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A Two-Way Disservice in the Drafting of One Greek Prospect



Several factors play into the future success of an NBA Draftee, far beyond the talent of the player being selected. In rare cases does one’s ability transcend the situation their new team is in. It takes a truly special player to single-handedly carry a struggling team out of the lottery depths and into playoffs contention despite the horrid position the team once resided in. Most players, especially ones drafted later on as question marks who hope to develop into capable players, need to be placed in the right situation in order for them in order to tap their potential. You think Kawhi Leonard would become the player he is today having to fight for minutes with Danny Granger and Paul George on the Pacers? Being traded to the Spurs was a gift from the basketball gods. The same cannot be said for Giannis Adetokunbo, who both voluntarily and involuntarily finds himself in a bleak and tough spot as an NBA rookie.

The Milwaukee Bucks selected Giannis Adetokunbo with the 15th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and both sides of the event have utterly mistreated and demolished the engagement.

First, a look at the prospect that is Adetokunbo. From DraftExpress’s Jonathan Givony:

“Adetokunbo stands out first and foremost thanks to the tremendous physical profile he brings to the table. He has great size at 6-9, 196 pounds, to go along with a developed upper body and an overall terrific frame that should fill out considerably in time. His wingspan has reportedly been measured at 7-3, but perhaps most interesting is the size of his hands, as he’s able to palm the ball like a grapefruit which helps him out considerably as a passer, ball-handler and finisher.

Adetokunbo still hasn’t reached his full potential as an athlete, which makes sense if you consider he turned 18 three months ago and has grown a little over three inches in the past ten months—and still might not be done growing.

The competition level is indeed nothing to write home about, but it’s difficult not to be taken aback by the incredibly versatile skill-set Adetokunbo brings to the table at 6-9.

Adetokunbo’s long strides and great length allow him to finish his moves in a variety of ways around the basket. He’s largely right-hand dependent, though, and will need to continue to improve his strength and explosiveness to finish over the top of better defenses than he’s facing at the moment.

Adetokunbo’s perimeter shooting ability is not as refined as his passing and ball-handling skills. While his shooting mechanics are relatively consistent, and he’s capable of making shots with both his feet set and off the dribble, he sports a low release point and is not a knock down shooter when left open.

Defensively is where Adetokunbo might have the best potential considering the superior size and length he brings to the table at his position—likely small forward. He’s not very consistent in this area yet, as he lacks significant experience, is not physical enough keeping a body on opponents and fighting through screens, and plays too upright on the perimeter. The instincts he displays here are very intriguing though, as he shows good anticipation on the defensive glass and is capable of making his presence felt in the passing lanes and as a shot-blocker.

The biggest thing holding Adetokunbo back at the moment is his lack of experience. He’s a late bloomer who did not have the benefit of growing up playing against other top international talents his age in the various FIBA competitions over the years. Similar to many young prospects still growing into their frames, he’s not incredibly physical at the moment, and is not immune from showing questionable decision making in the half-court. He is at times so focused on getting his teammates involved that he can be appear to lack somewhat of a killer instinct, and his average perimeter shooting ability and defensive prowess could surely become more of an issue against higher level competition if he does not improve in these areas.”

With his raw defensive and shooting mechanics and some bulking up to do, Adetokunbo was thought to be a long-term payoff if drafted as a project to develop. As he is at the moment, no one believes he can be a half-decent NBA player. Except, Adetokunbo has no interest in remaining patient and further working on his game for a year or two outside of the NBA. From ESPN’s Chad Ford via Twitter:

“Giannis Adetokunbo inisisting he won’t go back to Greece next year. Wants to be in NBA now. That’s scaring teams away in the lottery.”

For some reason, Adetokunbo has no intention of developing his game until he’s capable of performing to NBA standards. There seems to be an issue of self-awareness here, until you look at this quote by Adetokunbo following his being drafted:

“We struggled a lot in the past to have a better life, and now that I get drafted in the NBA, for sure we’re going to have a better life. And I think now my mother and my father at home, they will be very happy to see me drafted, because four years in sadness and poverty is very difficult.”

