March Madness is just getting underway, which means there is still a lot of basketball to be played before the draft hopefuls shift their attention to all the preparations for the event.
As the draft approaches, I’ll be bringing you a number of profiles of young players that may find themselves in an Atlanta Hawks uniform next season.
Even the most casual NBA fans know about Giannis Antetokounmpo at this point. Dubbed as “The Greek Freak”, the youngest player in the NBA has taken the league by storm and is becoming a league-wide fan favorite, bringing attention to a Milwaukee Bucks team that would otherwise be ignored. While Giannis has enjoyed the experience that is an NBA player’s rookie season, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ 21-year-old brother, has been hard at work in the D-League for the Delaware 87ers, the Philadelphia 76ers’ affiliate, in hopes of hearing his name called in an NBA draft. The 2014 NBA Draft will hopefully be the end for Thanasis’ wait to reach that goal, and his potential as a role player is putting his name on draft lists for many teams in the NBA.
Thanasis doesn’t have the buzz surrounding him like Giannis did as the 2013 NBA Draft approached, but he has the tools to have success in the NBA. Listed at 6’7″ and 210 pounds, Thanasis shares a number of similarities with his brother. Thanasis is also considered an athletic prospect, with an above average wingspan, listed at 6’8″. The combination of his speed and wingspan makes him one of the best defensive prospects in the 2014 class and the hardworking mentality that Giannis has proved to have, is leaving teams curious to see if that same type of fire is within Thanasis as well.
Its rare to see a player be selected out of the D-League, however it may be becoming a viable option for young players. Glen Rice Jr. went 35th overall in the 2013 Draft after spending the 2012-13 season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and P.J. Hairston of the Texas Legends is expected to be a late first-round draft choice this year. However, Thanasis’ move to the D-League this season is quite different from Rice and Hairston. The young wing player could have made more money in Greece, but with his brother’s selection last year, it became obvious that Thanasis wanted to be near his brother and hopefully improve his visibility to NBA teams by playing closer to their headquarters. The move has certainly been successful, as Thanasis had the opportunity to participate in the D-League showcase in front of several NBA executives and scouts. His season with Delaware has established a profile as a possible second round draft choice in June.
Thanasis currently sits 57th overall in DraftExpress’ 2014 mock draft, right near the end of the draft. His stock seems low at the moment, but their still is some worry that he will struggle to find success in the NBA. Thanasis plays like he is younger than he actually is. At age 21, Thanasis seems to have more areas that need work than most college upperclassmen, but he seems to have more potential than other mid to late second round prospects. Thanasis is an athletic slasher, who uses his length to provide above average defense on the wing. He’s athletic enough to guard most shooting guards and has the length to guard forwards as well. He’ll show a lot of youth when on the floor, areas of his defensive technique will need coaching for him to adjust to the NBA, and his jump shot will need the most work overall. Thanasis is currently averaging 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists with Delaware, shooting 45.1 % from the field, 30.2% from three and he struggles from the line, currently shooting 65.2%. There are glaring issues with his shooting form and release, but his biggest issue is consistently using a successful form. What he lacks in the scoring column, he makes up for with effort. Known to be a high energy player, he goes for loose balls often and shows active hands, tallying steals and occasionally a block or two. His effort makes him a solid contributor on the defensive end and as he grows as a player, many of the issues he has staying focused on that end of the floor should disappear.
His shooting woes may turn many teams away, but that very issue is where the potential of getting more out of him as a Hawk resides. Thanasis’ issues shooting will be a hefty task to fix, but the Hawks’ success developing DeMarre Carroll’s shooting this season should give confidence that a similar result is possible with Thanasis. Atlanta could use another athletic wing to help on defense, and Thanasis could fit into the role that Cartier Martin has manned occasionally this season. With Thanasis being more of a project, frequent trips to the D-League shouldn’t be out of the question and with DeMarre Carroll likely still on the roster next season, the Hawks should be able to manage whenever Thanasis is sent down.
Overall, Thanasis’ draft stock is prime to be on the rise as the draft approaches and may end up with a team somewhere in the middle of the second round. The Hawks’ will likely be selecting somewhere in the middle and there likely won’t be as much upside in the other prospects on the board than there is in Thanasis. Giannis was considered a real possibility for Atlanta last year and they may just end up with a member of the Antetokounmpo family, just a year later than expected.