It’s official. Giannis Antetokounmpo is once again taking a deserved spot in the Eastern Conference’s All-Star Game starting line-up. Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Kyrie Irving are joining Antetoukounmpo on the Eastern side. LeBron James, Steph Curry, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, and Kawhi Leonard will represent the West. The selection is no surprise for the two-time reigning MVP, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a quick look at why he deserves the honor before briefly discussing what this means for the Bucks.
Giannis Continuing to Produce Like a Superstar
The statistical dominance of Milwaukee’s lead man is clear, even with his numbers down (very) slightly from last season. Giannis is seventh in the league in both scoring with 28.2 points per game and rebounding with 11.4 boards per game. He is one of just two players to be averaging more than 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists (Jokic). He is thirteenth in field goal attempts and fourteenth in field goal percentage, joining Zion Williamson, Christian Wood, and Jokic as the only players in the league shooting above 55% from the floor while taking more than 15 shots per game. He’s even boosted his steal and block numbers, and his 1.3 per game average in both categories is good enough for the league’s top 20 in both cases.
The advanced metrics tell a similar story. Antetoukounmpo is seventh in win shares per 48 minutes and fifth in total win shares. He’s fifteenth in offensive box +/- (BPM), 9th in defensive BPM, and 5th in overall BPM. Only Jokic and Joel Embiid are also in the top fifteen on both sides of the court. Only Jokic and Giannis are in the top eight in both offensive and defensive win shares, and no one else is even in the top twelve in both. Throw in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), where Giannis ranks sixth, and Player Efficiency Rating (PER), where he ranks third, and it’s simply impossible to make a statistical argument against his inclusion. The Greek Freak is still performing like one of the very best two-way players in the game.
Giannis Leading the Team
Antetokounmpo is also, of course, the leader of a clear playoff team and title contender in the Bucks. The list of areas where he’s leading the team is impressive – points, assists, blocks, rebounds, field goal attempts, free throw attempts, and, to keep a long story short, pretty much every advanced metric you can think of. He really only falls behind in free-throw percentage, three-point volume and percentage, and steals, where Giannis trails only Jrue Holiday.
To put it simply, an Eastern Conference starting line-up that doesn’t include Giannis is indisputably wrong.
What This Means for the Bucks
The obvious takeaway, especially immediately after Giannis’s decision to sign the supermax, is that we are beyond lucky to have this man representing our team and city. He is everything you could want a franchise cornerstone to be, from his on-court play to his work ethic to the way he carries himself off the court. Recognitions and awards like this are just confirmation of what we already know – Giannis is special.
This is also a special moment in Bucks history. With his fifth All-Star selection, Giannis has tied Sidney Moncrief (‘82-’86) for second on the all-time team list. Next year, he will have the chance to join Kareem (‘70-’75) at six. Oddly enough, almost every notable Buck made all of their ASG trips in consecutive years, with the exceptions being Marques Johnson (four in five years), Bob Dandridge (three in four) and Terry Cummings (two in three). In any case, the main point here is that Giannis, at just 26 years old, has already accomplished as much in a Bucks uniform as just about anyone.
The final point I will make – Khris Middleton’s All-Star is still up in the air. Only coaches vote on reserves, so the lack of support for Khris in the fan vote means nothing. We still don’t know if he’ll end up making the cut in a year packed with worthy options. I do think Middleton deserves it. I also think he’ll make it. But only time will tell if he joins Giannis as an All-Star for the third straight season. If it happens, they’ll be the first teammates in Bucks history to play with each other in three All-Star games.
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The announcement of the reserves comes next week. Will Middleton make the team?