Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo learned to be a better player from Kawhi Leonard

If you thought the Greek Freak was motivated before, then get excited and afraid of what comes next for the MVP candidate.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had such a fantastic season that it’s hard to imagine his ceiling is anywhere higher than this, but based on his words you can tell that there is more improvement to come.

“It’s something from Year 5 to Year 6,” he said to The Athletic. “I was like, ‘Yeah. OK, I put on seven pounds of muscle. Bro, I’m the most dominant guy in the f******g league. I’m just going to go and f*****g dunk it.’ You can get away with it to a point. It’s good if you’re able to do it, but I gotta be more skilled. I gotta get back to my old self. Think like a guard, not as a big.”

Curse words and otherworldly confidence aside, it is remarkable how self-perceptive Antetokounmpo is. He recognizes his limitations, and, because of his focus, it’s difficult to think that he won’t come back next season as a better player. The crazy part of all of this is that he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game this year on 57.8 percent from the field. Those are already wild numbers. Can you picture what the next stage of this might be?

Obviously, adding a more reliable 3-point shot to his arsenal will be a part of that process. He only shot 25.6 percent from behind the arc this season, but the Greek Freak also shot 32.7 percent in the playoffs and picked up some tips during the Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard. It appears like Antetokounmpo will work on his mid-range game over the summer while he skips out on Space Jam 2.

“I learned a lot of things watching Kawhi while the game was going on,” Antetokounmpo said. “Like his patience. From the way he operates. He operates in the mid-range area. You saw that? He took the ball a step inside the three and faced up. And now he’s got everybody. He sees everybody coming, right? So, why was he doing that? You know why? Because he felt really comfortable in his mid-range game. He was going to the easiest shot in the game, that people think is tough, the midrange, like the 15 foot, contested two – something that all the greats do: Kawhi, Kobe, Jordan, KD, LeBron.”

The Greek Freak thanked Marc Gasol and Kawhi later in the Athletic’s post for making him a better player, and he also said he wasn’t going to “mope around” over the offseason. Giannis will go back to work. The image that headlines this post speaks volumes. There is mutual respect indicated in that hug, and Antetokounmpo clearly appreciated the lessons taught to him by Leonard in the conference finals.

That should scare the rest of the league. If Giannis becomes a knockdown shooter from midrange or the 3-point line, then it might become impossible to stop him from dominating the Eastern Conference for the next five to seven years. Especially if Leonard leaves Toronto this summer, the East might have found its new LeBron James.

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