A 6’11”, 242-pound representation.
Back in the day, players his size rarely ventured outside the paint.
And when they did, it was typically just to set a screen for the point guard.
These days, centers and power forwards are asked to do so much more because they can.
The prime modern-day big man in the NBA can stretch the floor, dominate the paint, defend the basket, and hold his own when switching onto guards.
Arguably no two players in the NBA meet those criteria better than Giannis and Los Angeles Lakers’ star Anthony Davis.
Both players are 6’10” or taller but possess the skills of a guard.
They possess the size and strength to annihilate opponents in the paint on offense and defense.
But also possess the skill and agility to handle the basketball, shoot from 3, and switch onto quicker guards.
They are what many today consider “unicorns” – a player who can do it all on the court.
Because of their similarity in size and skill, it is fair to compare both players.
They are each undeniably top-10 talents in the league who also have cases for being in the top-5.
Giannis Personifies Dominance
The NBA has not seen a player simply overpower the rest of the league like Giannis does since Shaq was roaming courts.
His combination of size, length, agility, and sheer strength makes him a matchup nightmare for everybody.
Since entering the league as a scrawny 19-year-old from Greece, he has improved his points and rebounds per game in every single season.
His hard work has led to him being named back-to-back league MVP with the following stat lines:
- 2018-2019: 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.5 BPG on 57.8% shooting
- 2019-2020: 29.5 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG on 55.3% shooting
— Cream City Central (@CreamCityCtral) September 18, 2020
Giannis simply overpowers everybody but the biggest defenders in the league.
And when the bigger defenders are on him, he is simply too quick for them to stay in front of.
He rampages his way through defenses that have helped the Bucks have the #1 offense in terms of points-per-game the past two seasons.
The stats help paint a picture of the power Giannis wields over a game.
The past two seasons have seen Giannis tally 476 dunks – good for nearly 21% of his FGA.
He has also shot 77.3% between 0-3 feet from the basket – 77 percent!
His average true-shooting percentage for those years was 63%, bringing his career average to 59.5% – the 32nd highest mark all-time and 12th among active players.
But the stats don’t truly portray just how influential Giannis is on the court.
Teams must always account for him on offense.
When he has the ball, multiple sets of eyes are drawn to him, leaving teammates open to dart into open spaces on the court.
Defenders are forced to help off their man to prevent easy dunks, which opens the entire offense.
Giannis is a one-man fast break and nearly impossible to stop in transition.
None of this will show up on the stat sheet but watching a Bucks’ game puts ‘The Greek Freak’s’ command on full display.
Davis Arguably the Best 2-Way Player in the League
While Giannis is the most dominant, Davis is more well-rounded.
The only aspects of Davis’s game that wouldn’t be labeled elite are his 3-point shooting and rebounding.
And both of those are still close-to or above league-average for his position.
Davis can truly do it all on both ends of the court.
Anthony Davis already has a career’s worth of highlights with the Lakers and he’s just getting started. 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/pKKudm4Lbl
— Hilltop Hoops (@HilltopNBA) December 4, 2020
On offense, he is a floor spacer who is one of the league’s best in the pick and roll and has a deep bag of post moves to score down low.
On defense, he has the size and timing to defend big men in the paint while also having the speed and quickness to shut down guards and forwards.
Not including this year, Davis for his career has averaged 25.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 2.5 BPG on 51.5% shooting (32.1% from 3).
This was all done before the age of 27, which is usually right around when players begin to hit their prime.
Through 9 games this year Davis is off to a bit of a slow start but is still posting averages of 22.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 1.6 BPG on 54.7% shooting (38.7% from 3).
So, one non-elite aspect of his game – 3-point shooting – appears to be trending towards the elite.
And as great as Davis is on offense, he may be even better on defense.
Last season, Davis had the 6th highest defensive rating (102) among those to play at least 1,000 minutes.
While he trailed Giannis in all three of those defensive metrics, he topped him in offensive rating and offensive win shares.
The versatility and excellence Davis display on both ends of the court is truly incredible and a key reason the Lakers won the title last season.
Davis Has a Title
As dominant as Giannis has been in the regular season, it hasn’t carried over to any postseason success.
He has led his Bucks team to the Conference Finals only once and they got dispatched by the Toronto Raptors in 6 games.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Derrick Rose, and Steve Nash are the only NBA MVP’s not to reach the NBA Finals
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) January 8, 2021
Giannis’s averages in the playoffs are right on-par with his regular-season averages.
But the negative impact is seen on the team.
In the playoffs, defensive intensity and schemes ratchet up.
The major flaw in Giannis’s game is his 3-point shooting, which is something teams have exploited.
Teams will form a wall in front of Giannis to prevent him from entering the paint.
This hinders his ability to penetrate the lane and collapse the defense.
Which during the regular season will lead to plenty of open looks for his teammates from three.
During the 2019 playoffs, both the Celtics and Raptors implemented this strategy.
While the Bucks beat the Celtics 4-1, their offensive rating was 109.8 – well below their 113.8 season average.
It got worse against the Raptors as the offensive rating fell to 107.2.
The lack of a consistent jump shot from Giannis has seriously hurt the Bucks in the playoffs.
Davis, after two playoff trips on bad New Orleans Pelicans teams, took his game to a new level in last year’s playoffs.
After averaging 26.1 PPG on 50% shooting (33% from 3) during the regular season, Davis elevated to 27.7 PPG on 57% shooting (38% from 3) during the Lakers title run.
This included a masterful performance in the Finals that saw his post 25 PPG on 42% from 3.
Game 3 ⏩ Tuesday, 9 PM ET, TNT pic.twitter.com/4GBaxeVBvP
— NBA (@NBA) September 21, 2020
Where Giannis becomes somewhat easier to guard in the playoffs, Davis became almost harder to guard.
This is exactly what superstars should do when the lights are brightest.
Who Has the Edge?
Giannis is without a doubt the most dominant player in the NBA.
His freak athletic ability allows him to overpower all his opponents.
But until he gets a reliable jump shot, Davis is the better overall player.
Both players play suffocating defense and can truly guard positions 1 through 5.
They are nearly unguardable in and around the paint as well.
Davis just has a slight advantage on offense away from the basket, which is the reason he takes the crown.
Taking his game to another level in last year’s playoff run only further cemented his case for being one of the elite talents in the game today.
With both players younger than 28, it is a scary thought as to how good they may become.