Giannis Antetokounmpo is in the midst of a fairly solid season so far. His averages of 28.0 points and 11.5 rebounds are a smidgen off from last year’s MVP campaign, but still almost at the same level. His Milwaukee Bucks are currently 16-11 on the year, good for second place in the East.
By any objective measure, aside from Devin Booker remorselessly disrespecting his jump shot, Antetokounmpo is in a good place. As such, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that he is already keeping an eye on what’s going on in the Western Conference. He knows as well as anyone that his squad will have to face off against someone from the other side if they want to win a title, and it’s important to know your competition.
This week, Antetokounmpo spoke to the media and offered his thoughts on who he thought the best team in the Western Conference has been thus far this year.
Spoiler alert: it isn’t any of the usual suspects.
Rather, it’s a team that has been flying under the radar up until very recently.
That team? The Utah Jazz.
“When I watch them play, it looks fun, it looks easy,” Antetokounmpo said, per Eric Woodyard of ESPN. “It looks simple. For sure, they look like us last year, and man, when you’re at that point and you’re playing with that confidence, you’re hard to beat for sure.”
Because of that Antetokounmpo views them as quite clearly the “best team in the West.”
As things currently stand, the 22-5 Jazz boast the NBA’s best record. With both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers seeing their biggest stars go down with injuries over the past week, there is a very easy path for Utah to tighten its grip over the Western Conference over the next month.
This past week the Jazz were linked to a massive potential trade involving the San Antonio Spurs. If the deal actually goes down as described, Utah would likely immediately become one of the favorites to win the title this year. But even if it doesn’t – they’re still right there.
Antetokounmpo is right about the Jazz being scary, and regardless of what Shaquille O’Neal might think, they’re going to be a force for many years to come.