SLAM Top 50: Giannis Antetokounmpo, No. 7

The Greek Freak is 22 years old. Last season, he led his team in all five of the major categories, putting him in a group with Pippen, Cowens, LeBron, and KG. His line: 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists, hitting over 50 percent from the field, a steal and a half, nearly 2 blocks per game. Even more frightening, he raised his game beyond those numbers in the playoffs. A 6-11 point guard learning from Jason Kidd. The one hole in his game: threes… for now. In a few short years, he’s become an overpowering force.

At a time where the NBA is becoming positionless, he’s as versatile as they come. Off the court, his fish out of water tales and vignettes about manchild playfulness are legend. Giannis has crossed the line from intrigue and potential to supernova. On the court, more scrutiny will come, but Giannis looks like he’s ready for the next level.

In life, he’s paid dues. Once a Nigerian immigrant who was selling goods in the streets of Greece, to “unicorn” curiosity, to full blown NBA superstar with a $100 million contract. Other guys get to the NBA, maybe they play in a big market like Los Angeles, maybe they have a shoe deal and Johnny Football levels of hype, perhaps a rap single about their little home-schooled brother’s shoe. The Greek Freak has to settle for owning Milwaukee for the time being, at least for this year when his place on this top 50 list is the issue at hand. As Jabari Parker and the rest of the Young Bucks grow with him, expect serious damage to the Eastern Conference hierarchy, sooner than you think. Giannis already took Toronto to six games, playing brilliantly but perhaps running out of gas.

The upcoming season is complicated by Giannis mourning the recent passing of his father, Charles. Currently taking an indefinite leave, when The Greek Freak returns, expect him to continue the ascension up NBA’s Mount Olympus (sorry). He’ll be a high pick in this year’s All-Star Game, and with the way free agents keep bailing for the West, he could lead Milwaukee on a deep run, perhaps all the way to the conference finals.

Previous Rankings:
2016: No. 26
2015: No. 49
2014: Not Ranked
2013: Not Ranked

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2017-18—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

No. 50 – Dion Waiters
No. 49 – Ben Simmons 
No. 48 – Brook Lopez
No. 47 — Harrison Barnes
No. 46 — Jrue Holiday
No. 45 — Lonzo Ball
No. 44 — Myles Turner
No. 43 — Goran Dragic
No. 42 — Andre Drummond
No. 41 — Al Horford
No. 40 — LaMarcus Aldridge
No. 39 — Kevin Love
No. 38 — Paul Millsap
No. 37 — Hassan Whiteside
No. 36 — Andrew Wiggins
No. 35 — Marc Gasol
No. 34 – DeAndre Jordan
No. 33 — Bradley Beal
No. 32 — Kemba Walker
No. 31 — CJ McCollum
No. 30 — Devin Booker
No. 29 — Nikola Jokic
No. 28 — Joel Embiid
No. 27 — Mike Conley 
No. 26 — Kyle Lowry
No. 25 — Rudy Gobert

No. 24 — Gordon Hayward
No. 23 — Kristaps Porzingis
No. 22 — Carmelo Anthony
No. 21 — DeMar DeRozan
No. 20 — Blake Griffin
No. 19 — Draymond Green
No. 18 — Chris Paul
No. 17 — Klay Thompson
No. 16 — Jimmy Butler
No. 15 — Isaiah Thomas
No. 14 — Karl-Anthony Towns
No. 13 — Damian Lillard
No. 12 — DeMarcus Cousins
No. 11 — Kyrie Irving
No. 10 — John Wall
No. 9 — Paul George

No. 8 — Anthony Davis