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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: Three-Point Champion is Just a Regular Joe

Joe Harris had his league-wide coming out at All-Star weekend when he shocked fans across the globe in upsetting three-point shootout favorite-Steph Curry.

Drew Maresca

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Joe Harris’ fortunes and those of the Brooklyn Nets appear to be traveling on the same trajectory. Harris’ personality and approach embody the softer side of the Brooklyn Nets’ team persona: he is loyal, hardworking and humble. And while Jared Dudley and DeMarre Carroll provide veteran leadership and Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offer personality, Harris provides a grounded approachability.

No one would blame him, though, if he develops a small ego. After all, Harris just received his formal introduction to the world, having won the NBA’s three-point championship last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s hard to deny that his star is rising.

And yet, Harris seems unaware that his status is rising.

“To be honest, I am solid in my role. That’s what I’m about,” Harris told Basketball Insiders before the Nets’ January 25 game against the Knicks. “I’m pretty realistic with where I view myself as a player. And I have the self-awareness to realize that I’m not a star player in this league by any means. I mean, I’m good in my role and I’m trying to take that to another level and be as complete as I can in my niche role that I have.”

While Harris’ comments could be misinterpreted as a humble brag, they shouldn’t be. He is simply a hard-working player who perhaps doesn’t quite realize everything he adds to his team. But let’s be clear, Harris’ presence absolutely improves the Nets’ play.

Harris boasts the second-best three-point percentage in the NBA (.471) through the first four months of the season; he trails only Victor Olapido and J.J. Reddick for top three-point percentage of all 48 players who have at least 10 “clutch” attempts from long-range and he’s ranked tenth in points per clutch possession (1.379).

He helps space the floor for teammates D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, who take advantage of his long-range acumen by attacking an often less congested pathway to the hoop — and drives account for 53.4 percent of the Nets’ points (third in the entire league).

It is no surprise then that the Nets are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

“At the end of the day we’re just trying to go play good basketball.” Harris said. “The wins are a byproduct of that. It’s about staying locked into this process and how it’s gotten us here regardless of who is on the court.”

Harris’ dedication to the team and its process is becoming more unique each year as players hop from franchise to franchise more frequently than ever before. While Harris only joined the Nets in 2016, he was immediately seen as a key player by the Nets’ leadership, albeit one on a minimum deal – according to Kyle Wagner of the Daily News, Coach Kenny Atkinson saw a lot of Kyler Korver in his game and GM Sean Marks wanted him to study Danny Green.

And while Harris’ 2018-19 stats reflect similar production to the career highs of both of Korver and Green (13.2 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of .622 for Harris versus 14.4 points with an eFG% of .518 for Korver and 11.7 points with an eFG% of .566 for Green), at only 27 years old, he should only continue to improve.

A lot has changed in the two and a half seasons since Harris signed a free agent deal with the Nets, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his character.

“We had various deals that were shorter for more (money),” Harris said. “And some were longer and roughly the same, but this is where I wanted to be and I’m happy it ended up working out.”

Harris ultimately signed a two-year deal for approximately $16 million, which can be viewed as both cashing in, given where he was only two years ago (out of the league), and betting on himself, considering the short-term nature of the contract and his relative youth.

And what’s more, Harris will probably go down as a value signing for the Nets considering his versatility. After all, he is not merely a one-dimensional shooter. In fact, he is actually shooting slightly better than 60 percent on 3.2 attempts per game from the restricted area – which is better than All-Star teammate D’Angelo Russell (53 percent on 2.8 attempts). Further, Harris shoots a fair amount of his three-point attempts above the break, which is to say that he does not rely heavily on the shorter corner threes – which tend to be a more efficient means of scoring (1.16 vs. 1.05 points per possession league-wide from 1998-2018) as they are typically a spot where specialist players lurk awaiting an opening look.

The question is, how much more can we expect to see from Harris in the future? If you ask him, he’d probably undersell you on his ceiling and allude to steady progress that ultimately looks similar to what he’s done recently. But the only thing similar about Harris’ career production is that it has steadily improved – and that’s partially due to his process-oriented approach.

“We talked about it in the midst of the losing streak,” Harris said. “What are you going to change, what are you going to do (when you’re in a slump)? Not that we were going to do the exact same thing, but we felt like we were very process oriented. We felt like we were right there. Our whole thing was about being deliberate and doing it as consistently as possible.”

Harris sees the validity in repeating what works. And he’s figured that out, partially with the help of his teammates. Harris clearly values veteran input and team chemistry.

“You look at our team right now and we have really good veteran presences with Jared and DeMarre and Ed (Davis),” Harris said. “That’s the voice from the leadership standpoint. I’m learning from them just like DLo is. And all the other guys in the locker room are. They’re the guiding presence of what it is to be a professional and they keep everything even keel. They don’t go too low when things are tough, and they don’t let us get too high when things are going well.”

