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What's the Real Ceiling for Milwaukee Bucks Phenom Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo?

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What's the Real Ceiling for Milwaukee Bucks Phenom Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo?
Gary Dineen/Getty Images

When you take a guy like Giannis Antetokounmpo in the draft, you're more or less taking the "idea" of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

You can't possibly know how good he's going to be when he hits the peak of his career. 

But based on his tools and attributes, you can a sense of what he could look like if he ever hits his stride. He's got some physical gifts shared by very few people on the planet. And those few people are mostly likely all NBA superstars.

Listed at 6'9,'' with a wingspan around 7'3'' and baseball mitts for hands, his measurements are off the charts for a wing player.

But the kid won't stop growing. I'm pretty sure I stopped at about 13 years old. Antetokounmpo just turned 19 and he's still getting bigger—a scary thought when you consider his style of play. 

“I am now 6-10 and one quarter,” Antetokounmpo told Gary Woelfel of the Journal Times“I still have 3½ years to grow.”

With that type of size, length and athleticism, he's able to make plays you simply can't teach:

Check out how high above the rim he gets for this alley-oop:

Dawk Ins

He's got that Kevin Durant-like body and physical makeup—power-forward height, small-forward mobility. 

However, at this stage in his development, Antetokounmpo is nowhere near where current NBA stars were when they were rookies in the league. He's come straight from Greece's second division, where he played in arenas you'd mistake for high-school gymnasiums. 

Antetokounmpo might have a ceiling a mile high, but the elevator is only currently at the second or third floor. He's got a long ways to go, although the early playing time should be good for him. Obviously, the sooner he can adjust to the size, speed and spacing of the game the better. 

From a mental standpoint, you gotta love this kid's approach. Antetokounmpo looks engaged and motivated out there. Matt Velazquez of the Journal Sentinel highlighted the competitive edge he played with in his first start of the season, which came against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.  

Fundamentally, he's been pretty much limited to line drives to the rack, finishes off cuts, tip-ins at the rim and transition buckets—at least to this point. But given his unique and seemingly unparalleled physical tools, he's able to make an impact even without a refined set of skills. 

He's the type of guy who can make a chase-down block on one end, then beat everyone back down the floor and get a bucket in transition. This is a big-time play that highlights Antetokounmpo's two-way upside, and it was made from straight natural ability—not fine-tuned skills or moves:


Dawk Ins

He's got the potential to become a standout defensive player—similar to Portland's Nicolas Batum. With that combination of lateral quickness and length, he's able to disrupt passing lanes without being in them as well as contest shots from distance. 

Offensively, Antetokounmpo's ability to handle the ball really enhances the threat he poses to defenses and ultimately raises his ceiling an extra story. He's got shake and quickness to beat big men off the dribble and the size and length to finish over wings.

That handle gives him the ability to create, which makes him all sorts of dangerous as a 6'10'' athlete. If he's able to polish up and eventually use that skill to become a more threatening one-on-one offensive player, Antetokounmpo will have the chance to present quite the mismatch to opposing teams.

Right now, Antetokounmpo's best friend is space, whether that's in the open floor:


Dawk Ins

Or in the half court: 


Dawk Ins

He's a dynamite weapon with room to attack the basket. However, the elevator towards his ceiling requires a transfer midway up. To access that second elevator, he'll have to learn how to play off the ball and when the game is slowed down.

That means becoming a more reliable spot-up shooter, as he's only 6-of-21 from downtown to start the year. It means he'll have to expand his shot creativity—implementing step-backs, pull-ups, floaters, post-ups—ways for him to score when the defense is set.  

The good news is Antetokounmpo has already flashed promise just seven weeks into his rookie season. We've seen him hit defenders with a spin in the lane for a bucket on the move. He's knocked down a few catch-and-shoot threes. Earlier in the year, he even pulled out the one-legged fadeaway made famous my Dirk Nowitzki

Antetokounmpo is absorbing the game rather quickly. It's tough to know how soon these flashes will evolve into everyday occurrences—if at all. We don't even know when he'll stop growing physically, never mind fundamentally.

But if Antetokounmpo continues to improve his feel for the game, awareness and offensive skill set, he's got the potential to emerge as one of the more valued young assets in the league. 

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