Giannis Antetokounmpo

Bucks’ GM believes team has six-man core of the future

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Jabari Parker. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Greg Monroe. Michael Carter-Williams. Khris Middleton. John Henson.

Last season, with four of those six in place (Parker was injured most of the season, Monroe was in Detroit) the Milwaukee Bucks took a big step forward into the playoffs. They did it with great defense and the guidance of Jason Kidd.

Can they take another step this season? They should have an improved front line and offensive punch with Parker healthy and Monroe in the fold as a free agent. However, they Bucks sent veteran voices like Jared Dudley, how much will they be missed?

What matters more to GM John Hammond is continuity — he has a core in place now he thinks he can win with down the line. They just need time to grow and develop together. Look at what he said on The Baseline Podcast, as transcribed by Brew Hoop.

We’re trying to build around some kind of consistency with the nucleus of Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greg Monroe and John Henson. Those six guys are the young core that we look and say that’s kinda the future of this organization, and that’s not discounting anyone else. Other players have to step and become a part of that group with us. But those guys are the group we hope we can build some kind of continuity with.

While we can debate whether guys like Henson or Carter-Williams are part of the long-term core for them, Hammond is spot on about continuity. But more than just continuity of roster, there has to be continuity of system and style. You can keep the same players, but if you change coaches and systems as often as Sacramento, it’s not going to matter.

Let these guys grow together and see what they can become under Kidd. They are still a few years away from being a threat to Cleveland (if they get there at all, we’ll see where their trajectory takes them) but the Bucks have to be patient and let it all play out.

Then right about the time they move into that new downtown arena, this could be a very dangerous team.

Bucks GM touts Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ability to play center

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Bucks coach Jason Kidd kicked around the idea of playing Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard last year, though didn’t really go anywhere beyond the preseason. Antetokounmpo spent most of his minutes on the wing.

He could reach the other end of the positional spectrum this season.

Milwaukee general manager John Hammond on The Baseline NBA Podcast (hat tip: Frank Madden of Brew Hoop):

I love the thought of small-ball for us. Potentially, if there’s ever a matchup situation where you say “OK, they’re going to go small, how do we match up with that”” whoever that team may be, I think you play Giannis Antetokounmpo at center. And he’s 6-foot-11, so it’s not really small-ball per se, but his ball skills and know-how of how to play will give us the ability to do that. And I think that could be a really fun team to watch someday if you do look at small-ball theory.

Antetokounmpo played 98% of his minutes last season with at least one teammate – Zaza Pachulia, Larry Sanders, John Henson, Johnny O’Bryant, Miles Plumlee, Kenyon Martin, Ersan Ilyasova – who was clearly more of a center than him. Even in the other 2%, Antetokounmpo didn’t handle center responsibilities clearly more frequently than players like Jared Dudley and Jabari Parker.

So, this would be a big shift for the third-year player.

But Antetokounmpo has the tools to make it work. He has tremendous length and good shot-blocking timing. The Bucks like to switch and trap, so he wouldn’t have to defend like a traditional center, either. Offensively, he could pull opposing bigs all the way to the 3-point arc and slash and dish against a strained defense.

Antetokounmpo doesn’t have the bulk to play center over long stretches, but against the right opponents, he could do it. As the league gets smaller, it’s a nice option for Milwaukee.

And it’s darn sure exciting to watch a player who can legitimately play any position 1-5.

What NBA stars will suit up for EuroBasket? Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker among others

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EuroBasket matters — it offers both the bragging rights of a European championship and is the 2016 Olympic qualifier for Europe. The top two finishers get their tickets punched for Rio for the 2016 games (the USA and Brazil have already qualified). Finishers three through seven get invited to the 2016 pre-Olympics qualifying tournament, where they can try to play their way into the final field of 12 (likely a couple of them succeed).

Because it matters, some of the NBA’s big names will suit up when play tips off Sept. 5 —  Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker among others. There are 29 players under NBA contract in total expected to participate. Mark Cuban and many NBA GMs will watch clutching their lucky blanket and hoping against injury, but this is the kind of tournament that draws stars.

If you’ve wondered who is going, here’s a list of every NBA player suiting up in EuroBasket, hat tip to Hoopshype.

CROATIA
Bojan Bogdanovic (Brooklyn Nets)
Mario Hezonja (Orlando Magic)
Damjan Rudez (Minnesota Timberwolves)

FRANCE
Alexis Ajinca (New Orleans Pelicans)
Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets)
Boris Diaw (San Antonio Spurs)
Evan Fournier (Orlando Magic)
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Joffrey Lauvergne (Denver Nuggets)
Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)

GERMANY
Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)
Tibor Pleiss (Utah Jazz)
Dennis Schroeder (Atlanta Hawks)

GREECE
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Kosta Koufos (Sacramento Kings)
Kostas Papanikolaou (Denver Nuggets)

ITALY
Andrea Bargnani (Brooklyn Nets)
Marco Belinelli (Sacramento Kings)
Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets)

ISRAEL
Omri Casspi (Sacramento Kings)

LITHUANIA
Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors)

POLAND
Marcin Gortat (Washington Wizards)

REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA
Zaza Pachulia (Dallas Mavericks)

SERBIA
Nemanja Bjelica (Minnesota Timberwolves)

SPAIN
Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls)
Nikola Mirotic (Chicago Bulls)

TURKEY
Furkan Aldemir (Philadelphia 76ers)
Ersan Ilyasova (Detroit Pistons)

UKRAINE
Alex Len (Phoenix Suns)

Giannis Antetokounmpo drops 13 points in 14 minutes for Greece (VIDEO)

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EuroBasket tips off in a couple of weeks, and for NBA teams that can be a double-edged sword. On one side, there is the risk of injury (different international event, but think Dante Exum).

On the other side, for guys that could use more development, it’s a chance to get on the court and play at a relatively high level of competition, with good coaching.

The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is trying to take advantage of the latter. In a friendly against Bosnia, the Greek dropped 13 points in just 14 minutes of action. He had three rebounds and three blocks as well. Since I’m guessing you didn’t stream this live, above are some highlights.

Hat tip Sportando.

 

Report: Knicks finalizing partially guaranteed contract with Thanasis Antetokounmpo

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Thanasis Antetokounmpo’s agent said the Knicks would sign his contract this summer.

Then, an anonymous source said they would.

Now, it seems to be finally happening.

David Pick:

After using the room exception on Kevin Seraphin, the Knicks can give Antetokounmpo just a minimum contract. Two years is the maximum length.

Antetokounmpo will be the Knicks’ 15th player. They’ll also likely sign other players for training camp with the expectation they’ll be waived and assigned to the D-League Westchester Knicks. But if those players make it to camp, there’s always a chance they outperform Antetokounmpo and steal an NBA roster spot from him. The size of Antetokounmpo’s guarantee will both influence the likelihood he makes the Knicks and protect him in case he doesn’t.

The No. 51 pick in the 2014 draft, Antetokounmpo spent last season in the D-League. He’s an energetic, athletic and long forward with loads of defensive potential. His offense is much less developed.

Antetokounmpo – brother of the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo – is the leader in the clubhouse to be New York’s 15th man and a favorite to hold that spot. But until we see how the Knicks round out their training-camp roster, it’s tough to say more than that.