Somewhere along the way, we collectively lost the plot with
It may have been his postseason outings in 2019 and 2020. He
performed well statistically -- 26-12-5 with a 57% True Shooting
percentage in 2019, 27-14-6 with an increated TS% (61) in
2020 -- but faltered when things got
The free-throw shooting wasn't where it needed to be. A
consistent presence of a wall -- from the Raptors and their
plethora of elite defenders, then the Heat with their trio of
stoppers -- forced Giannis out of his comfort zone. Counters became
necessary, and they simply weren't present enough to bring things
It may have been James Harden's infamous comments a year ago
that started all of this.
"I wish I could be 7-feet, run and just dunk, like, that takes
no skill at all," Harden said in a sit-down with ESPN's
"I gotta actually learn how to play basketball and how to have
skill. I’ll take that any day."
It snowballed into a larger theme. Suddenly, people, fans and
players truly did not respect what Giannis brought to the table as
an offensive engine.
The broad strokes of his artistry were known. It's hard to miss
his unique mix of size, length, speed, strength, explosiveness and
There's also a level of coordination needed to blend those
I understand that the "If it's so easy, everyone could do it"
point is incredibly basic, but consider that Giannis (6-foot-11,
242 pounds), Justin Patton (6-foot-11, 241 pounds), and Jarrett
Allen (6-foot-11, 243 pounds) are all within one pound of each other. The
latter two play nothing like Giannis, and couldn't if they wanted
Giannis' physical attributes are absurd in their own right; add
in a functional handle that allows him to grab-and-go in transition
or pull off spins and Eurosteps in the half-court, and you have one
of the most dominant rim threats the NBA has ever seen.
To that point: Giannis has converted 70% or more of his shots
inside of three feet in each of the past five seasons, per
Basketball-Reference. Roughly 56% of those shots were self-created
during that span.
We know Giannis is a rim terror, but the subtleties of his
attacking have also been a bit undersold. He may have a limited
palette, but there's been enough nuance within that palette to make
him virtually unguardable inside.
I keep thinking about this possession in Game 6 of the NBA
My first thought: Why on earth is Deandre Ayton leaving his feet
on a Giannis pump fake from three? Even a cursory glance at the
scouting report ... ah, well, nevertheless.
But seriously, it's good stuff from Giannis. The pump fake
works, not only getting Ayton in the air, but also putting his
right foot forward after he lands. Giannis attacks that foot with
two hard dribbles.
As Ayton flips his hips to stay in front of the lefty drive,
Giannis spins to his right. But he doesn't just spin to his right.
Peep the brief pause after the spin before raising and extending
for the layup. Ayton leaves his feet to contest the layup, and is
back on the ground by the time Giannis actually releases the
With the Eurostep, Giannis will change his stride length. He'll
switch up his cadence. The move may be the same, but it'll be
different enough to throw defenders off balance.
Even with the I'm-stronger-than-you drives, the difficulty of
knocking a large human off his spot while maintaining balance and
altering your release angle on the fly seems to be undersold. Like,
this ain't easy to do.
Ayton's in a flat stance, and Giannis is still able to gain
inside leverage with two dribbles. He dislodges Ayton on the
gather, gets Deandre and Mikal Bridges in the air with an up-fake,
then uses the rim as a shield with an extended finish with his
right. And look at where the defenders are once Giannis puts it on
the glass; Ayton is back on the ground, while Bridges is on the way
Giannis isn't just a powerful driver. He's a skilled driver with
a keen understanding of angles, pace and body positioning. That is
his bag, if you will.
What made Giannis terrifying during this postseason run,
particularly the Finals, was the number of counters he added to
complement the driving.
Attacking Ayton's front foot to set up a spin is cool. He used
that same tactic to set up jump hooks, and even had a possession
where he went with a half-spin before flowing into a fallaway
There was newfound comfort operating away from the rim. His
volume on shots outside of the restricted area increased; his
efficiency on non-rim paint shots in particular saw a sizable boost.
Turnarounds, jump hooks and push shots were all showcased
throughout the postseason run.
Make no mistake, these are still areas in which Giannis has to
improve. He was graded as an "average" isolation scorer during the
postseason, per Synergy. He didn't hit off-the-dribble jumpers at a
But he showcased enough. He made enough. And once you combine
those half-court counters with his transition brilliance, you have
a worthy top dog.
Add in the context of his role versatility -- as Zach Lowe and
others have noted, Giannis hasn't been used this much as a screener
in his basketball life -- and you have ... well, this year's Finals
The scary part in all of this: Giannis is going to get better.
The work ethic -- and the track record of that work ethic -- speaks
Don't be surprised if this is the beginning of a serious reign