One of the more intriguing prospects in the coming NBA draft is Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greek of Nigerian heritage), and 18 year-old guard-forward who is also 6’9 and played in the Spanish second division last season. Out of all the NBA teams likely to take him, the Atlanta Hawks seem the most interested.
Antetokounmpo will probably get a shortened version of his name once he becomes an NBA player, of that many are sure, but the question is just how much of a project is he. Unlike other European players, he hasn’t played in any meaningful competition, spending last season with Zaragoza in the Spanish second division, averaging 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1 blocks per game. His talent and specialty has been recognized, elected to play in the Spanish All-Star game, but being this young, he seems to be too raw of a talent.
But the Hawks might be able to afford taking him higher than the expectations, with most mock drafts predicting a late first-round pick or early second round. The Hawks have two, back-to-back, first round picks in the 2013 draft, 17th and 18th. According to SheridanHoops, two NBA teams have promised the teenager they’ll be taking him in the first round if he’s still on the board, and the rumors suggest the Hawks are one of the two.
Again, the question regarding Antetokounmpo is about how quickly can he become a part of an NBA’s team rotation. Many players, even high draft picks, spend their first or even first two seasons sitting on the bench or even an entire year playing in the D-League as they add a few more things to their game in an attempt to become legitimate NBA players. Antetokounmpo, who is drawing a lot of attention to himself due to his unique size for his position, might be one of those guys that patience from the team that picks him is going to be the most important ingredient in his development once he reaches the NBA.