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There is arguably no NBA precedent for what Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo can do athletically. However, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer sees something fundamentally familiar in his 24-year-old superstar.
“I think personality wise, and approach wise, he is (similar to Duncan). It’s him as a teammate. Like, he’s such a great teammate. He’s so humble, but hungry. So humble, but wants to be great and wants the team to be great. Those are all kind of the characteristics of Timmy, and just amazing how his teammates loved him and it’s very similar with Giannis.”
Budenholzer spent 19 seasons as an assistant with the Spurs and was present for all but one of Duncan’s five championships.
In his first season in Milwaukee, Budenholzer could be on the cusp of the same kind of abundant accomplishments with Antetokounmpo and much sooner than even Antetokounmpo could have foreseen.
The Bucks are the only team in the NBA to have already clinched a playoff berth and own the best record in the league at 49-16. Antetokounmpo told Scott Cacciola of the New York Times that while he knew what Milwaukee is building to be special, he did expect his team to own the best record in the NBA this season.
In the same piece, Cacciola puts in perspective how the quick development of Antetokounmpo has expedited Milwaukee’s timeline for contention:
“There is no apt historical comparison for Antetokounmpo because the league has never seen anyone quite like him. He is too long and too strong, too quick and too skilled, a 6’11” power forward who can defend point guards at one end and post up the league’s stoutest centers at the other.
“As for Antetokounmpo’s unique athleticism, [Bucks guard Pat] Connaughton considers him to be something of a hybrid of Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James of the Lakers.”
In order to truly be compared to Duncan, Durant and James, though, Antetokounmpo has to win a championship. In the meantime, the potential 2018-19 MVP is proving Budenholzer correct in likening him to Duncan’s low-key disposition.