Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the more promising young players in the NBA today. His rare combination of height, ball handling ability and freakish athleticism has brought him a lot of comparisons with the best in the game, including Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.
Although his lack of success in the league, especially with playoff and championship experience, makes it seem unfair for him to be in the same conversation as The King, their statistics as 22-year-olds are very similar. The obvious resemblance is on their averages in the five main statistical categories as James had 27.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.7 blocks a game back in the 2006-2007 season while The Greek Freak is averaging has 23.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.8 steals a game so far this season.
However, not only on their stats do these have similarities. Alex Raskin of Bleacher Report made a deep dive on their ratings, including plus/minus ranks and Player Impact Estimate, which measures a player’s overall statistical contribution against the total statistics in games they play in, according to NBA.com, among others.
“Antetokounmpo’s current plus-8.5 rating ranks fourth among players 22 and under since 1973.”
"“In fact, his rating stood at plus-10.5 as recently as Jan. 5, which would have beaten James’ plus-9.3 mark in 2005-06 for the top spot overall.“
“But a better metric might be Player Impact Estimate (PIE); In this case, James and Antetokounmpo are tied for seventh at 18.0 among players averaging at least 10 minutes per game this season. (Westbrook leads qualifying players at an astounding 22.3.) For comparison, James posted a similarly impressive 18.1 for the Cavs in 2006-07.”
Raskin also discussed their defensive strengths as well their improved shooting from beyond the arc, which is almost at the same level at that stage of their careers.
“Opposing shooters have made just 42.7 percent of their field-goal attempts against his pterodactyl-like frame, according to NBA.com’s defensive statistics, which is nearly congruent with James’ mark of 42.0 percent.”
“Most significantly, James improved his three-point accuracy from 31.9 percent in 2006-07 to as high as 40.6 percent in 2012-13, when Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were drawing away defensive attention in Miami. This season, he’s made 38.6 percent of his three-point attempts.”
Their main difference lies in the amount of wins they’ve had. James enjoyed early success and even made a trip to the finals in only his fourth year in the NBA. He is now a three-time champion, having won two titles with the Miami Heat and last year with the Cavs.
The Athens native is on a different situation with the Bucks right now, as his team is struggling to find consistency and have been on the outside looking in the playoff picture the past couple of seasons.
If Antetokounmpo can further improve his skill set and push his team to a higher level, there will be no doubt that he will be compared to James even more. For now, he’ll need to figure out how to be a more complete player and continue being the go-to-guy in Milwaukee, just like what the four-time MVP has done in the early days of his illustrious NBA career.