LAS VEGAS -- A new nickname has emerged during Summer League for Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 19-year-old Milwaukee Bucks forward who has been better known since his debut as the "Greek Freak" unveiled a new point-forward playing style and earned a new moniker to go with his added length and playmaking: "Magic Giannison."
Antetokounmpo is impossible to miss on the basketball court. He came into the NBA measuring 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and hasn't stopped growing. He's not just short of 6-foot-11 which, when combined with those impossibly long arms and hands big enough to nearly engulf a basketball, have made him a cult hero among NBA fans just one season into his career.
Going into his second Summer League, Antetokounmpo wasn't the focus of practically anybody watching the team. That honor belonged to No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker. But Giannis has turned heads, showing the first signs of turning his freakish physical tools into actual basketball skills. He struggled in his first season beyond a few highlight dunks, but turning his attention to playmaking has done wonders for his effectiveness.
"Giannis makes a lot of plays for himself and gets others involved," said Parker on Wednesday. "That's something we'll use to our advantage. He's got good size."
Antetokounmpo suffered through a miserable rookie season in Milwaukee, with the team finishing a league-worst 15-67. He became a fan favorite with his fresh-faced enthusiasm and tweets about smoothies (he says his favorite flavor is berry), but a roster bereft of talent has made it difficult to gauge what his true ceiling is. In the suddenly competitive Eastern Conference, the Bucks are still several years away from contending for a playoff spot, but the upcoming season should be an improvement. The addition of Parker, a gifted scorer, to a long and talented (if extremely raw) frontline of Antetokounmpo, John Henson and Larry Sanders gives the Bucks an intriguing core.
Even beyond the draft, it's been an eventful offseason in Milwaukee, with a new ownership group taking over and the controversial hiring of Jason Kidd as head coach. But for all of Kidd's shortcomings as a coach in his first year with the Brooklyn Nets, and the bizarre circumstances surrounding his dismissal and arrival in Milwaukee, he's an all-time great point guard who should be able to utilize Antetokounmpo's unique skill set for his size.
"He could help me," Antetokounmpo said of his new coach. "He's one of the greatest point guards, so every practice is a lesson for me."
Antetokounmpo is slowly getting used to life in America after growing up in Greece. His family moved to Milwaukee last season, and his brother, Thanasis, was a second-round pick in this year's draft by the New York Knicks. Thanasis is unlikely to be in the league this season, and doesn't have the polish of his brother yet. But he displays the same raw athleticism and makes the idea of a Greek Freak dynasty a real possibility.
For now, though, Giannis' development is tantalizing enough. His jump shot isn't there yet, but his long arms make his passes nearly impossible to cover. He can place the ball on the floor in ways most people can't, and it's not uncommon to see him wrap his arm entirely around an opposing defender to zip a pass to an open teammate. The Bucks don't have a full-time point guard, but if Antetokounmpo can harness this playmaking ability and refine his passing instincts, they may not need one.
"I want to show them they can give me more responsibilities," he said. "My game is growing day by day."
So is he, and that's a terrifying proposition for the rest of the league.