Lost in all the excitement of Luka-mania, the Mavericks made another not-so-small blip on the NBA relevancy radar as they drafted Kostas Antetokounmpo with the last pick in the draft.
I know. That last name intrigues you. Well let’s get this out of the way first: he isn’t going to be Giannis. In fact, with counting stats of 5.2 ppg and 2.9 rpg on a mid-major with a 14-17 record, there’s a pretty big possibility he isn’t even going to be Thanasis, the eldest Antetokounmpo brother who spent a few years in the G-League before heading overseas. However, as is the case with all three brothers, the raw physical tools (six-foot-ten with a seven-foot-two wingspan) are so visually appetizing from a potential perspective that an NBA team had to see if they were palatable. Here’s what you need to know.
First, he’s raw. And I mean raw. Offensively, almost all his offense at Dayton came from filling in the gaps. Whether it was a cut, a lob, or a put back, virtually all of his points were created by someone else. The lone area where he could competently score by his own creation was in the post-- almost exclusively on the right block—where he essentially would just use his superior size and length (9’2 standing reach-- first for all forwards at the combine) to finish over the outstretched arms of undersized bigs.
There were flashes:
On occasion, you’d see him grab a rebound or steal with his go-go-gadget arms and lead the break with large bounding steps — yet the grace of a gazelle. He’d maneuver around some helpless defender in such a way that it appeared basketball may be too easy for someone with those physical gifts (Giannis makes me think this daily). Plays like that remind you he’s an Antetokounmpo. Unfortunately, those plays were few and far between as too many Kostas-led possessions resulted in JaVale McGee-type blunders as he posted a turnover rate of 22 percent (per Synergy Sports.) That’s disturbingly high.
Fortunately, what he lacks in offensive polish he oft makes up for in effort. He has an impressive motor, which, when coupled with his absurd physical attributes make him, at the very least, passable on offense. This past season he managed to finish in the 99th percentile for transition offense as his long strides allowed him to accrue many easy buckets simply by rim-running or filling the wing in transition to a T. Additionally, despite being a poor screen setter due to his (currently) frail stature, he consistently rolls hard and his freakish wingspan makes him an easy target around the hoop. At Dayton, he was in the 94th percentile for “roll men” on offense, and at the NBA draft combine nearly all of his baskets came this way. In terms of his NBA level offensive skills, this is the most ready.
As would be expected if you watched Giannis in his early years, the area of the game where Kostas has developed the farthest thus far is defense. Although his lack of strength prevents him from being truly elite on that end of the floor, he has shown a lot of promise. His wiry limbs and lateral quickness allowed him to confidently defend anyone one-on-one whilst at Dayton as he was in the 96th percentile for man to man defense. Although Dayton didn’t run a switch-heavy defense it is reasonable to expect that this skill should project at least moderately well to defending guards considering how elite he was against wing and frontcourt players.
In addition to his 8 percent block rate (which was higher than Deandre Ayton’s or Marvin Bagley’s), much like his brother, his mere presence around the rim causes defenders to second guess just about anything other than an off-balance floater. This resulted in him having by far the greatest defensive impact on his team as he posted a 2.6 DBPM (defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league average player). Considering the majority of his team were a negative in this measure due to Dayton’s lackluster defense this past year, that’s pretty impressive.
As promising as some of those stats seem, Antetekoumpo is a long way from being ready to contribute. This season he only played 15 minutes per game for an underachieving Dayton team, and failed to provide much of a winning impact when given the chance to play. Additionally, he shot an abysmal 13 percent from three so when he is on the floor opposing teams can essentially pay him no mind when he isn’t in the paint.
However, fortunately for Mavs fans, he’s a late bloomer to say the least. Just four years ago he averaged a mere 3 points and 2 rebounds off the bench as a high school junior. If he continues to improve at the rate he has these last few years it’s not implausible to see him contributing in a Mavs uniform in the (somewhat) near future. Plus, something tells me he’ll have a pretty solid offseason training partner.