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An Insider’s Look at Kostas Antetokounmpo

Spencer Davies looks at the prospects of Kostas Antetokounmpo at the next level through the eyes of a staffer who once worked with him.

Spencer Davies

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The last name “Antetokounmpo” is an attention grabber.

When you hear it, you immediately think of the most impressive athletic specimen in all of basketball, and maybe even sports, period. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ All-Star forward and literal “Greek Freak,” has opened the world’s eyes since coming into the NBA and making his presence felt.

However, he’s not the only one in the family that has the chops to play the game.

His oldest brother, Thanasis, is currently overseas after spending a brief time in the New York Knicks organization a couple of seasons ago.

His youngest brother, Alexis, is making a big name for himself at Dominican High School in Milwaukee and is rapidly growing with each year—in size and in skill.

And then there’s the fourth brother in the family, Kostas, who is out to prove that he has a whole lot to offer at the professional level despite those doubting him.

“I feel that a lot of people think that I’m less talented than I am,” Antetokounmpo said at the NBA Combine in Chicago. “I feel like I’m more talented. I haven’t really gotten the chance to really show it yet, but I feel like when the chance comes, everybody’s gonna be surprised.”

Aiming For The Pros

In two years at The University of Dayton, Antetokounmpo did not see all that much playing time, at least consistently. He played just one season in college, with only seven games where he was on the floor for over 20 minutes.

Then-Flyers head coach Archie Miller recruited Antetokounmpo and redshirted him as soon as he arrived due to being ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA.

According to a former Dayton staffer when he was a freshman, Antetokounmpo had his sights solely set on reaching the professional ranks from the jump.

“Obviously had his eyes on getting to the next level as quick as possible,” the staffer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Basketball Insiders of redshirting Antetokounmpo.

“I know he was not thinking long-term college. I think he was thinking two and done. That was kinda our plan with him with the redshirt year, so you’re looking at three years. And that was kinda like the timetable we gave him. If things went super well for him and he had a chance to make it, we were certainly gonna push him out the door.”

There were plenty of things that stood out to the staff at Dayton when Antetokounmpo first joined the team. They weren’t things you’d typically expect skill-wise, but it was rather more about his measurables and wingspan that truly wowed them.

“Just his length,” the staffer said. “Like he’s just able to cover so much ground so quickly. Whether that’s coming over help side in the lane, to block a shot on the weak side or it’s a shot fake, one-dribble from the NBA three-point line to the basket and he dunks on you. I think just his overall length was kinda like, ‘Woah, he can cover a lot of ground.’ He can be disruptive on defense. That type of stuff.

“It wasn’t necessarily like, ‘This guy could shoot the ball, he can dribble.’ It was like, ‘This dude’s super raw, his potential is sky-high and he is super long.’”

A Change Of Pace

While he was redshirting, Antetokounmpo put a ton of time into getting better as a shooter, something he still needs to prove he can consistently do. On top of that, his stability was not the best. Posting on the block or coming off ball screens, when others players would make contact with Antetokounmpo, he’d be thrown off balance.

The objective in mind for the Flyers program was to help bring Antetokounmpo along over time, but it didn’t happen exactly as he thought it would. Fresh off yet another successful season and a regular season conference championship, Miller took an opportunity to coach at Indiana University.

Former Virginia Commonwealth and Alabama University head coach Anthony Grant was hired as Miller’s replacement. It not only changed the direction at Dayton, but it also altered the development and comfortability of Antetokounmpo.

“It’s very difficult,” the staffer said of playing for different coaches. “It was a tough situation for him because we had a detailed plan of how we were gonna get him better and all that type of stuff and then coach took a different job.

“There’s a lot of trust that goes into coming to a program and knowing the coaching staff. When somebody leaves and somebody new comes in. You have a lot of questions. You have a lot of uncertainties. So there’s a lot of different variables that can go into it.”

Admittedly, the staffer thought that Antetokounmpo would have seen the floor more last year if Miller was still at the helm.

“I’m sure we would’ve tried to utilize him more than they did,” the staffer said. “Nonetheless, it is what it is. What happened, happened. I know last year was kinda a struggle with him with coach Grant and how they used him. I’m not exactly sure what happened there. Two different stories from both sides.”

Family Values And Persistence

Regardless of whatever difficulties come his way, Antetokounmpo’s work ethic is top-notch. From staying in the gym late at night with a manager to constantly working on his body and sticking to a strict diet plan, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals and improve.

