It seems like every year we come across a late-blooming international prospect who graces NBA radars. In 2013, it's 18-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece. And this one didn't just grace the screen, he splattered his name across it.
Scouts and executives have been making Eurotrips to see what all the fuss was about.
Antetokounmpo played for Filathlitikos in Greece's second division. The competition is underwhelming, but it's not Antetokounmpo's production that everyone is enamored with—it's his unique skill set and physical tools, and that stays the same no matter who he suits up against.
At 6'9'', Antetokounmpo makes up for muscle with mobility and agility. He's a small forward by nature, however his versatile skill set and reported 7'3'' wingspan should allow him to play multiple positions.
Antetokounmpo is also an exceptional athlete. Between that, his length and body control, he projects as a forward who can finish around traffic or above it.
Physically, he looks very much like Nicolas Batum—whom many have been quick to compare him to—though Antetokounmpo seems more ball-dominant as a creator, as opposed to Batum, who thrives playing off the ball.
Ball-Handling and Attacking
Antetokounmpo is a threat to go coast-to-coast for a transition bucket off a defensive rebound. He's got an excellent handle he uses to get where he needs to go. And considering his size, most defenders he draws will lack the foot speed to keep up. Check out how graceful he is as he weaves through traffic after taking it the distance:
He's a legitimate 6'9'' forward who can shake and bake off the dribble. Antetokounmpo is silky smooth attacking the rim, taking long, decisive strides to sidestep defenders. He's the type of guy who looks like he can get from the half-court line to the rim with just two dribbles.
He shot 31.3 percent from downtown this season, though he seems pretty comfortable letting it fly. Antetokounmpo made over one three-pointer per game, and anything over 30 percent is at least a number to work with.
Here's a look at him pulling up over a screen and knocking down a three off the dribble. Even if he only did this five times all year, it's a promising flash of long-term potential.
His mechanics look somewhat unnatural, seemingly pushing the ball with a low release, though we've seen crazier forms that have worked for others.
Antetokounmpo projects favorably as a versatile defensive player. Considering his physical tools, he's got length and lateral movement that should allow him to overwhelm opposing wings. And depending on matchups, he's got the height to defend combo forwards and 4s.
Here's an example of how his length and quickness can make it difficult for opposing ball-handlers to operate with comfort:
From what I saw during Filathlitikos' last game, Antetokounmpo isn't comfortable playing off the ball as a wing. He seemed unaware of how to get involved or how to put himself in scoring position.
Many have been quick to point out that Antetokounmpo can play point guard, though at the NBA level that won't be his primary position. Many confuse the term "ball-handler" with point guard—just because one can handle the ball doesn't make him a point guard.
Creating his own shot from the wing, catching and shooting as a spot-up threat and slashing off the ball are skills that Antetokounmpo will likely have to learn during his transition to the NBA game.
Draft Breakdown and NBA Outlook
Giannis Antetokounmpo has declared for the 2013 draft after the buzz got too loud to ignore. He recently signed a four-year deal with Zaragoza, a team in Spain's first division, but all indications are that his buyout is manageable.
It's unclear how long a team will wait to bring him over, but it's possible he remains overseas for a few years to refine his offensive game.
At just 18 years old, his potential will be his selling point to NBA teams. In comparison to the rest of the field, Antetokounmpo actually has one of the higher ceilings in this class.
I've got a feeling that a team unsatisfied with its options is going to take a chance on Antetokounmpo. Sacramento did it a few years ago with Bismack Biyombo at No. 7 overall.
He probably won't be considered an NBA point guard, but his ability to create off the dribble will allow him to handle the ball in a secondary role. Antetokounmpo is really on a five-year plan here in terms of when he's likely to contribute as a regular rotation player, but his upside should be worth the wait if he ever reaches it.
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