MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo: “I think I am at 60 percent of my potential”

Kurt Helin
NBC Sports

We have yet to see a fully armed and operational Giannis Antetokounmpo.

He won the MVP last season as the man the Bucks offense is built around, averaging 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and throw in 1.5 blocks per game. He’s unstoppable one-on-one (and the Bucks banked on that and surrounded him with shooters to make teams pay for helping on him) and a freight train in transition. He took 72.5 percent of his shots within 10 feet of the rim (more than half in the restricted area) because he cannot be stopped.

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Yet Antetokounmpo thinks he has a long way to go. Look at what he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“There’s a lot of things I can improve on,” Antetokounmpo told ESPN on Saturday after filming for the PUBG MOBILE Team Up Superstar Showdown event. “First of all, [I have to] look at myself before I look at anybody else. Try to self-improve as much as possible. There are a lot of things that I got to work on in my game.

“A lot of people say, ‘You are the MVP, you are one of the best players in the league, you are so dominant,'” he continued. “But I think I can get better. I think I am at 60 percent of my potential, as good as I can be. I just want to be better. If I am in the same situation again [in the conference finals], react better, play the game better, play better, execute better.”

Going deep in the playoffs, making it to the Eastern Conference Finals, was a learning experience for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. While the Greek Freak averaged 22.7 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game in that series, the Raptors held him to 48.8 percent shooting, well below his efficient 57.8 percent during the regular season. The long defenders and rim protectors the Raptors could throw at him made life difficult.

Of course, the obvious area Antetokounmpo needs to improve is his jump shot — and it is getting better. He shot just 25.6 percent from three last season, but after the All-Star break that went up to 31.5 percent, and in the playoffs he shot 32.7 percent from beyond the arc. Few guys in the league are as driven and work as hard on their game, the jump shot is coming along, making Antetokounmpo that much more dangerous.

Next summer, the Bucks can offer Antetokounmpo a supermax contract extension. Talk to sources on other teams and they say of course everyone is watching this, but almost to a man they also expect him to sign the deal and stay in Wisconsin. More than him professing his love for Milwaukee and his loyal personality, the fact is the Bucks have built a contender around him in a way that, for example, New Orleans did not do around Anthony Davis. Antetokounmpo wants to win, and how many places can he go where he has a better chance at a title right now than Milwaukee?

Of course, Antetokounmpo himself is not painting himself into a corner on his contract status, keeping his comments open to interpretation and the pressure on the Bucks.

“My goal is going to stay the same: It’s get better, take it day by day, step by step, and the ultimate goal is to win a championship,” Antetokounmpo said. “As long as that we are all on the same page and we are all focused on that goal, why not play for the Bucks 20 years, why not play 25 years? Why not, after playing, be a member of the coaching staff or a member of the front office? But we got to have the same goal. We got to have the same principles. … We got to focus on winning a championship.”

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