It’s a quality that reflects a real influence from Giannis, who has constantly mentored his brothers with advice since their childhood – so him being there to support Kostas at the combine meant a lot to his little brother.

“It was really important,” Antetokounmpo said of Giannis attending. ‘Him just being there and just seeing him—I haven’t seen him in a while, so it just made me feel real good.

“He just told me play as hard as you can. You’re not gonna make every shot, but just play as hard as you can. You can get knocked down, but get up and play as hard as you can.”

As mentioned before, the family name is recognizable across the world by now due to the superstardom of Giannis. Of course, with that will come comparisons between the two, and probably Alexis, down the road.

But Kostas knew right away the talk would surface and that he’d be a bullseye for competition.

“I feel like you can’t get caught up in that stuff, you feel me?” Antetokounmpo said. “Like, any player that’s coming up now—like every player—they’re gonna compare you to somebody. At the end of the day, you just gotta be yourself, just play your game and just show the people what you can do.

“Most of the times I got a target on my back, but you can’t do nothing. Any way you go, it’s gonna be the same thing. I tell my younger brother [Alexis] the same thing. In high school everybody’s coming for you. They’ll maybe try to foul you, talk to you, talk trash and stuff, but just keep playing. Just zone out and keep playing.”

Brothers, But Different Players

While Kostas and Giannis share the same last name, they do not share the same game. Their repertoire and style of play do not match on another. In fact, putting the two in the same breath is unheard of for where the 20-year-old is at compared to a near-MVP in his older brother.

“Anybody who thinks he’s the next Greek Freak 2.0 is mistaken because he’s not,” the staffer said. “It’s unfair to him because he has the pressure on his shoulders, but he’s just not at the stage to even be in the same conversation as his brother.

“I don’t think it’s fair to ever compare the two. They’re just two completely different people and different players.”

It’s pretty easy to support this argument. Giannis had much more of an audience that was captivated by his time overseas. Between experiences with professional ball club Filathlitikos and experience in the under-20 championships in FIBA for his native country of Greece, he was a projected first-round pick.

While Kostas also briefly played for the same professional team in Greece under the junior program, he didn’t have the opportunity to garner the same experience as his older brother did. So instead, when the family moved to Milwaukee, he played high school ball and was recruited by Miller.

With that said, it is fair to liken their respective physical frames to one another. As an 18-year-old going into the 2013 NBA Draft, Giannis was 6-foot-9 and 196 pounds. Two years older than what his brother was entering the field, Kostas measured in at 6-foot-10-and-a-half inches in height and weighed in at about 195 pounds.

“His body is a little underdeveloped still,” the staffer said. “He’s probably still growing into it. You talk to professionals and big time strength program coaches, they kinda look at his body as a blank canvas that can go a lot of different ways just given his genetics and seeing how his brother’s really filled out.

“But I think the more that, [once] he’s able to grow and get stronger and put on a little more weight, I just think his game will continue to develop and overall mature his game.”

Draft Prospects?

If you look at most mock drafts that are out there, not many of them have Antetokounmpo on the list. There may be some you come across that predict he gets taken at the tail end of the second round, but many people seem to believe he’ll go undrafted.

The staffer told Basketball Insiders that if a team does take a chance on Antetokounmpo with a pick, it will be “a little bit of a risk” due to the minuscule sample size there is with his game. Though, he can see a scenario where he’s selected in the fifties or signs a two-way contract that allows him to develop in the G-League.

“It’s easier to make a decision on somebody when you have 30 games to watch, how they compete and play against other pros whereas Kostas was playing 12-15 minutes in the Atlantic-10 not playing against too many other pros,” he said.

By the same token, there’s a probability that the organization that brings Antetokounmpo in will be happy with his self-starting attitude. Between how he approaches his day-to-day routine and how close he is with his family, who he is as a person is what truly separates him.

“I just think he has a lot of internal motivators that will drive him,” the staffer said. “I’m really curious to see what happens. I’m really excited to see how things will pan out for him.”

Antetokounmpo believes that his strongest suit he can bring to the floor is his athleticism, being a floor runner and establishing a reputation as a shot blocker.

The staffer agreed with his notion that he’s better than what he did in one season at Dayton.

“I think some people—whoever will take him—people may question like you’re taking a guy who’s not really proven or didn’t too much in college, but I think his potential is the most intriguing part,” the staffer said. “You can see the confidence he has in himself. I think it’s gonna take the right system and the right coach and the right people around him to get out the best in him.”

