A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Rating Giannis Antetokounmpo’s talent level (+Thoughts on the Anthony Bennett Hindenburg disaster)

with one comment

In a rookie class where most players have fallen between mediocre and poor production, Giannis Antetokounmpo is providing some of the most optimism. Many are now saying they’d take Giannis 1st in the draft, or believe he has the most potential.

How does my talent grading system rate “The Greek Freak”?

In my Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent category Giannis rates well. Admittedly I rated him too low in this category before the draft, mostly due to lack of quality footage of him outside of a televised Greek all-star game. Giannis has been more athletically explosive and fast than I graded at the time, which in addition to gifted ballhandling skills gives him slashing upside offensively. He is also extremely long for a small forward having even grown a few inches since the draft. It is possible his growth caused the extra athletic explosiveness he is showing now, perhaps he is able to take longer strides or the muscles in his legs were altered. While I’m split on how to rate hand size as importance, Giannis’ are so abnormally big it becomes hard to ignore. These large hands should help him rebound and steal the ball.

Giannis also rates strongly in my Feel for the Game talent category. He’s a very fluid, natural player and has shown signs of playing in control offensively already, in addition to defensive anticipation.

Where Giannis rates weakest is in my Skill Impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent category. He is hitting a mediocre 31.4% from the 3 point line and making 0.6 3s per 36 minutes, in addition to an average 72.9% from the FT line. He was not known as a shooter or perimeter scorer coming into the league. He has the height to be a post player but not the strength yet. Giannis is young enough to improve his finesse game, however right now it does not appear to be any sort of strength for him.

Here are my grades for Giannis based on these ratings:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Giannis grades:

Physical impact (Athleticism, Ballhandling, Size) talent grade: 8

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5

Feel for the Game talent grade: 8

Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

With the adjustment I used at the time of the 2013 draft (giving a slightly higher weighting to feel for the game, then physical impact, then skill impact in that order, due to descending level of how static/easy to predict I feel each talent category is), Giannis’ score would have ranked 5th in my talent rankings tied with Victor Oladipo and behind Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk, Kenny Kadji, Dennis Schroeder. But close enough to the non-Bennett prospects to make it a near wash for 2nd. Like Oladipo, Giannis has sky high potential in the areas of attacking the basket and defense, but his upside may have a ceiling if he does not become more skilled on the perimeter. (On that note, for the same lack of footage reasons as Giannis I have a different rating of Schroeder than I did before the draft. Schroeder’s shooting has been worse than I thought, but his feel for the game better – the difference ends up a wash. I now see him as having the same strengths and weaknesses as Giannis and Oladipo, with elite physical tools and feel for the game for his position but a huge question mark as a perimeter skill player)

Other players I would compare Giannis to include Kawhi Leonard, Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala. All of whom like Giannis have impressive size and athleticism and great feel for the game, but are not truly natural perimeter scorers and finesse players. Some have compared Giannis to Paul George and Kevin Durant because of his physical tools, but George and Durant showed standout shooting talent in college and early in their careers. For Giannis to have similar upside he’d need to change the face of his shooting/skill game entirely. Whether a player can develop this much is up to interpretation, but personally I consider it quite unlikely.

I consider it defendable to take Giannis before all the other 2013 prospects if given teh choice, depending on the confidence one has in developing his skills and with the understandable apprehension about Anthony Bennett’s play so far. How do I feel about Bennett’s epic disaster of a rookie season? From a talent grading perspective I haven’t seen any reasons to make a major change. He is not hitting his perimeter shots, but taking them with such frequency, that one has to believe he makes them enough in practice (where he reportedly plays great) for the Cavs to believe they’ll start going in. Other than that he has the same combination of athleticism, strength, ballhandling and fluidity, that when added to perimeter skills, are the tools of a star. I consider the two ways for a player to be a star talent is to be above average in all 3 of my physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size), skill impact (Shoot, post, pass), and feel for the game categories, or to have incredible/transcendent ability in at least one to make up for average or worse talent in another. For example Lamarcus Aldridge and James Harden are two stars who are above average in all three of my categories, while Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook have a combination of transcendent talents (Love’s feel for the game/skill impact, Westbrook’s physical impact) and no more than average ones (Love’s physical impact, Westbrook’s feel for the game). In this class I see Bennett as easily the best example of an “above average in all three” prospect, while my next highest prospects have holes. Schroeder, Oladipo, Giannis have everything but shooting, Olynyk and Kadji have average at best physical talents. Nobody is transcendent in a category based on what I can see, the closest are Nerlens Noel physically and Otto Porter’s feel for the game but Noel’s weak skill level/feel for the game and Porter’s weak athleticism is enough that I don’t see them as likely stars.

The concern with Bennett isn’t talent, it’s reaching his talent. It’s conceivable, even if a stretch, that Bennett ends up with a “broken confidence” complex that does to his career what Greg Oden’s knees did to his. Now there’s been so little prospects where confidence has been a long term problem after they settle into the league, that it’s hard to treat it as a major concern. But most prospects weren’t taken with the pressure of a #1 pick either. There’s also Bennett’s physical conditioning which wasn’t great even at UNLV and his shoulder surgery threw it way off, but with no bad words about his work ethic, I suspect that will get better by next season.. Overall, I’d say the odds are in favor of Bennett eventually hitting or nearing his talent level whatever it is, eventually. Whether it happens on the Cavaliers or not. I understand why some would choose otherwise, but because of the difference between a star and a great starter, I still wouldn’t blink taking Bennett before the other 2013 prospects available.

Advertisements

Written by jr.

January 4, 2014 at 7:44 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Don’t understand why so many want to throw him under the bus with only 350 minutes played. Also don’t understand Cleveland’s decision not to play him in the D-league, if there’s no minutes for him. I realize part of it is the expectation’s that go with a #1 pick, but I’m seeing a lot of casual slams from people who should know better.

    Mike S

    January 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: