performance against the Phoenix Suns.
Antetokounmpo’s scoring average was already hovering around 30 points per game during the past three regular seasons and during the Bucks’ championship 20201 postseason run, he averaged 30.2. This was all with a sporadic 3-point shot and no midrange game or footwork. If he becomes a player that can burn teams when they play loose defense on him in the halfcourt offense then Durant and James Harden are going to have to get Kyrie Irving out of Jay Pederman’s cave in Burma and into the nearest clinic, or the Bucks will be making a return trip to the NBA Finals.