He might not have gotten the opportunity to prove himself much on the college stage, but it certainly sounds like Antetokounmpo will be able to rectify that at the professional level.

And if he ever gets to share the same floor as his siblings, his fantasy will have become a reality.

“Playing against all my brothers,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s our dream, just playing against each other or even playing on the same team.”

Spencer Davies is an NBA writer based in Cleveland in his first year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past two seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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NBA Daily: Warriors Depth Shines on Opening Night

The Warriors have lost some key veterans but opening night showed they still have the depth to reign supreme, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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With the Golden State Warriors emerging victorious on ring night behind big performances from Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, and the summer addition of DeMarcus Cousins, it’s easy to see why many have penciled them in for a three-peat.

When Cousins returns to the court, the Warriors will be able to play a lineup of five All-Stars with Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. With all of that star talent they possess, it’s easy to overlook the surrounding depth that they’ve managed to accumulate.

A successful organization like the Warriors becomes successful because they have a great front office in place who can identify talent and a good coaching staff who can develop that talent. Having superstars in place certainly helps, but all championship teams need to have that key depth.

Last night, the Warriors showed that they don’t just consist of their superstars, they’ve got some weapons on the team that are very capable of having big nights of their own.

The past few seasons, the Warriors depth in the frontcourt consisted of older veterans such as Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee and David West. Pachulia and McGee signed elsewhere while West retired. With Cousins still recovering, that leaves the majority of the frontcourt minutes to younger, more inexperienced players such as Damion Jones and Kevon Looney.

Neither Jones nor Looney has seen much action during their first few seasons in the league. Looney had his fourth-year contract option declined a year ago, and this summer he received very little interest in free agency before re-signing with the Warriors. Prior to last night, it seemed as if Jones would follow the same fate as the team has until Oct. 31 to pick up his fourth-year option.

If last night was any indication, however, the Warriors would be wise to keep both around for as long as possible.

Making his first ever career start, Jones passed his initial test. He looked like a perfect compliment to the Warriors All-Stars. He ran the pick and roll to perfection, finishing with 12 points on 6-7 shooting from the field. He can finish around the rim, and he also had three assists.

Defensively, he blocked three shots and matched up well with Steven Adams all night.

Coming off the bench, Looney had a productive game of his own. He had a double-double with ten points and ten rebounds. Eight of his rebounds came on the offensive end, helping the Warriors gain extra possessions. He also had two assists and two blocked shots.

Both big men, Jones in particular since he’s the starter, will have a few more tests coming up as the Warriors travel to Utah and Denver. Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic await them. It will be interesting to see how they respond to that. For the duration that Cousins remains out, the Warriors will be relying quite a bit on their young big men.

Should either one falter at any point, the Warriors still have Jordan Bell waiting in the wings. Bell proved to be a second-round steal last season, but only saw six minutes of action on opening night. Bell brings a bit of a different skill set to the table than Jones and Looney. He’s a versatile big who can guard multiple positions.

As the season goes on, what was once thought of as an area of weakness for the Warriors, might turn out to be a position of strength. And if that occurs, that bodes ill for the rest of the league.

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NBA Daily: Instant Reactions From Day One

With the NBA beginning its new season last night, Matt John analyzes all that’s happened so far in the season’s first two NBA games.

Matt John

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The NBA is BACK everybody!

After an agonizing five-month wait, the 2018-2019 season was born Tuesday night. As always, the NBA likes to start off the season with only two games, but with four teams who should play a big role in how this season turns out.

This year, it was Boston against Philadelphia and Golden State against Oklahoma City. The best part about it is that, this time, nobody had to leave with a season-ending leg injury five minutes into the game, so it’s already better than last year’s opening night!

Now, of course, it’s a long season – which to every NBA junkie is a good thing – but since we only got a taste of what this year could bring, it’s only appropriate to air out some knee-jerk reactions after day one of the new NBA year.

Some of these reactions will be about the players. Others will be about the team in general.

Game One: Boston Celtics 105, Philadelphia 76ers 87

The Atlantic Division rivals had a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. Despite what the final score may say, this was a tight game until Boston pulled away in the fourth. Both teams had the jitters, as the very first shot this season was an airball three-point attempt by Robert Covington. Boston missed its first five shot attempts, and Philadelphia made only one of its first six tries.

When both finally shook off the rust, it was a game of runs. When one team got going, the other followed suit. The Celtics may have led for most of the game, but the Sixers refused to back down.

