These are busy and exciting times for the Atlanta Hawks.
On Wednesday, Mike Budenholzer was officially introduced as the team’s new head coach in a press conference at Philips Arena (video link). Sitting alongside Hawks GM Danny Ferry, Budenholzer mentioned that there were three areas of the Hawks’ organization that made his new job so appealing: ownership, GM, and roster.
The first two areas are easy to understand. The Hawks are owned by the Atlanta Spirit Group, a group that has been much maligned since purchasing the team in 2005, and deservedly so, in many cases (I hear you, Atlanta Thrasher fans). The owners, however, seem to have finally found their way. They have made the Hawks a priority. Just attend a game at Philips Arena and the proof is easy to see. Among other things, there are:new high-definition scoreboards above each baseline; a new restaurant, RED, which offers a terrific menu and great views of game action; and, my personal favorite move by the Atlanta Spirit Group, they were able to land Danny Ferry last summer as the team’s General Manager.
Danny Ferry, as has been well documented, has a previous, positive relationship with Mike Budenholzer from their time together with the San Antonio Spurs. So, yeah, I understand the first two areas coach Budenholzer mentioned and why those areas would make taking the Hawks job a no-brainer.
The third area — the roster — is a little more interesting.
It is well known that the Atlanta Hawks currently have just three players under contract for next season (Al Horford, Lou Williams, John Jenkins). What the team does have, however, is a lot of money under the cap to shape the remaining 12-roster spots. Or, as Mike Budenholzer called it “flexibility”. The sky is the limit for the Hawks this offseason. Many fans are dreaming of a 2013-2014 Hawks roster that features Chris Paul (you would see me dancing in the streets if this happened) and Dwight Howard (I can’t stand Dwight Howard and would rather he play elsewhere). Whether or not the team can land a premiere free agent, or two, remains to be seen. But, in the immediate future, GM Danny Ferry and Coach Budenholzer must begin planning for the upcoming NBA Draft, in which the Hawks have four picks (17, 18, 47, 50).
Rumors have begun to surface that the Hawks already know how they would like to spend one of those four picks.
Sheridan Hoops writer Joe Kotoch, is speculating that the Hawks have promised Giannis Antetokoumpo (by the way, on some sites Giannis’ last name is spelled Adetokoubo), who has been playing in Greece, that he will be chosen by the Hawks with pick 17 or 18. Giannis was born in Athens, Greece to Nigerian parents. Although he is of Nigerian descent, he does not have Nigerian nationality. He officially gained full Greek citizenship on May 9, 2013, with the official legal spelling of his name being Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Word on the street from our top spy in Greece is that two NBA teams have make first-round promises to Greek Freak Giannis Adetokonbo. We have a strong suspicion that one of those teams is Atlanta, which picks 17th and 18th.
Should what Kotoch suggests be true, the Atlanta Hawks would be drafting an interesting prospect.
Giannis was introduced on SDS two months ago, but in case you did missed it, he’s an 18-year old freak that stands at about 6’10” tall. He plays for Filathlitikos, a team in the Greece League 2nd Division, which finished its season 21-5, good for 3rd in the league. Here are Giannis’ numbers, compiled while playing an average of about 20 minutes a game: 7.9 PPG, 5.2 Rebounds, 1.4 Assists, 44.4% FG, 33.9% 3PT, 70.4% FT.
Check out his scouting video:
There were a few parts of this video that stood out to me. At the 2:37 mark, Giannis shows a lot of hustle. He runs the entire length of the floor at full speed and is able to block the opponent’s shot attempt, after the opposing team ran what should have been a successful inbounds play. Also, there were two areas that showed Antetokounmpo’s ability to handle the ball. At 6:05 into the video, Giannis drives into the lane and dishes out to a teammate for a wide open 3 point attempt. He sets up a teammate for a 3-point shot, again, at the 6:10 mark of the video. This time he does so while leading the break, dribbling the ball up the floor. A 6’9″ player showing the ability to dribble, drive, and dish!
It’s not hard to see why Giannis may have caught the eye of Danny Ferry.
As is the case with all potential draft prospects, particularly ones drafted in the mid-to-late stages of the first round, there are some question marks. Go to the 11:31 mark of the scouting video. Watch as Giannis shies away from the driving opponent. He does not try to take a charge, or even stop the ball. He simply bails out of the play. While at the 12:11 mark of the video, he is easily discarded by the opposing teams big man. Who, promptly, posts up and scores with no resistance. So, two questions have to be raised: Does Giannis play with toughness? How much time will be needed for Giannis to gain the strength needed to play in the NBA?
I’m not that concerned, yet, about the second question. Giannis is 18-years old. Rarely, at that age, is someone going to be NBA strong. Remember, before the 2007 draft? There was a prospect named Kevin Durant. He could not lift 185 pounds at pre-draft workouts. Some were throwing out the proverbial red flag, saying “This Durant kid is probably too weak”. Well, these days, there is not a team in the league that would not welcome Kevin Durant with open arms. You get the idea, right? Giannis can, and likely will, get stronger. The question remains, though, how long will that take? Well, we’ll see. But, I’m guessing that level of strength is not going to deter some NBA GM from drafting Giannis.
The first question, I must admit, bothers me a little. Now, to be fair, I am judging on one video clip (11:31 mark). And, we do not know the circumstances. Was Giannis in foul trouble for instance? I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that he did all he could to avoid an opposing player driving in the lane. Can Giannis get over that? Is this something that will continually be a problem? Can a player be taught to stand tough under the opposing teams fire? Again, we’ll see. It is a bit alarming that Giannis was so willing to jump out of the way of an opposing player, though.
Now, if you’re sold on Giannis and want the Hawks to draft him, there may be an issue to think about. The Hawks are not the only team to scout Giannis Antetokounmpo. There have been others. The Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, and Boston Celtics are all teams picking above the Hawks that have been to Greece to watch Giannis play. It’s not likely the Pistons would take Giannis, since they are picking in the Lottery (8th pick) and Giannis is not rated high enough to be picked that early. So, unless Detroit were to trade down and pick lower or be willing to take Giannis way higher than he is slated, they’re not a threat. Houston is not a threat at all to select Giannis. They do not have a first round pick. That leaves the Boston Celtics.
Danny Angie reportedly was extremely high on Giannis after watching him play in Greece. He compared Giannis to “a young Scottie Pippin“. That’s, obviously, high praise. So, if you’re home watching the NBA Draft on June 27, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is your dream pick, hold your breath when Boston picks at 16, one spot ahead of the Hawks. That’s the team that has to be seen as most likely to take Giannis off the board, before the Hawks get their chance to pick.
The offseason has gotten off to a good start for the Atlanta Hawks. GM Danny Ferry continues to make good moves. The addition of the Mike Budenholzer seems likely to be one of them. With cap space, roster space, and limitless possibilities for the Hawks going forward, Hawks fans are dreaming of big things heading into next season.
The Hawks have four picks to play with. Will the Hawks be willing to spend one of those picks on a 6’10”, 18-year old from Greece? Will they even get the chance? My answers to those questions are: yes and maybe.