They track a stat called “Bad Passes” on basketball-reference.com. They do not track a stat called “Good Passes”. If they did, Giannis would be piling them up over the first six games of the season.
On Saturday night against the Raptors, in his first game against them since Game 6 last season, Giannis played his finest game of the first half dozen of the year. He led all players in assists (with 8), and he definitely led all players in “Good Passes”.
Last year, despite not making many himself, Giannis was one of the foremost reasons that the Bucks made the fourth most three-pointers of any team in NBA history. (Yes, last season the Bucks made more threes than any of those Warriors teams ever made in a season.)
Remember this one?
Early in the season this time against the Raptors, it was more of the same, with Giannis setting up teammates directly with assists four times, including this one to Brook (whom he set up twice):
And this one to Korver:
When he is drawing attention and setting up teammates with good looks from beyond the arc, Giannis is creating more value than a standard assist.
And when he is combining that with drawing attention and finding teammates for open layups, which he was also doing against the Raptors, Giannis becomes the maestro orchestrating the two most efficient types of shots in the league.
In the third quarter against the Raptors, Giannis rewarded cutters with a couple of layups. First it was Donte (who, man, more to come on Donte):
And then it was Ersan:
“Bad Passes” refer to the portion of turnovers that are the result of a so-called bad pass, thus distinguishing from other types of turnovers such as charges and lost balls. Of course, not every bad pass results in a turnover, so the stat does not pretend to be a measurement of actual total bad passes.
Giannis is averaging fewer of these “bad passes” so far this season than any of his past three seasons (which is to say, since he stepped into a star role with the ball in his hands all the time). This plays especially nicely with the fact that Giannis is averaging easily the most assists per game (7.7) of his career. Good passes up, bad passes down.
The defense for the Bucks is still coming around (though it has pushed into the top half of the league), but the offense is cooking (up to third-best in the league), and it mostly has been from the start, when Giannis dished 11 assists in a win in Houston. That included five direct assists for threes, and three assists to cutters for layups, including for the first points of the season:
When the going gets tough this season, against the Raptors or Kawhi or whomever, Giannis is going to get double-teamed and tripled-teamed, and others are going to have to make themselves available and useful off the ball, and Giannis is going to have to find them, and they are going to have to finish the play, and it sounds simple, but it isn’t, though Giannis is starting to make it look so.