Harris is clearly a little uncomfortable taking credit for his team’s success, and he shies away from the spotlight a bit. He seems to prefer anonymity. But Harris should probably get used to the attention he’s received this season because it will only increase as his profile continues to rise as we enter the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

“He’s not just a shooter,” Atkinson told NBA.com last April. “He’s worked on his drive game, he’s worked on his finishing game. I think he’s worked on his defense. So just a complete player who fits how we want to play. He’s one of our most competitive players. Not a surprise watching, from the first day we had him, how locked in he was, how hungry he was. On top of it, he’s a top, top-ranked human being.”

So expect to see more of Joe Harris this April and beyond, but don’t be surprised by his humility. It’s one aspect about him that won’t change.

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NBA Daily: Danuel House Optimistic About Future

David Yapkowitz speaks to Danuel House about life as a two-way player for the Houston Rockets & what he hopes comes out of his time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

David Yapkowitz

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Opportunity is everything in the NBA. Last season’s implementation of two-way contracts gave a lot more players potential opportunities in the league that may not have been previously available.

One player who has used two-way contracts to showcase himself and really prove that he belongs in the NBA is Danuel House Jr.

House actually began his career two years ago as an undrafted rookie with the Washington Wizards. However, he suffered a wrist injury only about a month into the 2016-17 season.

He was subsequently cut by the Wizards and used the summer to heal up before joining the Houston Rockets for training camp prior to the start of last season. He ended up being one of the final cuts in camp, and he joined the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

His strong play earned him a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns after only two months of G League play. This year, he rejoined the Vipers, only to earn another two-way contract with the Rockets. Having had some experience now with a two-way, it’s something that House sees as being beneficial.

“It’s got its good perks and its bad perks. But then the NBA is just trying to open more doors for more guys to be seen and have an opportunity,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s a good idea, it’s gonna work the kinks out so it can be more beneficial to the players. It’s still new and it’s still trending and working itself through the NBA.”

This season has been a bit of a whirlwind for House. He initially joined the Golden State Warriors for training camp, only to have them cut him before the start of the season. After spending about a month with the Vipers, the Rockets called him up, only to cut him and then eventually re-sign him to a two-way deal.

Due to injuries in the Rockets lineup, House saw meaningful minutes right away, even being placed in Houston’s starting lineup. He had some solid performances down the stretch of last season with the Suns, but this season he really looked the part of a legitimate NBA rotation player.

When a player signs a two-way deal, they are allotted a maximum of 45 days of NBA service, meaning that the rest of the time they must remain in the G League. If a player exceeds the 45-day limit, they must be sent back down to the G League unless they’re able to reach an agreement on a standard contract with the NBA team.

Because of the Rockets’ necessity of House in the rotation, he used up his NBA days last month. He and the Rockets were unable to agree on a contract, so he returned to the G League with the Vipers. While there haven’t been many updates as of late, he’s still hopeful that something can work out with the Rockets.

“Hopefully I can go back to Houston and compete for a title. There’s nothing like learning from James [Harden] and Chris Paul, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon and those guys,” House told Basketball Insiders. “And now with the additions of [Iman] Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, I’m just excited to hopefully get something done so I can be out there and competing with those guys.”

Initially, House wasn’t playing with the Vipers upon returning to the team. But he made his return to the court a few weeks ago on Feb 8. In that game, House shook off some initial rust and ended up having a solid performance including hitting the game-winning free-throws.

In the past, the G League was often times seen as a punishment for NBA players. The league didn’t have that great of a reputation, but over the past few years that image has started to change. The competition has gotten a lot stronger, and according to House, there are plenty of guys who are that close to making it to the NBA.

“The competition here is real. There’s a lot of dudes out here that got a lot of talent that they can showcase. They just want their one opportunity, their one chance that I was so fortunate and blessed with,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I know not to come out here and take it for granted, that’s why I’m playing hard and of course still trying to be a student of the game and learn.”

Recently, during a media availability session, Rockets star and perennial MVP candidate James Harden expressed hope that the Rockets and House could work something out. Harden told reporters that they all know how good House is and what he brings to the team.

In 25 games for the Rockets this season – including 12 starts – House put up nine points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. He’s in the mold of a three-and-D type player, but he also moves well without the ball on cuts to the rim and can attack the basket as well.

“My role was to play defense and make the right read,” House told Basketball Insiders. “Shoot when I’m open, drive, attack the rack, and run the floor. Of course, defend and rebound and make good reads. It was easy.”

As it stands, the Rockets have 12 players on their roster, and a pair of two-way deals for House and Vincent Edwards. House is not eligible to rejoin the Rockets until the G League season concludes. Even then, he won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs as per two-way deal restrictions.

The Rockets will need to add at least two players to get up to the league-mandated 14 players on the roster. House would appear to be a good candidate for one of those spots, but that remains to be seen. But regardless of whether or not it works out in Houston, House is confident that he’s done enough to prove he belongs in the NBA.

“It gave me the utmost confidence, but my hard work, my passion, and my faith in the man upstairs gave me the ability. I asked him to guide me through the journey and he’s been taking care of me,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so grateful that the opportunities and I used my ability to perform and do something I love to take care of my family.”

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PODCAST: Checking In On Clippers & Lakers, East Arms Race, Warriors’ Challengers

Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

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