“Unbelievable guy,” Antetokounmpo said of Gasol. “He’s been to the finals. He has so much experience. I think he’s definitely going to help us.”
The Bucks are readying for a playoff run with Antetokounmpo as their focal point. Entering their game against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, Antetokounmpo was averaging 26.8 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting 57.9 percent from the field.
“When the season started, we knew we had something special — we had a great team,” he said. “But to be honest with you, no, I never thought we were going to have the best record in the N.B.A.
“But I think we’ve worked hard for it, we go out there and show up for every game, and we try to win every game.”
There is no apt historical comparison for Antetokounmpo because the league has never seen anyone quite like him. He is too long and too strong, too quick and too skilled, a 6-foot-11 power forward who can defend point guards at one end and post up the league’s stoutest centers at the other. As for Antetokounmpo’s unique athleticism, Connaughton considers him to be something of a hybrid of Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James of the Lakers.
“He’s got the length of K.D.,” Connaughton said, “but now he’s at the point where he’s got the strength of LeBron — or at least he’s on that trajectory. And that speaks volumes about his work ethic and his desire to be the best that he can be. Because not a lot of guys with that talent work that hard.”
Connaughton, whose playing time has fluctuated this season, often goes to the team’s practice facility on off days for extra shooting and conditioning work. Antetokounmpo, Connaughton said, is always there, too. He is a gym rat in the second year of a four-year, $100 million contract. Connaughton joined the Bucks after three seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, and he said Antetokounmpo plays with the same motor — the same mind-set — as Damian Lillard, the Blazers’ All-Star point guard.