A new reality became plainly obvious this past season: Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best basketball player in the world. There’s also a definite gap between him and the next guy. Many would consider Tim Duncan as the greatest power forward of all time. So, if Antetokounmpo continues to dominate at this pace, should Duncan be worried about losing his spot? Well, as Kawhi Leonard once said in a 2013 HEB commercial, “Indubitably”.
The Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tim Duncan Comparison
Humble. Lovable. Skilled at elevating teammates and frustrating opponents. Avoiding the drama. No shenanigans, just straight business and focus. Back-to-back MVP. Franchise cornerstone. Champion.
As a person, the similarities are clear. As a talent, Antetokounmpo’s active peak has already surpassed that of Duncan’s, even when “The Big Fundamental” was at the height of his powers. In 2021, Antetokounmpo notched one of the greatest Finals performances in the history of the league since Duncan’s quadruple-double in 2003 closeout game. (Yes, it was a quadruple-double. Go watch the game and you’ll see he was robbed of two blocks that would’ve given him 10!)
This last season, the “Greek Freak”’s physical dominance has reached a point of invincibility to even warrant this conversation. Yes, Antetokounmpo really measures up that close to Duncan. Want proof?
The Boston Celtics Couldn’t Contain Giannis Antetokounmpo
Recall Boston’s defensive scheme in the 2022 NBA Finals. They played a drop coverage in which they willingly conceded pull-up jump shots to Steph Curry to prevent the Golden State Warriors from getting into their classic four-on-three’s. (That’s where Draymond Green rolls downhill with Klay Thompson spotted up on the perimeter, a wing cutting hard to the basketball, and a center sitting in the dunker’s spot.) In other words, Boston was conceding points to Curry to prevent everyone else from getting going. That was not the strategy they used against Antetokounmpo. From the top of the key to the bottom of the lane, he saw the house.
We really need to talk what about what Giannis did to the “Best Defense in Basketball” more often pic.twitter.com/aYVE46Jstk— Bucks After Dark (@BucksAfterDark) August 5, 2022
At the point of attack, Antetokounmpo was met with Al Horford or Grant Williams, with a dash of Marcus Smart sprinkled in. Any time he had the ball, there were two defenders keyed right in on his driving lanes as if to say “We don’t care if anybody else shoots! We are not letting Giannis get going!” Still, Antetokounmpo ran them over. He didn’t just put up monster numbers, but damn near pulled off the upset without his co-star Khris Middleton. Perhaps, the real revelation of that series lies in his much-improved instincts as a playmaker.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Is Becoming the Ultimate Teammate On the Court
The development that should scare people the most about “The Greek Freak” is not his three-point shot, not his turnaround jumper, not the floater in the lane, but his ability to make plays for his teammates. In the Celtics series, he was magnificent as a distributor and facilitator. Antetokounmpo appears to have made a leap in that regard as he is now consistently making teams pay for sending multiple defenders at him.
Then on defense, Antetokounmpo is arguably the best player in the world. He can protect the rim like Anthony Davis, cover on the perimeter like Kawhi Leonard, and he plays hard all the time. This lets head coach Mike Budenholzer can use him as a foundational piece in the regular season. Antetokounmpo is a Swiss Army knife. He can do it all, and he will do it all. Not since LeBron James’ prime have we seen a player able to dominate a game physically on both ends of the floor.
The idea of positions have evolved and become increasingly less important in the NBA in recent years. That is largely due to players such as Antetokounmpo, who defy conventional wisdom with their ability to slot in at any position across the floor. (This is something he has literally done, having started at all five positions for the Milwaukee Bucks in his time with the team). However, more recently, Antetokounmpo has made the power forward spot his own, a conclusion that has coincided with All-Star teammate Middleton moving up a position to play at small forward rather than shooting guard.
Can Giannis Antetokounmpo Pass Tim Duncan?
To dethrone the San Antonio Spurs great as the GOAT at power forward, Antetokounmpo has one job: Win. For the first time in his career, he enters the 2022-2023 season as the definitive best basketball player alive. At this time, a healthy Bucks team appears to be the greatest threat to the Warriors’ hopes to repeat. With the proper amount of winning, there is no telling how high Antetokounmpo will rise.
If you’re a Spurs fan, you have to appreciate his journey. A young, humble superstar, he had the chance to leave for “greener pastures” but instead decided to see it through in the small market that drafted him. Now he is poised to be one of the greatest. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
𝐆𝐑𝐄𝐄𝐊 𝐆𝐎𝐃 𝐇𝐀𝐒 𝐀𝐑𝐑𝐈𝐕𝐄𝐃! 😳— FIBA (@FIBA) August 9, 2022
🔥 Giannis against Spain in friendly game:
31 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal. In 20 minutes. 🤯
Career high in scoring with the national team. ✅
🎥 @ert_world pic.twitter.com/K04TQKzzgt
So there we have it: Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player alive. As one of the most versatile players in the history of the league, with his unique body time and skill-set, is it even fair to pigeonhole him at the 4-spot?
As he continues to develop his game in the half-court, both as a playmaker and as someone who can shoot over the top of defenses, Antetokounmpo will surely continue to climb the all-time rankings. If he’s not already, he will can soon become one of the two greatest power forwards in NBA history. Can he catch Duncan for the top spot? Only time will tell.