Thanasis Antetokounmpo emerged as one of the most exciting prospects in the D-League this season and after 50 games with the Delaware 87ers, he has etched his name in the books for the 2014 NBA Draft.
While Thanasis isn't as physically gifted as his brother, Giannis Antetokounpo, he has the potential to make the leap to the NBA next season. He's a great athlete and has the raw skills to develop into a formidable role player, even if it may take him a few years to get there. The question is, has he shown enough to grab the attention of teams with second-round draft picks?
Attacking The Basket
Much like his brother, Thanasis is a freak of nature. He has great size for a shooting guard/small forward at 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds and is a monster athletically, measuring a 39.5-inch vertical - which he swears doesn't do his leaping ability justice, even though it was good for 11th highest in the draft class - and finishing in the top-tier for the agility (11.39) and sprint (3.18) test.
For the most part, Thanasis puts that athleticism to good use. At the mid way point of the season, 25.1 percent of his offense came on the fast-break, where he was good for 0.98 PPP, according to Draft Express. He has the ability to push the ball himself and when he gets a full head of steam, it's hard to stop him because he can use his strength and explosive athleticism to overpower defenders. He's very good at running the floor without the ball and he's an easy target thanks to his ability to get off the floor quickly. He also has great body control, which allows him to contort his body and finish shots around the rim.
He wasn't as effective in half-court sets, but he has the tools to be an effective slasher in the NBA - speed, strength, athleticism and control. Thanasis has a great first step and a good enough handle to get by for now, at least. And when he does get to the rim, he capitalises on his opportunities - he connected on 61.42 percent of his shots in the painted area this season.
Thanasis made great strides as a shooter this season and showcased an ability to stretch the floor at the turn of the New Year. Over the first three months of the season, he was a sub-30 percent shooter from long range and over the final three months that number hovered around a respectable 40 percent, as you'll see in the chart below.
For Thanasis to be an impactful player in the NBA, he'll have to develop a consistent outside jumper, and it's promising that he was able to to sustain some good shooting numbers, even if it was only for 19-or-so games. However, he fell in love with his jumper far too often - nearly 50 percent of his shot-attempts this season came from beyond the arc and he only connected on 30.9 percent of them - and he was very inconsistent, which has a lot to do with his mechanics.
Note: Terrence Jones had the same problem with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers as a rookie, but he cut his three-point attempts down considerably when the Rockets thrusted him into a starting role this season. While Thanasis' development relies heavier on his ability to shoot, it's unlikely that he'll fire them up as much in the NBA. It is the Development League after all, and seeing as it's something he knows he needs to work on, it was a good time for him to get in-game reps.
For the most part, his form is smooth, but he has a tendency to shoot on his way down, causing a slight hitch in his shot. As a result, many of his misses fell short. Another concern is that he has practically no in-between game - he only attempted 20 mid-range shots this season, and made three of them (15 percent).
His lack of mid-range game is not too much of a concern right now. It certainly lowers his ceiling, but if Thanasis can develop into a semi-reliable outside shooter, it would open his game up tremendously. It comes as no surprise that out of the seven times he scored 20 or more points in a game this season, he hit two or more threes in six of them. Conversely, he was a combined 5-for-52 from beyond the arc in games in which he scored single digits.
Because he is still very raw offensively, Thanasis developed into a predictable offensive player as the season progressed. If he wasn't firing up a three-pointer - which teams would happily give up seeing as he struggled from there for most of the season - odds said that he wasn't going to pull-up or find the open man; instead, he was going all the way to the basket. As teams grew wary of that, they forced him into double-teams when he put the ball on the floor or simply made his life more difficult by planting a shot blocker underneath the rim.
The results weren't great: Thanasis averaged 3.8 turnovers per 48 minutes, which, for a guard who had one of the lowest usage rates on the team, is concerning.
Nevertheless, much like his shooting, he improved as a play maker as the season wore on. In his final two games with the 87ers, Thanasis distributed 10 assists and seven assists respectively, and while those also came with seven turnovers, it proves that he's getting there, slowly but surely.
Thanasis' bread and butter.
Much like his offensive game, Thanasis is still refining himself on the defensive end of the court. He has a reputation for falling asleep on coverages on occasions and, in general, makes mistakes someone who hasn't played basketball for that long tends to make. The good news about that is, with a little tender loving care, those shortcomings can be taught and fixed.
For the most part, however, Thanasis is a terrific defender. He prides himself on outworking his opponents (in pre-draft interviews, he told reporters that every time he steps onto a basketball court, he goes in with the mindset that he is the worst player). He's relentless and isn't afraid to put his body on the line to make a play or get the ball. He has quick feet, too, allowing him to stick to fast perimeter players and be a pest in the passing lanes. And, finally, he has great instincts. He blocked a total of 65 shots in 50 games and did a good job of altering even more.
"Raw" gets thrown around far too often when evaluating talent, but there's not a better word to describe Thanasis' game right now. He has the potential to be an impactful player in the NBA - great size, length and athleticism for a wingman, a never-say-die attitude, a commitment to the defensive end and the tools to believe that he could develop into a prototypical 3-and-D player. But at his age (21) scouts would like to have seen a little more refinement to this point. For the most part, it's why he's expected to slip to mid-second round.
Nevertheless, he's someone you can mold. He could become a good role player and he's an exciting prospect. It may take some time to get to that point, but that shouldn't deter teams from taking a chance on him. He is certainly a second-round talent, and a team that has a D-League affiliate, where they could stash him for possibly another season, would benefit greatly from having a hard worker like Thanasis around.