Eric Bledsoe has only been a member of the Milwaukee Bucks for, like, a half-second, and he’s already underrated Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Speaking with ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes after his trade from the Phoenix Suns, the point guard referred to Antetokounmpo as a top-10 player:
“You’ve seen him,” Bledsoe said of Antetokounmpo. “I’ve watched him play like everyone else. He’s one of the top 10 players in this league. He’s a great player. With my talent, and going over there to help facilitate, score, rebound, defend, I’m going to do what’s expected of me and whatever is asked in order for us to win games.
Bledsoe isn’t technically wrong. Antetokounmpo is one of the NBA’s best 10 players. But phrasing is everything, and Antetokounmpo, the odds-on MVP favorite prior to this deal, has transcended top-10 designations.
Top-five classifiers are now the norm.
No one should be uncomfortable with this. Nor should they bristle at those who call Antetokounmpo a top-three player. He’s right there, in that discussion, waiting to take up the mantle as the league’s absolute best player once LeBron James is ready to vacate it.
Consider this: According to NBA Math’s Total Points Added metric, only three players have injected more value into their team’s cause this season: James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins and James.
Last season, per that same metric, Antetokounmpo graded out as the Association’s fourth-best player once again, trailing only MVP Russell Westbrook, MVP runner-up Harden and four-time MVP James. He is the real deal—a top-five player who, at age 22, is still improving. Merely calling him a top-10 player isn’t an insult. Again: It’s accurate. But it also undersells him.
Granted, we’ll forgive Bledsoe for not singing higher praises. He has a lot going on at the moment and was only trying to complement his new running mate. He’ll know better a couple weeks from now, after regularly witnessing Antetokounmpo’s world takeover firsthand.