Giannis Antetokounmpo took his game to new heights last season in head coach Mike Budenholzer's five-out offensive system, winning NBA MVP as he led the Bucks to a league-best 60 wins. And as he made clear on Wednesday afternoon, he's not done evolving.
In an interview posted to the team's Twitter account, Giannis acknowledged the discourse about his lack of a consistent jump shot -- a topic that came up often in the aftermath of the Bucks' collapse in the Eastern Conference finals. He struggled to deal with the Raptors' in that series, as they built walls in transition and sent multiple help defenders at him to keep him out of the paint. Unable to find consistent driving lanes to the basket, he averaged 22.7 points on 44.5 percent shooting and 4.2 turnovers per game.
Giannis' full comments:
"There's a lot of people out there that said, 'Oh, if Giannis don't add the 3 he's not gonna be one of the best players in the league.' I just won the MVP? No 3, right?" Antetokounmpo said. "I can still win the championship not shooting the 3, but I want to shoot the 3. I shot the 3 a little bit better this year, as the season went along I was getting better. Shooting the 3 is gonna make it a lot easier for my game and a lot easier for my teammates, so I gotta add that element to my game."
The default thinking regarding Giannis has always been that if he develops a consistent jumper, then it's pretty much over for the league; he'll be unguardable. However, as he pointed out, he won MVP last season and has pretty much reached that status already. The only team that was truly able to slow him down on a consistent basis had one of the best defenders of all time in Kawhi Leonard and an elite group of help defenders.
Would a better 3-point shot have helped against the Raptors? No doubt, but he actually shot well from 3 that series, making 33.1 percent of his 3.5 attempts. The Raptors' ability to slow him down in the conference finals said more about their individual and group efforts than Giannis' shooting.
But before we re-litigate that entire series, let's get back to Giannis' jumper. As noted, he shot well against the Raptors and in fact, once the calendar turned to 2019 last season, he shot 32 percent from deep. That's certainly not elite, but 32 percent on 3.2 attempts over 39 games shows real improvement in that area. Will he ever be Steph Curry? No, but he may well be on the path to having that consistent 3-point shot.
When he's given space and time to get a rhythm jumper off -- which he almost always is because opponents are so afraid of his drives -- he proved down the stretch last season that he's a capable shooter. He prefers to operate on the left wing or the top of the key, as this slightly absurd heat map shows you.
And what's more interesting is that he's actually better off the dribble than on catch-and-shoot attempts. Not dribbling like James Harden, but a little rhythm dribble that lets him set his feet. Per Synergy Sports Technology, Giannis scored 0.983 points per possession on jumpers off the dribble last season, which put him in the 79th percentile, ahead of players such as Klay Thompson, Devin Booker and Kyrie Irving. Even on far less volume, that's still quite impressive.
Ahead of a new season, it's clear that Giannis is serious about making further improvements on his 3-point shot -- not just from his words, but from his actions, as we've already seen him working out and taking pointers from legendary sharpshooter Kyle Korver, whom the Bucks acquired earlier this offseason.
If he can maintain the sort of efficiency and volume he showed in the second half of last season, and even creep up a little higher towards league average in both categories, that represents a real threat -- one that could make his devastating driving game, which is always going to be his bread and butter, even better.