What’s to think of how these teams did in their season opener? Let’s take a look.

Philadelphia 76ers

  • Ben Simmons looked every bit like the reigning Rookie of the Year. In 43 minutes, Simmons put up a near-triple-double, scoring 19 points, corralling 15 rebounds and dishing out eight assists. He didn’t do much to disprove the skeptics who constantly point at his almost non-existent jump shot, but Simmons is such a freight train in transition that it might not even matter.
  • Joel Embiid put up a usual Joel Embiid stat line – 23 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, but he coughed up five turnovers and even committed a frustration foul or two. Aron Baynes and Al Horford always seem to give Embiid fits because they make him earn his buckets. If the Sixers hope to get past the Celtics, Embiid has to overcome their pesky defense.
  • Markelle Fultz looked a bit out of place. Putting up five points on 2-for-7 shooting, committing three turnovers and recording the lowest plus-minus with a minus-16 isn’t a good look for him. Still, he wasn’t a complete disaster, and Philadelphia knows he’s a work in progress.
  • The real disaster for the Sixers was their turnovers. Philadelphia led the league in turnovers last year with 16.4 per game. If they hope to improve on that, Tuesday night wasn’t the best start, as they surrendered 16 giveaways.
  • As talented as they are, the Sixers have some holes that need to be filled, primarily with their shooting. Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova gave the Sixers more floor spacing to help them go on that late-season surge last season. With them gone, the Sixers might have a spacing problem if neither Mike Muscala nor Wilson Chandler fills the void.

Boston Celtics

  • Coming into the season, many believed the Celtics’ calling card would be their depth, and the opening game showed why. The most notable statistic for them: Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward combined for 6-for-26 from the field, yet Boston still won by 18 points against a team many believe will be its toughest opponent in the conference.
  • While Irving looked off his game, Hayward definitely looked rusty. It’s been said that Hayward still lacks explosion off his left foot, and it definitely looked that way. Still, Hayward hit a few long jumpers and showed hustle and great defense. Even if he won’t be 100 percent from the get-go, the Celtics can afford to be patient.
  • Another telling statistic: The Celtics top nine rotation guys were in the game on a range from 19 to 30 minutes. If this is is what their minutes output will look like this season, then the Celtics’ stamina will be at an unfairly high level when the playoffs come around.
  • Both Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier continue to prove that their performance from last postseason was no fluke. Tatum continued to demolish any defender Philadelphia threw at him. Rozier, on the other hand, played well enough that Brad Stevens decided to go with him in the finishing lineup instead of Irving. To be fair, Irving couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
  • The Celtics’ versatility also shined. Their starting lineup was Irving, Tatum, Hayward, Horford, and Jaylen Brown. To start the second half, they replaced Hayward with Baynes. Before Philadelphia waved the white flag, the Celtics’ finishing lineup was Horford, Hayward, Tatum, Rozier, and Marcus Smart. Should they stay healthy, the Celtics have limitless options.

Game Two: Golden State Warriors 108, Oklahoma City Thunder 100

We got round three of Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant. The only problem? No Westbrook, as he sat out to rest his knee. Despite missing both Westbrook and Andre Roberson, the Thunder made the Warriors work for the win. Though the game looked like a typical Warriors route in the beginning, the Thunder impressively kept up with the reigning NBA champions until the very end.

The Warriors won because, well, they’re the Warriors. They’re a ridiculously talented team that shouldn’t be slowing down anytime soon. Although, this matchup should become all the tighter when the Thunder become fully healthy. Onto the reactions!

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • The headline for these guys: Moral Victory. OKC gave Golden State all they could handle – even taking the lead at one point – down to the final minute. That’s not an easy task when you’re down your best player and arguably your best defender. Even if the season started with a loss, the Thunder can only build off of this.
  • Goodness, the Thunder might just be the most athletic team in the league. Aside from world-class athletes such as Westbrook and Paul George, OKC has some high-flyers including Terrance Ferguson, Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel and Hamidou Diallo. No matter how good they’ll be this season, we should brace ourselves for some exciting dunks from the Thunder this season.
  • Props should go to George, Steven Adams, and Dennis Schroder for not backing down in their time of adversity – especially Schroder. Filling in for a former MVP candidate on a good team is no easy task, so his performance should really excite Thunder fans.
  • While the Thunder are in salary cap hell and it may be difficult, they need to do everything in their power to get more shooting. Last season they tied for No. 24 in three-point shooting percentage at 35.4 percent from deep. The only team that ranked lower was the Spurs. If they want to make noise, they need a pure shooter on that team. It could open up so many possibilities for them.
  • Billy Donovan could find himself on the hot seat this season. Since Kevin Durant’s departure, the Thunder have only mustered three playoff wins in the last two years. Now that George is committed long-term and the Thunder have re-tooled, he has to feel good about himself after their game against the Warriors.

Golden State Warriors

  • No matter how much fans outside of the Bay Area hate them together, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant make beautiful basketball together. On their ring night opener at Oracle Arena, they combined for 59 points on 20-for-41 shooting and 15 assists. It may be frustrating, but it has always been a spectacle. Even if this is the last year they play together, Durant and Curry should go down as one of the league’s most potent scoring duos to ever play together.
  • Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Klay Thompson or Draymond Green – at least in regards to this game. Neither of them was impressive to start the season. Thompson had 15 points on 5-for-20 shooting, including 1-for-8 from the perimeter. Green had two points on 1-for-6 shooting with six turnovers. His 13 rebounds made up for it, but it still was not his best performance.
  • Who would have guessed that centers Damian Jones and Kevon Looney would play a big part in the Warriors toppling the Thunder? The two of them combined for 22 points and 13 rebounds on 11-for-18 shooting. If either of them has a legitimate role on the team, then the Warriors may have more frontcourt depth than we might’ve thought.
  • It feels weird to say that the Warriors aren’t actually fully healthy at the moment with DeMarcus Cousins out indefinitely. It’s almost as if him being on the team is overkill. Though the Warriors’ act has grown tiresome, thinking of what this team could be with Cousins should excite any basketball junkie out there.

Overall, it was a satisfactory day one for the young season. The biggest takeaway is that the NBA has returned, which should make everyone as giddy as can be.

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NBA Daily: What’s Next In Portland And Orlando?

With the passing of Rich DeVos in Orlando and Paul Allen in Portland, what’s next for those franchises?

Steve Kyler

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What’s Next In Portland And Orlando?

The NBA lost two massively influential owners this year in Orlando’s Rich DeVos and yesterday’s news of the passing of Blazers’ owner Paul Allen.

While it’s early in the process, there is a growing sense in both situations that the teams both titans owned will likely change hands in the not so distant future.

Here is what we know at this point:

In Orlando’s case, the team’s ownership was moved into a family trust some time ago, with the prevailing hope from the elder DeVos that the team would stay in the family after his passing. The team is currently controlled by Dan DeVos, who is chairman and governor of the team.

DeVos has said recently that the family has no intentions of selling the team, yet there are not very many in NBA circles believe that will be the case in the longer term.

The Magic are one of the teams to watch in terms of changing owners, however, they are not a team that can relocate given the very restrictive lease terms they agreed to when they landed their arena deal.

Another factor with the future of the Magic is the massive development taking place across from the Amway Arena that’s been led by the current Magic ownership. The project is just getting underway, and league sources believe the value of the Magic franchise could take a big jump up once that project is finished.

There has been talk for some time in NBA circles that current Clippers head coach Doc Rivers would have interest in an ownership stake in the Magic should the team become available. The same is true of NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, who currently has a minority stake in the Sacramento Kings. O’Neal has been vocal over the years that he’s ready to talk should the Magic hit the market.

In Portland’s case, obviously, the news of Paul Allen’s sudden passing makes the Blazers future murky. Allen’s holding company Vulcan Inc. technically owns the team, and the belief is nothing will change on that front in the short term.

As John Canzano chronicled for the Oregonian, Allen’s sister Jody is his closest surviving relative and there is a sense she may not want to own the Blazers in the medium-term.

Bert Kolde, who is Vice Chairman of the Trail Blazers, will continue to run the day to day aspects of the business according to reports and insiders. There is some concern that, with Allen’s passing, the unlimited green light to spend and acquire assets that had become so common under Allen’s leadership may not be as aggressive.

During the summer, one insider commented that the Blazers were always active in trying to move around for draft picks and assets and never afraid to leverage cash to get things done. That may change with Allen’s passing.

If the Blazers hit the market, and many expect that they might in the near term, it’s believed re-locating the franchise wouldn’t be a consideration, especially with how successful Portland has been as a smaller NBA media market.

One thing to keep in mind is that, with NBA franchise valuations well over the $1 billion mark, a fast transaction in either team’s situation isn’t likely.

As with all things in the NBA, these are fluid situations, especially with the Blazers – so both will be situations to watch.

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