Giannis Antetokounmpo is already an all-time great, but he’s not resting on his laurels.
The two-time MVP recently made his podcast debut on the show “48 Minutes.” In it, Antetokounmpo revealed that he’s planning to work out with Hakeem Olajuwon prior to the 2023-24 season to learn from the NBA legend.
“This season for the training camp I have a trip that I’m going to go down to Houston and try to work out with Hakeem Olajuwon,” Antetokounmpo said. “I love his game and if I can kind of take a few things from his game or learn anything from the few days I’m going to spend with him it’s going to be a blessing.”
Antetokounmpo isn’t the first player to seek advice from Olajuwon and he won’t likely be the last. Here’s why and what he stands to gain.
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Why is Giannis Antetokounmpo working out with Hakeem Olajuwon?
Olajuwon is one of the greatest players in NBA history. In addition to being a 12-time All-Star, two-time champion and two-time Finals MVP, he’s one of only three players to ever be named MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
The two other players to accomplish the rare feat? Michael Jordan and Antetokounmpo.
Dominant of a two-way player as he was, Olajuwon is known best for his work on the low block. He’s widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, post-up scorers the league has ever seen. His footwork and touch are the stuff of legends, and his go-to move — a set of well-timed fakes and spin moves known as the Dream Shake — was so effective that it was named after him.
Since retiring, a number of NBA players have made the trip to Olajuwon’s ranch in Houston to work out with him in the hopes of picking his brain. The star-studded list is headlined by LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and features the likes of Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Next up is Antetokounmpo.
What Giannis Antetokounmpo can learn from Hakeem Olajuwon
Antetokounmpo already does a decent amount of damage out of the post, but there’s room for improvement.
Here’s how many points per game he’s scored out of the low block since becoming an All-Star and how he compares to the rest of the league in the efficiency department:
Put simply: Antetokounmpo has had a couple of seasons where he’s flirted with being one of the more efficient post-up scorers in the NBA, but he’s mostly been around league average.
Antetokounmpo can be a tough cover in the post for all of the reasons you’d expect.
Standing at 7 feet and 243 pounds with a 7-3 wingspan, there isn’t a whole lot guards can do against him in single coverage because of his size. If he gets anywhere near the basket, they’re usually toast. He can overwhelm them with his strength and finish over them with his long arms.
Even bigs struggle to keep Antetokounmpo away from the basket. He has the speed to blow by them off the dribble, the power to play through contact and the athleticism to finish over them.
Kristaps Porzingis is one of the best rim protectors in the NBA. Antetokounmpo makes him look tiny here:
Jaden McDaniels is an All-Defense level defender. Antetokounmpo makes light work of him (and Naz Reid) here:
Where Antetokounmpo can run into trouble is when his first option is taken away and he can’t get all the way to the rim.
Especially in the 2022-23 season, Antetokounmpo struggled to score from floater range, which is important real estate for post scorers. He was one of 95 players to attempt at least 150 shots from that distance but he connected on only 27.9 percent of those opportunities, ranking him dead last in that group.
For comparison, Nikola Jokic, who might be the best post scorer in the NBA today, made a whopping 62.7 percent of his shot attempts from floater range. He makes a killing from that area.
Antetokounmpo hasn’t always been shaky from floater range. He put together one of the best Finals performances of all time in 2021 largely because he was able to balance his powerful rim attacks with back-breaking push shots and hook shots. It just wasn’t a reliable shot for him last season.
It’s fun to think of him not only continuing to fine-tune that part of his game but even adding something like a Dream Shake.
Antetokounmpo’s jump shot continues to be a work in progress as well.
A lot of attention gets paid to his face-ups from midrange and spot-ups from the perimeter, but the turnarounds and fadeaways as he gets closer to the basket are more important for his development.
As I’ve written before, it would give Antetokounmpo a consistent answer to the wall so many teams throw at him. It would also give him a weapon he could go to that wouldn’t take as much of a toll on his body as his drives do. That’s going to become more important when his athleticism starts to decline.
Not that a session or two with Olajuwon will turn Antetokounmpo into a more dominant post scorer overnight, but little improvements will go a long way in him becoming an even more well-rounded player.
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