Adetokunbo’s family had significant financial troubles while he was growing up into the potential NBA talent the Bucks saw on Draft night, but there are other ways to make money outside of the NBA. While the Euroleague isn’t paying their players figures the NBA is, they’re not leaving them to starve either. By declining to play overseas, Giannis put his family first – the right thing in most situations – only he could very well put them at later risk if he isn’t able to pave a strong NBA career.

A combination of this and his being drafted by the Bucks makes his journey to NBA-level player all the more difficult. The Bucks went ahead and drafted this prospect, who’s well known as a long-term project, not an immediate impact. Meanwhile Milwaukee, desperate for talent that can provide a boost to a depleted team with little free-agent intrigue, would in most cases be better off picking the latter. Instead, they throw a raw, potential-pack youngster into a transitioning and rebuilding roster without a stable foundation for improvement.

Adetokunbo could have gotten away with being tossed into the meat grinder if he would accept going to play elsewhere for a few years but sadly this isn’t the case. To add on to an already difficult situation, the Bucks have no clear direction for their franchise, taking quizzical steps in recent days such as signing enough forwards to fill up two, maybe three teams and trading away a young piece with terrific defensive ability – Luc Richard Mbah A Moute – for scrap. It’s all but a certainty now that Giannis will be on the edge of Milwaukee’s bench for the majority of the 2014 season, unless he makes an insane amount of strides this summer or is much less under-developed than every NBA scout saw him to be. He’ll struggle to demand the extra attention he clearly needs with a team having to deal with rebuilding with a mess of a roster.

In the Bucks’ drafting of Giannis Antetokounmpo, both the drafter and the draftee have played this new relationship similarly irrationally and without care nor understanding of their respective partner. Thus, I can only see a future in which this ends badly for one or likely both sides of this exchange, though I wish that weren’t the case.

  • ThreePointBuck

    Very bad story, pretty opinionated and builds a false view of Milwaukee and the Bucks. Milwaukee is going young, staying away from overpaying people (a la Stoudemire & Melo and ending up in the mediocrity that the Knicks will forever be in) and building a culture on developing young players. It is in fact, the perfect non stressful, low expectation milieu for a very young player to grow. C’mon, NYC would devour this kid, Melo would stunt his growth and while there might be better organizations, you’re taking the path of least resistance by parroting the mistruths the media lays on Milwaukee. And I’ll probly be the only one who even bothers commenting on this blather…

    • Ian Levy

      I think David’s argument was more that Giannis may not have been making the best basketball decision by refusing to look at the possibility of spending another season in Greece. It’s entirely understandable given his family’s situation and I probably would make the same decision.

      As far as the Bucks side it’s admirable that they drafted another young talent to develop. But setting aside Larry Sanders, they don’t exactly have the best track record of developing talent. I don’t think his argument was that there’s anything inherently wrong with either the Bucks or Giannis, just that they might not fit each other’s needs in an ideal way.

    • David Vertsberger

      1. Stupid mediocre Knicks and their 54-win season!
      2. I’d never send him to the Knicks, that’s a death sentence, but then again I never said I would.
      3. False view? Opinionated? I quoted draft experts and simply listed the names on the Bucks roster and noted (and any mindful basketball fan would agree) that their rebuilding is an utter mess.

      • ThreePointBuck

        Knicks have so badly invested in their future, Stoudamire is not working. Sry. And they have no financial flexibility and not enough talent to beat heat, bulls or pacers.

        2. Fair enough. But your post has no real point other than conjecture.

        3. Exactly my point, you’re a media parrot. Even worse, one that comes to full on conclusions by a media that hasn’t even been paying real attention.

        And now I’m sorry I even bothered to comment on your crap story because you’re a 16 year old idiot defending himself on a 3post blog thread for a blog I’ll never read again and for which I’m sure will not matter. Plus. You’re a smug bastard full of haughty tendencies. Good luck with all this…

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