Drafted by: New York Knicks, No. 51 overall
Team: Delaware 87ers
Height/Weight: 6'6", 205 lbs
Age: 21 years old
Projected NBA Position: Small Forward
Pro Comparison: Thabo Sefolosha
Twitter Handle: @Adeto_kouboS
It's time for Thanasis Antetokounmpo to prove he's not his brother.
Though Giannis Antetokounmpo, commonly referred to as The Greek Freak, flashed all sorts of All-Star potential during his rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks, he and his brother are not the same player. Now the older brother gets a chance to make a name for himself, even if he doesn't possess as much upside as his younger sibling.
Thanasis made the unorthodox decision to go from playing professional basketball in Greece to the NBA D-League rather than making himself draft eligible, but the transition seems to have worked rather nicely for him. He performed admirably against tougher competition, allowing him to assert himself as a top-50 prospect in this stacked draft class.
The Delaware 87ers aren't the final destination for The Greek Freak 2.0. They're merely a stepping stone he's going to use on his journey to the NBA.
|Statistics with Delaware 87ers|
If Antetokounmpo has a biggest strength, it would be this section. There's a reason he was picked to compete in the D-League's Slam Dunk Contest, after all.
Though his 6'6", 205-pound frame doesn't stand out for his position, it does as soon as you see it in motion.
After all, that's when he's able to show off the ridiculous abundance of physical tools. His chase-down blocks, for example, let you catch the full length of his 7'0" wingspan, as measured at the draft combine and relayed in NBA.com's statistical databases.
But the Greek forward is also blessed with crazy levels of explosiveness and speed, which he uses to motor around the court and wreak havoc at all times. He's strong, quick and long, which allowed him to assert himself as one of the premier athletes in the D-League during the 2013-14 season.
Though he possesses neither the height nor wingspan boasted by his younger brother, he's fairly similar in that he's a prototype athlete for his position. Ultimately, Antetokounmpo will be working with quite the physical advantage; it's up to him to get the rest of his game up to speed.
Even though he was a de facto rookie in the NBA's developmental system, Antetokounmpo was named to the All-Defensive Third Team. And he deserved the honor.
The small forward spent the 2013-14 campaign torturing offensive players, as he's capable of affecting just about every play in some capacity. Knowing that he's able to make his best contributions on the less glamorous end of the court, Antetokounmpo constantly exerts as much energy as possible, and that resulted in 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
What makes him special, though, is how he uses his athleticism.
Antetokounmpo may still be developing his basketball I.Q., leaving him prone to getting beat by backdoor cuts when he falls asleep, but he can often recover and use his long arms either to deflect a pass or to reject a shot.
He already navigates screens expertly, and he shows an uncanny ability to mimic the motions of an offensive player, leaving him as a plus defender on the ball at this young stage of his career. Add in some great instincts when playing help defense, and you're looking at a player who could one day showcase a complete defensive package.
Even though he's quite limited on the offensive end, Antetokounmpo is versatile enough that he possesses a number of skills aiding his transition game. He has a knack for finding the rim and finishing the play, and he also has an uncanny ability to get there on his own.
Despite playing small forward and not creating offense well in a half-court set, the Greek prospect is capable of putting the ball on the floor after pulling down a rebound and leading the charge in transition. From there, he can either finish himself or distribute the ball to a teammate correctly filling a lane.
And, of course, there's that athleticism popping up once more.
Few players in this class are better at finishing transition opportunities with dunks, something that Antetokounmpo did on a regular basis with the 87ers.
Finishes After Catching Passes
Though he won't ever create shots for himself, he can finish plays on the inside and the outside after he receives an on-target pass.
Antetokounmpo has nice instincts as a slasher, filling the proper lanes and positioning himself nicely for an entry pass while he's on the move. And once he corrals the pass, he can elevate quickly—remember, it's important to elevate both high and quickly—so that he can finish at the tin.
But by now, we've established that the Greek forward can dunk.
Also impressive is the potential he shows as a spot-up shooter. Sure, his three-point percentage was only 30.9 percent during his first go-round with Delaware, but he has a stroke that can improve and already looks comfortable in catch-and-shoot situations. It's creating his own triples that can get him in trouble.
Much like his younger brother, the 21-year-old is just an all-around off-ball threat. Lose sight of him for even an instant, and the next time you see him, he could be hanging from the rim or posing after an open three finds the bottom of the net.
To generalize, offense is a weakness for this Antetokounmpo brother.
Sure, he might thrive as an off-ball threat, but that's about it.
Unless he's dunking the ball, he's an awful finisher, as he displays virtually no touch around the basket. Even simple layups can occasionally provide difficulty, and the contested ones are a crapshoot.
According to NBADLeague.com, he made only 39.8 percent of his layups during his one season with the 87ers, and that was actually better than he fared on jumpers. He made only 63 of his 243 jump shots during the 2013-14 campaign, which is only 25.9 percent.
On top of that, he can turn the ball over too frequently, especially when he gets caught in the air, and his handles aren't anything special in the half-court set.
While in Delaware, Antetokounmpo could get by against inferior opponents. He was still going to earn playing time, and he wasn't asked to serve solely as an off-ball threat. But at the sport's highest level, he simply won't earn touches until he proves that he's not as much of a liability on the offensive end of the court.
Right now, even his superb defensive tools aren't enough to outweigh the overall offensive putridity. That could change in the future, but it'll take a lot of hard work.
Antetokounmpo may be drafted by an NBA squad, but he's not ready to contribute right off the bat.
Chances are, he'll spend quite a bit of time honing his skills in the D-League, as he's too much of an offensive liability to earn any playing time in the Association. Think of him as a supremely underdeveloped version of Thabo Sefolosha or Tony Allen, a potential defensive stud who just can't score on a regular basis.
Were he to earn playing time, he'd be able to look like an impressive stopper, even as a rookie. His on-ball defense is already good enough to be above-average at the sport's highest level, and his off-ball instincts aren't far behind.
However, that's not going to happen unless his team's rotation is utterly devoid of two-way players.
This is where it's impossible to avoid comparing Thanasis to Giannis.
The Milwaukee Bucks' Greek Freak is just brimming over with potential, and his upside could easily have him develop into an All-Star—or more—down the road. But the two brothers aren't the same in that regard.
Thanasis' shorter frame, less impressive wingspan and extra two years severely limit his upside. It's still rather significant, as he could turn into a new version of the current Kawhi Leonard down the road, but dreams of All-Star bids are probably exactly that—dreams.
For the elder Antetokounmpo, it's all about shoring up his offensive game, whether that entails honing his jumper, practicing his through-contact finishes around the rim or working on his shot-creating abilities so that he's not entirely dependent on his teammates' passes.
Ideally, he improves all those areas. But don't count on it.