Milwaukee Bucks breakout sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo discussed potentially forcing his way into the 2017-18 NBA Most Valuable Player conversation and praised teammate Malcolm Brogdon for his performance en route to Rookie of the Year honors last season.
The 22-year-old small forward, who's affectionately become known as the Greek Freak, told Bucks TV: "I might be the MVP this year," which he also thinks could put him in the running to win Most Improved Player a second straight time. He also discussed the impact of Brogdon.
"He did a great job helping this team. I know he's going to do great things moving forward," Antetokounmpo said. "I think he [deserves] it. He's one of the rookie players that help this team, and he was a really important part of this team in the playoff."
Antetokounmpo has made steady improvement since the Bucks selected him with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. He reached new heights last season to average 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 steals across 80 games.
The 2017 Eastern Conference All-Star starter ranked 10th in the NBA in player efficiency rating and fifth in value added, according to ESPN.com.
Brogdon's success despite sliding to Milwaukee in the second round of the 2016 draft played a key role in Antetokounmpo's rise to prominence. The rookie put up 12.5 points, 4.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game after the All-Star break as the Bucks earned a playoff berth in the East at the No. 6 seed.
In March, the combo guard told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated there was no secret to his ability to make the quick transition to the pro ranks.
"I'm a guy that works hard and believes in myself," Brogdon said. "I have confidence in what I do. From day one I believed I could play at this level immediately, but you never know if you’re going to have the opportunity. I came to the right situation. They give me plenty of opportunity."
He added: "It's all my hard work. I believe I outwork everybody. To get to this point, I've overcome a lot of doubt and people that said I wasn't good enough, athletic enough, all types of stuff."
Looking ahead, the Bucks are starting to lay the foundation for long-term success, especially given the relative weakness of the East compared to the star-studded Western Conference.
Antetokounmpo, Brogdon, Thon Maker and, once healthy, Jabari Parker make for a strong core, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the team's growth leads to even more individual hardware next season.