Mamba Mentality lives on in Milwaukee

Like many of the new generation of players, Giannis looked up to Kobe as he grew up and aspired to play in the NBA, so for him to work out with Kobe over the summer must have been a dream come true. But for Kobe to come out and say that Giannis has the ” Mamba Mentality ” ( along with Kyrie ) must have meant something truly special to him, and at the same time given him a boost that will propel him into the 2019-2019 season.

With the Bucks coaching carousel the past few years, injured teammates and playing in a smaller NBA market, it is not hard to see why Giannis doesn’t get the same type of hype that Lebron, Curry, KD or Harden get coming into this season. Now I am not trying to say that Giannis is underrated or overlooked, I am just saying that the lack of consistency surrounding him has put him lower on the totem pole than he should be. Bringing in Budenholzer from Atlanta, letting Jabari Parker walk, and bringing in a couple veteran big men ( Lopez & Ilyasova ) definitely moves that I think can get the Bucks closer to the top of the east while giving Giannis more of a stage to work.

Milwaukee got off to a good start this year in their new range by stampeding their old teammate Jabari, and the Baby Bulls 2.0. Giannis was able to put up 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists in 22 minutes of action. While not a regular pre-season game with everyone riled up over the new arena, Giannis put on a show for the home crowd as the Bucks pulled off a 116-82 nail-biter at home.

This is the year for Milwaukee to make a splash, with 18 nationally televised games this season ( potentially more as the NBA can bump certain games for others), and a new arena to show off, it is time for Giannis and the Bucks to make people ” Fear the Deer.”  Below we visit a couple plays from last night that shows why Giannis should be a top 3 candidate for MVP this year and lead the Bucks to homecourt in the East. As a diehard Lakers fan, it is exhilarating to see that the Mamba Mentality lives on in Milwaukee.

Example #1: Here we have Giannis take advantage of the mismatch by swaying Robin Lopez to sleep, attacking the baseline and spinning away from the double team for an easy layup. 

Giannis has five bulls players focused on him, and as Brogdon clears out his man stays to zone the area, making it harder for Giannis to work. Bucks have given Giannis the entire left side of the court to work, with three capable shooters spread out on the wing weakside.

As Giannis hits the double team, Holiday does a good job cutting off the baseline, but Lopez is too slow to stick with Giannis who has the entire paint to maneuver also. Three Bull defenders are in help position, but all three just stand there, either afraid to leave their man or too lazy to move. Giannis spins away from the double team back middle, and uses is freakishly long strides to hit the uncontested layup.

Example #2: Giannis takes advantage of his height and quickness in the post to get a quick dunk baseline. 

Here Giannis has the height advantage again and gives Middleton a friendly target to deliver the entry pass. With the Bucks stacking the perimeter, Lopez is the only Bulls player in position to offer help weakside.

The best thing about this move Giannis pulls off is he does not spend any time waiting around, as soon as he gets the ball in the post he makes his move baseline. If Giannis had gotten the ball and held it for a few seconds, Lopez would have been able to get into better position for the double team. Giannis does slightly hook Lopez to get around him, and as he does so, we can see Bledsoe crashing middle to give Giannias help. We can also see Jabari at the free throw line dead asleep in a terrible position to help.

Example #3: Giannis puts pressure on the defense in transition, drawing four defenders and getting Ilyasova a wide open three. 

This is where I think Giannias is ahead of the curve with the Mamba Mentality, as he is a much more willing passer than Kobe was early on in his career. Here Giannis goes straight at the defense in transition, forcing the Bulls to collapse in to help.  Eyes of all five bulls are directly locked on Giannis, who has three teammates on the perimeter, all of whom are capable of hitting the three.  Lopez has his back turned to his man, with too much ground to cover, so Giannis hits his man Ilyasova for the three.  While Giannis has shown the ability time and time again to take over in brutal fashion dominating every facet of the game, his willingness to pass is where he is ahead of the curve.

Example #4: Giannis sets up his old teammate Jabari for pull up three deep behind the arc. 

Giannis starts to set up Jabari by giving him a little hesitation to the left, which his old teammate bites on. We can see Giannias setting up with the ball in his left hand, facing left and left foot looking to attack. The move gets Jabari to slide his right foot back, putting him in a lousy position to contest.

Here we can clearly see what the hesitation did to Jabari, as his right foot made a three-foot jump backward, leaving entirely too much space for the lazy defender to recover. What is really interesting is how far back Giannis is from the three-point line, as this show he has confidence in his shot and in fact put the work in over the offseason to improve his shooting. If he starts hitting the pull up three-pointers consistently the league is in trouble.

Example #5: Giannis attacks from the post quick after the catch, taking advantage of the slow rotation. 

Giannis has another size mismatch in the post, and the entire left block to operate with no help in site. The Bucks do a good job running weakside action by running Middleton off a double screen, which gives Bledsoe another option if Giannis was unable to get the stable position.  Portis is the Bulls player in line to help, and a combination of him being late with Giannis attacking quickly lead to an easy dunk.

Example #6: Giannis again shows his vision and willingness to pass by giving a nice wrap-around pass to Henson cutting down the lane. 

Bulls trap Bledsoe in the corner, forcing the ball out of his hands to Giannis short corner. Giannis does the right thing by immediately attacking the defense, where Lopez is scrambling to recover. As Lopez rotates to cut off the basket, Henson notices his man bailed and does what big men are taught to do, dive to the front of the rim. As he dives, there are two Bull defenders weakside who should have stepped in to help but got caught standing around, leading to an easy Henson layup.

While 22 minutes of one pre-season game does not tell us much about Giannis, there was enough to collect that shows he has made strides in his game over the offseason. His willingness/ability to share the ball, how quickly he reacts in the post and increased comfort in his jump shot off the dribble.  The Mamba Mentality is alive in the Greek Freak.

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