For the first few years, all we could really talk about with Giannis Antetokounmpo was potential. He was a productive player, but it wasn't hard to see so much more in his collection of skills: the breathtaking quickness; the jawdropping length; those terrifying full-court, four-dribble forays to the rim that made him look like a Stretch Armstrong version of Charles Barkley. Antetokounmpo's frame promised so much more than what he had given us to this point, and it made it easy to overrate him for Fantasy.
Because, in Fantasy, potential doesn't matter. You aren't building for 2018, and current-day production is all that counts. Antetokounmpo was, of course, constantly taking steps forward, but they were normal improvements for a pretty good player. He averaged 15.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.2 combined blocks and steals per game before this year's All-Star break, finally breaking into the top-50 in Fantasy production for good.
Of course, what has happened since the break makes top-50 look quaint. Antetokounmpo has evolved, almost overnight, into exactly the kind of world-destroying Fantasy monster many have been predicting from day one. Antetokounmpo came back from the All-Star break with seven assists over his first two games, but has failed to reach seven in just three of 12 since. Yeah, that's right: Giannis Antetokounmpo is a point guard now. He might also be the best player in Fantasy.
Antetokounmpo is averaging 19.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game in 14 games since the All-Star break, numbers no player has matched in a season since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967-68. No player has ever done that with Giannis' averages of 1.8 steals and 1.9 blocks per game; steals and blocks weren't even official statistics when Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson were matching Antetokounmpo's points/rebounds/assist exploits. So, yeah, he's hanging out in rarefied air right now.
In fact, Antetokounmpo actually ranks second in total Fantasy points since the break, and drops to just seventh in Fantasy points per game. In category-based leagues, he comes in second overall in that time frame, despite the fact that he has yet to make a 3-pointer in his past 14 games. If you think he can sustain this type of production, the path to No. 1 contention lies in that lone flaw in his game; Giannis' jumper remains broken.
As a rookie, it seemed like there was some reason to be optimistic about Antetokounmpo's jumper; he connected on 34.7 percent of his 3-pointers, a solid enough number given everything else he could do. However, that looks like a mirage because Antetokounmpo is just 23 for 119 (19.4 percent) in two seasons since. And things don't get much better when he moves inside the arc; Antetokounmpo is shooting just 32.9 percent on 2-pointers beyond 10 feet this season, per NBA.com/Stats.
The Bucks have essentially taken the 3-pointer out of Antetokounmpo's arsenal, though the long-term plan has been for him to add it next season. Given his struggles to hit any jumpers, that may be an overly optimistic expectation, and one Fantasy players certainly can't buy into moving forward.
Still, the move to more of an on-ball role is clearly helping to mitigate some of his issues. With Antetokounmpo handling the ball, he puts pressure on defenses in a way he never could serving as simply a cutter and spot-up player. It also allows the Bucks to play someone like Jerryd Bayless or O.J. Mayo as the nominal point guard, a more dead-eye shooter who doesn't need the ball in his hands to be successful. With Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker penciled in as long-term members of the core around Antetokounmpo, squeezing whatever spacing they can out of every spot on the floor is going to be a key for the Bucks' future.
Antetokounmpo is clearly a special player, and this past month has been one of the more impressive displays of individual play the league has seen this season. As to whether he is a contender for the No. 1 overall pick next season, I think it's probably better to be a bit conservative there. If he manages to keep this up for the rest of the season, you're still taking at least Stephen Curry over him next season, and probably Anthony Davis; Davis can't match Antetokounmpo's playmaking, but he'll be averaging close to five assists per game at some point, I would bet, and still has a chance to lead the league in blocks in any given season.
However, as well as Antetokounmpo is playing right now, he's going to be in the discussion beyond that duo. And, because he won't turn 22 until next December -- seriously -- Antetokounmpo has a strong case to make as the top player in all Dynasty formats. It's either him, Curry -- at 28, the elder statesman of the group -- Davis (23), or rookie Karl-Anthony Towns -- just 20, and already putting together the best rookie season since Tim Duncan.
Antetokounmpo is a lock for the first round next season, and what might be most terrifying about his ascendance is how raw his skill set remains. If he ever develops into a passable shooter, he might not have any competition for the No. 1 spot; it'll be his for the next decade or so.