Giannis Antetokounmpo is reigning MVP and favored to repeat. He’s set to dominate for years. And he can become an unrestricted free agent in 2021.
Teams will go to great lengths to pursue him.
Antetokounmpo is a lock to receive a max contract. So, teams are trying to build connections in other ways. The Bucks signed his brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Not to be outdone, the Lakers claimed another brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo, and kept him on a two-way contract.
The Knicks were actually ahead of the curve on acquiring Giannis’ brother. They drafted Thanasis No. 51 in 2014. Surprising even his own agent, Thanasis signed to play for New York’s minor-league affiliate for rather than signing overseas for a far higher salary. However, the Knicks fired their minor-league coaches after the season, reportedly due to unhappiness with Thanasis’ development. The parent club signed Thanasis in 2015 but gave him just a small guarantee. He didn’t make the regular-season roster, New York leaving an open spot. The Knicks signed him to a 10-day contract later in the season.
Marc Berman of the New York Post:
“The Greek Freak’’ has no ties to New York other than bad thoughts about brother, Thanasis, not being treated well while with the Knicks organization.
New York probably didn’t draft Thanasis to impress Giannis. Giannis hadn’t yet blossomed into a star.
The Knicks likely had no shot with Giannis, anyway. He dislikes big markets and likes winning.
But there can be a lesson in this for the Knicks: Don’t show their targets what’s behind the curtain. It’s more likely to scare away players than entice them.
That plan failed with DeAndre Jordan last year. New York acquired Jordan – who’s close with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – in the Kristaps Porzingis trade then somewhat surprisingly kept Jordan the rest of the season. But instead of luring Durant and Irving to the Knicks, Jordan joined Durant and Irving signing with the crosstown Nets.