Giannis Antetokounmpo, beginning his fourth season with the Milwaukee Bucks, was named the NBA’s top international player in the annual preseason survey of league general managers.
Antetokounmpo beat out some big names in the survey, getting 27.6 percent of the votes to 24.1 percent for Memphis big man Marc Gasol. Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki had 24.1 percent of the votes, while New York power forward Kristaps Porzingis got 12.1 percent and San Antonio’s Pau Gasol was at 6.9 percent.
The survey, conducted by NBA.com, predicted the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors to meet in their third straight NBA Finals. LeBron James led the voting for league MVP (46.1 percent) and the Warriors took honors for best overall off-season moves (83.3 percent) and most surprising move (Kevin Durant, 46.7 percent).
The Minnesota Timberwolves were listed as the league’s most improved team (56.7 percent) and Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns led the voting (48.3 percent) for the player general managers would want to sign to build their roster around.
The 21-year-old Antetokounmpo signed a four-year, $100 million contract extension last month, the richest contract in Bucks franchise history. He was given primary playmaking duties by coach Jason Kidd late last season and responded with five triple-doubles.
When Antetokounmpo was informed Tuesday about the general managers voting, he broke into a quick dance move – the Whip and Nae Nae – and showed a huge smile.
“Oh, my God,” Antetokounmpo said. “Do I get a trophy or something?”
Antetokounmpo said he would take it as a great compliment.
“But I feel like I’ve got to work more,” he said. “Being above Dirk and Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol, they’re really good players. So I’ve got to show on the court – the GMs that voted me – that I deserve it. I’m really happy.”
Kidd said he wasn’t stunned to see the Greek Freak top the voting.
“That’s a great honor because the names just mentioned are all very talented and all could be that player,” Kidd said. “That’s a great compliment to him and what he’s done, working on his game and getting better.
“Now it’s not just to stop there as the best international player, but hopefully one day to be one of the best players in the world. Nothing surprises me in this league. It just shows how hard he’s working and the way he’s perceived in this league, how GMs think about him.”