I’m not denying that shooting matters.
Ram Shoham

Giannis is good. Right now. Point conceded.

But salary decisions *are* based on potential as well as past performance. Teams *must* look ahead when making those decisions. Giannis is still very young and is a long way from reaching his maturity as a player.

And he’s working on his shot-making. Which you’d expect, in a league where 2-way players are the most valuable commodities.

Imagine if Giannis could get his shot-making to the level of KD — how valuable would he be? At this stage in his career, he’s not precisely comparable to KD four years into his career, but there are points of similarity: a big man showing ball-handling skills, distribution skills, athleticism. He may be ahead of 4-year KD on defense. Giannis looks like an actual unicorn-in-the-making, which is why so many fans are excited about him.

KD is the ultimate unicorn, of course, and reaching that level won’t be easy for anyone, Giannis included. I expect he’s going to give it his best attempt. Like KD, he’s a gym rat who never quits.

What’s LeBron been doing with himself? He wasn’t a great range shooter (and still isn’t, quite), but in 2017 he had a pretty good shooting season. He’s still pushing his skill level upward. He’s doing that for a reason: he’s chasing greatness, and in today’s NBA, greatness means shot-making as well as all of the other stuff players do. When LeBron started in the NBA, that wasn’t the case; players were more specialized back then. You didn’t expect shooters to be great defenders. Penetrating iso players were just that, you didn’t expect them to launch from 3 point range. Post-up players played post-up and went for rebounds. 3-point shooters lurked around the 3-point line waiting for a pass (and there weren’t very many 3-point shooters). You didn’t expect distributors to nail 3’s. You certainly didn’t expect 7 footers to shoot from range. The few players who transcended categorization were celebrated, but there weren’t very many of them. Today, increasingly, that’s all out of date.

Going forward, it’ll be even more out of date. The NBA is ramping up shot-making from 3, the mid-range and finishing, and following GSW’s example, teams are expecting those same players to lock in on defense. They must, or they won’t be in the running for the finals.

The best kind of player to get is a 2-way player, hands down, and more of them are in the league today than we’ve ever seen in the past. They’re taking over. Specialists are not gone (and won’t ever be gone), but they’re earning lower salaries. They’re the pieces you put in place around your true stars.

If Giannis lands a max contract, it’s because he’s being expected to produce in every aspect of the game above his current level, *including* shooting the ball. All star second team, pah. That plays into the max a team can offer, but it doesn’t play into the offer itself. They’ll pay him based on the player they hope and believe he will become.

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