1. Greek Freak Projected: Amidst the waste land that is Milwaukee’s horrible season, there are few rays of hope. Somehow the Bucks have managed to pull off being horrible offensively (29th) and defensively (29th) and have done so at a slow boring pace (25th in the NBA). Aside from a pending high draft pick, the most valued asset on the roster is probably Giannis Antetokounmpo. As most know, Antetokounmpo is a lanky 19-year old, with a huge wing-span and great hops. The eye test indicates that he is a potential star. He has had a few crazy highlights, including a Jordan-like reverse layup on Tyson Chandler and a crazy good block on Michael Carter-Williams. On top of that, Antetokounmpo has even shown some three-point range. If this is the protoplasm of the player that Antetokounmpo will become, what are we looking at here for the future? The mind boggles. Could we have Shawn Kemp, or a taller Scottie Pippen, or something even better?
Antetokounmpo’s advanced stats seem somewhat less optimistic. His per/36 minute stats are currently:
-10.6 pts, .477 eFG%, .321 3FG%, 6.8 rebs, 2.7 asts, 1.1 stls, 1.2 blks, 11.6 PER
How does that compare with other 19-year old NBA players?
For all teenage NBAers who have played at least 1,000 minutes in a season, Antetokounmpo ranks 34th out of 40. That’s not totally fair though because Antetokounmpo is not only a rookie but has only been in the United States for less than a year. Certainly, his adjustment curve would be steeper. If we limit our search to rookie teenagers, Antetokounmpo ranks 30th out 36. Here is the list of the bottom ten PERs for rookie teenagers:
- Nikoloz Tskitishvili, 2002-03: 4.9 PER
- Sebastian Telfair, 2004-05: 9.7 PER
- Bismack Biyombo, 2011-12: 10.6 PER
- Dajuan Wagner, 2002-03: 10.9 PER
- J.R. Smith, 2004-05: 10.9 PER
- Martell Webster, 2005-06: 11.6 PER
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2013-14: 11.6 PER
- Tony Parker, 2001-02: 11.7 PER
- Marvin Williams, 2005-06: 12.2 PER
- Jrue Holiday, 2009-10: 12.3 PER
A review of the list shows that a low PER does not preclude stardom: Tony Parker hit only 11.7 PER as a rookie and J.R. Smith was even worse (10.9 PER) but most of the players on this list were not great and the players who did turn out to be good were all guards. The lowest PER from forwards on the list who ended up being useful are Marvin Williams, Mo Harkless (12.5), Tyson Chandler (13.0), and Trevor Ariza (13.3). This is not a list of superstars. This doesn’t prove that Antetokounmpo won’t become a star but it certainly suggests that there is evidence that he is more likely to become a solid NBA player as opposed to a something special. This certainly bears watching and we can see what happens when PER and raw athleticism conflict somewhat.
2. Two More Quick Asides on the Greek Freak/Bucks: First, the young Bucks player with the best advanced stats this year is actually John Henson (11.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 18.6 PER). Antetokounmpo looks way more athletic but Henson has been much more effective. Despite his great PER, though, Henson is not without questions. According to 82games.com, Henson has not been a net positive. In fact, Henson’s plus/minus net is a team worst -9.6. Granted, plus/minus is a highly variable stat and Henson has spent plenty of time with the less than effective O.J. Mayo, but that is pretty bad. By comparison, Antetokounmpo is +4.1 in this department. This may just be an anomaly but it is interesting that Henson’s net numbers are so poor.
One more note…In case you are curious, here are the top ten PERs from teenage rookies (With at least 1,000 minutes played):
- Anthony Davis, 2012-13: 21.7 PER
- Andrew Drummond, 2012-13: 21.6 PER
- Kyrie Irving, 2011-12: 21.4 PER
- LeBron James, 2003-04: 18.3 PER
- Carmelo Anthony, 2003-04: 17.6 PER
- Tracy McGrady, 1997-98: 17.4 PER
- Dwight Howard, 2004-05: 17.2 PER
- Cliff Robinson, 1979-80: 17.0 PER
- Anthony Randolph, 2008-09: 16.9 PER
- Thaddeus Young, 2007-08: 16.5 PER
Some interesting notes here:
-The book is open on Davis and Drummond (and even Irving to some extent), but their rookie seasons look really good in context.
-We have a bunch of stars and some other odd names. Cliff Robinson is not the Blazer who wore the headband. This Cliff Robinson was a star forward out of USC and a solid scorer for the Nets, Cavs, Bullets, and Sixers. Though never a star, this Cliff averaged 17.2 ppg and 8.3 rpg but had a pretty flat developmental curve. Very similar to Young, who is also on the list as a good player who developed early but doesn’t have a tremendous peak (so far).
-Anthony Randolph sticks out like a sore thumb. He is the only player on the list he never became a useful NBA player. Incidentally, Randolph still putting up solid games here and there and is still only 24. Randolph’s numbers would not have made this list if we required the players to have at least 20 minutes per game (Randolph, McGrady, and Drummond all had 200-300 fewer minutes than the rest of the top ten players).