The Cleveland Cavaliers will have the No. 1 overall and No. 33 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft on June 26th. Today, we profile small forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the NBA Developmental League’s Delaware 87ers. Click here for more draft profiles.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Thanasis Antetokounmpo
Position: Small Forward
Team: Delaware 87ers (NBDL)
Age: 21 (Turns 22 on July 17)
Honors: NBA D-League All-Defensive Third Team (2015)
2013-2014 Per Game Stats: 12.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 46.9% FG%, 30.9% 3PT%, 66.3% FT%
Right now, Thanasis Antetokounmpo is known as the brother of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks rookie nicknamed “The Greek Freak”. However that all should change soon. Antetokounmpo is one of many prospects who hopes to hear his name called during the NBA Draft on June 26. After spending last season with the Delaware 87ers of the NBDL, Antetokounmpo is viewed as a second round pick whose athleticism and defensive potential intrigues many scouts. Is he intriguing enough to be selected with the No. 33 pick in the draft? That is what we at Right Down Euclid will try to figure out.
Like his brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo is a physical freak that few players can compare to. He is incredibly quick, which helps makes him deadly in transition. At just over 6’6” Antetokounmpo has a monstrous seven foot wingspan and an 8’8.5” standing reach. This tremendous length, along with a max vertical measured at 39.5” during the NBA Draft Combine, are his greatest assets as a player, and are what makes him a viable NBA prospect.
To say Antetokounpo is raw offensively is as fair a way of putting it as any. It’s fairly unlikely he becomes a real offensive threat at the NBA level. He is dangerous in transition and slashing to the rim, and his athleticism helps him finish about 59 percent of his field goals there. However, the man simply cannot shoot right now, as evidenced by his shooting 66.3 percent from the free throw line, and 30.9 percent from three. One of the main causes for this is an inconsistent release point as Antetokounmpo elevates well on his shots but often releases the ball on the way down. He also struggles off the bounce and is not comfortable shooting unless he is planted in a particular spot. Making matters worse is the fact that he takes far more jump shots, including 3.6 3-pointers per game, that shots at the rim.
If Antetokounmpo is going to have any sort of real career in the NBA, it will be due to his work on the defensive end. He is already a defensive playmaker, averaging 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks in just under 30 minutes per game this season. His length and quickness allow him to cover ground quickly and he moves well laterally while guarding his man. While he typically plays hard on defense, Antetokounmpo does lose focus at times and can either become too straight up in his stance, or simply lose his man on defense due to lack of focus and slow reaction. He is also still learning team defensive concepts and is simply using his natural athleticism to get by. However, after he gets these concepts down, Antetokounmpo has the potential to be a special defender.
Antetokounmpo is known as a hard worker who plays with a great motor overall, although his focus does tend to drift at times. He does not have a great Basketball IQ or natural feel for the game, as evidenced by a poor shot selection in which he takes jumpers (a weakness) far more often than going to the rim (a strength). One hopes that the motor he shows in games translates to practice and he will be highly motivated to improve his weak areas, although at almost 22 years old, Antetokounmpo is one of the oldest players in the draft and unlikely to show as much improvement as the younger prospects.
While many will want to compare Antetokounmpo to his younger brother, the truth is that he simply does not have the upside or feel for the game that Giannis has. Another player I have seen Antetokounmpo compared to is Bruce Bowen, an elite defender with limited offensive skills, although Bowen became a great corner 3-point shooter during his time with the Spurs. That is probably the best case for Antetkounmpo as Bowen had a much higher basketball IQ and tremendous feel for the game. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton says Antetokounmpo’s best comparison is Al-Farouq Aminu, a poor offense player who sticks in his team’s rotation due to his defense and athleticism. Other examples of similar players would be Alonzo Gee and Ronnie Brewer.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
Antetokounmpo will almost definitely be there when the Cavaliers make the No. 33 pick in this year’s draft. With his amazing athleticism, defensive potential, and finishing ability, one can see him at least becoming an Gee-level backup small forward (which does have a place in the NBA, Cavs fans). That being said, this draft is so loaded that the Cavaliers may be able to draft a prospect that is ready to contribute now and has similar upside to Antetokounmpo.