From a National Basketball Association standpoint, the phrase “Mr. Irrelevant’’ is associated with the player who was the last pick of that sport’s draft in any particular year. However, Kostas Antetokounmpo is out to prove that he is anything but irrelevant.
Antetokounmpo was the final pick of the 2018 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, and his draft rights were subsequently traded to the Dallas Mavericks on draft day. While the 6-10, 200-pound forward spent the lion’s share of this past season playing for the Texas Legends in the NBA G League, he did score two points late in the season while playing 11 minutes in two games for the Mavs.
“I feel like I did OK in those two games,” Antetokounmpo said. “For me it was just trying to get better throughout the season, and I was a whole different player at the end of the season.
“I was happy with the improvements I made, and I just feel like I’ve got to keep going forward.”
There is a video circulating via social media that encompasses highlights of Antetokounmpo dunking and blocking shots during his tenure in the G League. That’s the type of domination he wants to carry over to the Mavs.
“That’s what I take pride in is being a shot-blocker and helping my teammates,” said Antetokounmpo, who signed a two-way contract with the Mavs last summer. “And that’s what I want to continue to do.”
In 40 games with the Legends, Antetokounmpo averaged 10.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 25.4 minutes, and also shot 52.5 percent from the field. Of course, Antetokounmpo hails from a rich basketball family in that his two older brothers have already had success in this sport on the pro level.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was a first-round pick by Milwaukee in 2013, is a three-time All-Star and is one of three finalists to win this year’s Most Valuable Player award and the Defensive Player of the Year trophy after leading the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals. Another brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, was a second-round pick by the New York Knicks in 2014 and was the MVP of the All-Star game last year and this year in the Greek League.
With two siblings already having had phenomenal success on the pro level before he entered the NBA, Kostas Antetokounmpo knew when he left Dayton last year after just one season to enter the NBA Draft that he could just pick up the telephone and get some immediate and precious advice.
“Coming to training camp was hard, but in my mind I already predicted it was going to be hard, so I came with the right mentality,” Antetokounmpo said. “I had two brothers that were in the NBA, so I had as much help as I could.
“At the beginning of training camp they told me what is it like and what mentality I should come in with. My brothers were like, ‘Just play hard, keep your head down and just try to learn a lot of stuff and you’re going to be alright.’ “
Mavs guard Jalen Brunson sure believes Antetokounmpo is going to be alright.
“He’s a freak,” Brunson said. “It literally runs in the family. That’s a special family.
“(Kostas is) a great person to be around, he’s very personable. And I think it makes it easier to play on the court with him because you have a guy who’s a great guy in the locker room and you know that he’s going to go out there and play as hard as he can, so when he’s on the court you have all faith in him.”
While embracing the fact that he was the final pick of last year’s draft, Antetokounmpo also has some intangibles to his game he wants to work on when he plays on the Mavs’ summer league team in Las Vegas in July.
“I want to work on my defense, I want to work on my ballhandling and my shooting, and just become more aggressive and a threat and be able to create plays for my teammates,” he said. “Basically, I want to just showcase my skills and show how much I’ve improved.”
And also show that he’s anything but irrelevant.
Share and comment