The fascination surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo is at an all-time high. The young Greek stud for the Milwaukee Bucks has a smile to die for, plus a unique game that doesn’t come around often. Standing at 6-9 (and still growing), Giannis has a 7-3 wingspan that makes him a once-in-a-blue-moon player. He can shoot the ball from deep, attack the rim like a charged-up rhino and affect the defensive side of the ball like a seven-foot shotblocker. Giannis Antetokounmpo has put the NBA on notice this season, but there’s more to this family tree of Greek Freaks.
Enter Thanasis Antetokounmpo, a forward playing for the Delaware 87ers (Philadelphia 76ers D-League affiliate) of the NBA Development League. Believe it or not, Thanasis is actually the older brother of Giannis–Thanasis being 21 years old while Giannis is 19. Thanasis made the decision to join the NBA Development League rather than playing in Greece after dropping out of the 2013 NBA Draft at the last second. With Thanasis playing in the states, NBA GMs can easily scout him or watch tape. Combine this with the explosion of Giannis Antetokounmpo and this has catapulted Thanasis as one of the more intriguing prospects in the 2014 NBA Draft. Here’s a nice introduction if you’ve never heard of him… which shows him dunking over three people.
For starters, Thanasis is 6-7, two inches shorter than his brother. Even though Giannis is taller, Thanasis possesses the same massive hands, incredible length and jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism. Much like Giannis, any NBA GM selecting Thanasis must realize he is a project that is still incredibly raw and will take time to develop. But, his upside is ridiculously high. His first season in the D-League hasn’t produced eye-popping numbers, but the raw athleticism and talent is undeniable. In 35 games in the D-League this season, Thanasis is averaging 9.9 points and 3.7 rebounds, shooting 42 percent from the floor and 26 percent from deep. Like I said, Thanasis is still incredibly raw as a prospect. He won’t be drafted on his immediate impact to the NBA. The team that drafts him will have visions of the powerful dunks and ability to swat shots into the rafters much like his brother has produced in his rookie season.
Taking a look at Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s shot chart will cause some concern. This shot chart looks more like an exploding volcano than a nice green pasture, which is what people would rather see. But, it’s called the Development League for a reason. With a prospect as raw as Thanasis, there are very distinct strengths and weaknesses. Thanasis has had difficulties shooting the ball from deep, which he will need to improve if he wants to be an impact player in the NBA. Many times when I’ve watched Thanasis play this season, he’s settled for way too many jumpers instead of using his innate freakish athleticism to get to the rack and the line. Regardless, he’s only shooting 66.1 percent from the line this season. Obviously, his offensive game needs a lot of work, but Thanasis is a diamond in the rough that need’s some polishing.
The most glaring concern about Thanasis are his inconsistencies in the scoring category. Some games he looks like he could be an NBA bench contributor today, then he disappears and has a few forgettable game, like his most recent stretch. Three games ago, on February 7, Thanasis had one of his best performances of his young career, scoring 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting and 5-for-7 from deep. Thanasis also recorded three blocks, three steals and three assists. This was Antetokounmpo’s best game in a streak of five straight games that saw him shoot 50 percent or better from the field.
Then, the next three games happened. Thanasis played less than 25 minutes in each of the games after playing 34 minutes in the victory against Tulsa on February 7. His point totals of his last three games are zero, two and two. He made zero shots from the field in the first game and shot 20 percent from the field in his last two games, also going 0-for-9 from deep in these past three games. That performance against Tulsa on February 7, where Thanasis scored 19 points, was something NBA GMs are praying becomes consistent, as he continually develops for the rest of the season. With Thanasis already being 21 years of age, his learning curve will be substantially shorter than that of his brothers–making every performance go under the microscope for his NBA Draft potential.
Even though Giannis holds about two inches on his brother, Thanasis picks up the edge in speed. His first step is lightning quick, coupled with his ability to go up extremely strong to the rack makes a deadly combination when he’s focused. Thanasis is a terror in transition, scoring 0.98 PPP, which accounts for 25.1 percent of his offense (per DraftExpress). Plus, he has the ability to do things like this:
While his brother holds the edge in being able to play amongst the trees and defend the rim, Thanasis Antetokounmpo is no slouch in that category. He still has incredible length, which gives him potential to be an excellent on-ball defender. Because he is quicker than Giannis, Thanasis has the ability to cover guards in the NBA, something his brother can’t do with the same success. His insane length, although shorter than his brother’s, still makes him a terror in passing lanes and bothering jump shooters. Check out this hustle play to defend a two-on-one fast break all by himself:
Thanasis’ shooting has been inconsistent at times this season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t shoot. His jump shot is more fluid and comes out quicker than his brother’s. Exhibit A is this video where Thanasis shoots five three-pointers, most from catch-and-shoot opportunities, and buries each one.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo harnesses the intangibles of the game of basketball, which can’t be tracked by statistics. He will hustle in transition, both on offense and defense–something that appears to be a lost art in the NBA today. His offensive consistencies have been harped on, however, Thanasis has the ability to affect the game in so many more areas than scoring.
There’s a certain energy and hustle that he brings to the game, that makes him dangerous as a cutter, slasher and workhorse on defense. He works best on offense when cutting to the rim and using his elite athleticism to finish at the rim. Often times after completing an and-one or knocking down a big shot, Thanasis will pump his fist and show his passion for the game. Thanasis will never suffer from a lack of passion for basketball. In a league dominated by contracts and dollar signs, seeing a young person that just loves the game is a breath of fresh air. Even if Thanasis Antetokounmpo is having an off-night, scoring wise, he still has the ability to be a complete energy and hustle player. He reminds me a lot of Thaddeus Young.
His low shooting percentage, coupled with the above video, obviously highlight the problems Thanasis has with being productive consistently. If Thanasis can become a consistent shooter, which he has shown the potential for, his upside will raise through the roof. His upside is already ridiculously high, but the development of his offensive game will take it to another level. The success that Giannis has had in Milwaukee is making NBA GMs salivate at being able to get another chance at an Antetokounmpo brother. With good reason too–watching Thanasis makes it clear why he’s worth a gamble as a second-round pick. DraftExpress’ mock draft has Thanasis Antetokounmpo being selected with the 24th pick of the second round to the Philadelphia 76ers–the big brother of his D-League team, the Delaware 87ers. Being 21 is the main reason why he’s looking at a second-round selection instead of a first, even though the upside is sky high for Thanasis. That selection to the 76ers would make sense, since the Sixers and the 87ers work with Thanasis daily and see his development. Plus, being under a play development specialist like Brett Brown would be the best option for his future. His age might affect his draft position, but all that means is that some NBA team is committing bank robbery for getting a player like Thanasis in the second round.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo could quickly become as popular as his brother by the time the 2014 NBA Draft rolls around–he even dunked over him during the NBA D-League’s Slam Dunk Contest this weekend. Thanasis Antetokounmpo is looking to make a name for himself, proving how dangerous the name Antetokounmpo can be in the NBA for years to come. There are more brothers behind Giannis and Thanasis too, so don’t worry, the name Antetokounmpo will be something that everyone will be familiar with sooner or later.
What do you think?
Follow Drew on Twitter at @dcorrigan50.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.