Welcome to King of the Court, our daily celebration of the best players in basketball from the night that was. We’ll be keeping track of the best player of every night of the NBA season, and tallying the results as we go along.
King of the Court: Giannis Antetokounmpo
In the Bucks’ 93–89 win over the Magic on Monday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo became only the fourth player since 1984 to finish a game with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals, and three blocks. The others are Michael Jordan (1988), Hakeem Olajuwon (1994), and Andrei Kirilenko (2007), per Basketball-Reference.
Performances like this are exactly what the Bucks were hoping for when they selected Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft. “There’s no question there were safer picks, but nothing with this kind of upside, nothing close to this,” Bucks general manager John Hammond said at the time. “That’s the key component of what we have here. How are we going to get our next All-Star? I don’t want to put that on this kid’s shoulder, but I think he has that skill set to become that, if it all falls together for him. … If he hits, this kid could be special.”
We’re beginning to see just how special Antetokounmpo can be. The Greek Freak won’t turn 22 for another two weeks, yet he’s already one of the league’s best all-around players.
Antetokounmpo shines most in the open floor while in the transition offense, when he uses his slim 6-foot-11 frame to weave through and Euro-step by defenders to score 1.35 points per possession, per Synergy. He doesn’t need to score to make an offensive impact (his 21 points on Monday came on 6-of-13 shooting) because he does everything else at such a high level. He played all 12 fourth-quarter minutes for the Bucks and led their comeback with his passing, rebounding, and hustling.
Milwaukee is still only a borderline playoff team, but it’s ascending largely because of Antetokounmpo. He’s made individual strides as a player, and his skills have only been enhanced by a coaching staff that’s enabled him to run the point and a front office that has surrounded him with talent. If Giannis extends his shooting range and ramps up his scoring efficiency, we could be looking at a future top-five player in the NBA. Until that happens, we’ll just have to settle for these historic performances serving as sneak peeks.
Runner-up: Bradley Beal
Of the 207 total points scored in the Wizards’ 106–101 win against the Suns on Monday, 119 were scored by four players (Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker of the Suns, and Bradley Beal and John Wall of the Wizards). Beal led them all with a career-high 42 points on 14-of-22 shooting, drilling five of his 10 attempts from behind the arc. It was an efficient, balanced performance that featured Beal showing off the whole bag of tricks from all levels of the floor.
Wall also deserves a great deal of credit for manufacturing easy looks for Beal, as Wall assisted on six of Beal’s makes, and Beal had nine total makes on passes received from Wall, per SportVU. “John just kept calling plays for me. They just kept coming to me,” Beal said after the game. “The basket just felt like it was an ocean.” The Wall-Beal duo has fallen well short of its immense potential, but it’s games like this that show what they’re capable of when they’re clicking.