CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dayton redshirt freshman Kostas Antetokounmpo, the 20-year-old brother of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, impressed NBA scouts with his long-term potential this past weekend at the Charleston Classic. He may not be the second coming of his 22-year-old MVP-candidate brother, but Kostas is an intriguing NBA prospect in his own right.
With the first four games of his college career now under his belt, we dive into Kostas' background, strengths, weaknesses and outlook as a prospect.
Antetokounmpo, the son of Nigerian immigrants, moved from Greece to Milwaukee after Giannis was drafted by the Bucks in 2013. Then a 15-year-old, 6-foot-4 perimeter player, Kostas enrolled in Dominican High School. Playing somewhat of a complementary role both in high school and for WI Playground Elite on the AAU Circuit, Antetokounmpo still caught the eye of college coaches thanks to his long arms, projectable frame and stellar bloodlines.
He grew up playing soccer, eventually sprouted to 6-foot-9 by age 18 and earned an invite to the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit, where he played limited minutes as one of the younger players on a World Team headlined by Arizona's Deandre Ayton. Months later, Kostas, the first Antetokounmpo to consider the NCAA, committed to Dayton and now-former head coach Archie Miller, choosing the Flyers over high-major programs such as Florida, St. John's and Purdue. Since committing to Dayton on June 23, 2016, Kostas' basketball development has been slowed by a variety of circumstances.
Antetokounmpo was ruled a partial qualifier out of high school, which forced him to redshirt the 2016-17 season. This past summer Antetokounpo was set to play with the under-20 Greek national team in the European Championship, but the Athens native injured his knee during preparation and was forced to eventually miss three months of action. He was fully cleared for practice as recently as a few weeks ago. With the redshirt year, knee injury and the death of his father this past summer, Antetokounmpo has battled his fair share of adversity since arriving in the States, despite the perks that come with being the Greek Freak's younger brother.
"I think he's persevered and shown tremendous resilience," said Dayton head coach Anthony Grant, who took over for the Flyers when Miller left for Indiana. "I think to me the biggest thing I tell Kostas is that he has to find his own identity as a player. He's a guy that's just developing and growing and learning his game, so to speak."
Now standing at least 6-10, 197 pounds with high, wide shoulders, a 7-2-plus wingspan and a 9-foot standing reach, it's hard not to see some physical similarities between Kostas and a young Giannis. Both late bloomers, Antetokounmpo's big feet, skinny legs and still-maturing frame suggest that he's far from a finished product. He is finally healthy and starting to gain confidence at the center spot for the Flyers, working his way into the starting lineup in Dayton's final game in Charleston. Over the course of the three-game tournament, Antetokounmpo averaged 11.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per 40 minutes.
Player Type: PF/C | Versatile defender with offensive upside
More of a small forward in high school, Antetokounmpo is thriving in the middle of Dayton's zone, changing the game with his tremendous defensive range and rim protection. Although still skinny in the lower body, Kostas has more than adequate measurements for a modern NBA center, and he is likely still growing.
"I'm comfortable [at the 5]," Antetokounmpo said. "My brother tells me all the time, a good player doesn't have a position. He'll play any position his team needs him to so that's what I'm doing right now.
He glides from the rim to the 3-point line in only a few long strides and has tremendous switch potential. He's a high-level shot blocker already thanks to his length, timing and quick leaping ability. He also racked up a handful of deflections in Charleston that didn't show up in the box score. He has a massive rebounding radius and reads the ball off the rim fairly well. With the NBA continually trending toward length and agility at the center spot, Antetokounmpo figures to be a perfect defensive fit at the 5 as he continues to mature physically.
"With his size and length and shot-blocking ability we want to take advantage of that, but we also want to utilize his skill set," said Grant, who spent the past few seasons on Billy Donovan's staff in Oklahoma City. "He can handle and pass. He's got a variety of things in his game. He's just scratching the surface in terms of developing those things too."
Offensively, Antetokounmpo is still finding his way, but he has tools to lean on as his skill base strengthens. He's at his best as a rim runner, offensive rebounder and pick-and-roll finisher at this stage thanks to his big reach, agility and ability to use either hand. Antetokounmpo also has a fairly sound feel for the game, playing within himself in ball-reversal situations and even showing the ability to push in transition at times.
Like most young players, the key to his offensive upside will revolve around his jump shot. The self-proclaimed best-shooting Antetokounmpo, he's capable from college 3-point territory when given time and space, and if defenders have to at least close out to contest, Antetokounmpo will be able to use those Giannis-like strides to attack the rim. With his rim protection, switch-ability, rebounding potential and developing skill set, Antetokounmpo has a lot to work with as a long-term prospect.
Antetokounmpo is still extremely green, with likely a few more years of NCAA development needed before his NBA draft stock peaks. From a physical standpoint, he regularly gets buried under the rim by bigger post players. His lack of a sturdy base limits his leaping ability in traffic as well.
It's important to keep in mind that several NBA teams deemed Giannis "not athletic enough" in the pre-draft process, as he was all arms and limbs and lacked the core strength to get up in a crowd. Antetokounmpo will continue to have some troubles playing in traffic until he develops physically, but like Giannis at a young age, he likely has quite a bit of untapped athletic potential.
While he's certainly impactful defensively, Antetokounmpo's motor and consistency can also improve on both ends. He's still learning the ins and outs of verticality around the rim defensively, and he can do a better job of finding a body on the defensive glass. Stringing together multiple effort plays will make Antetokounmpo an even more dominant defensive force.
On the other end of the floor Antetokounmpo is still searching for ways to impact the game. He's not a post-up threat against switches given his frame, and he's not a prolific shooter at this stage, with a fairly slow release that could use some fine-tuning. He's a sound passer, but not the most advanced ball-handler or decision-maker in the half court, so a lot of Antetokounmpo's possessions consist of picking and popping to space and eventually reversing the ball and walking into a screen. Learning when to dive, pop or spot up should all come with experience.
Kostas has a long development curve ahead of him, and certainly isn't ready to jump to the NBA soon, but the glimpses that he did show in his first collegiate action made it clear that he's a legitimate prospect that scouts will travel to evaluate this year and beyond.
"I'm trying to be better than my brothers," Antetokounmpo said with a smile when asked about his goals. "Put my head down and just work hard."
His defensive versatility is a perfect fit in modern basketball, and the incredible development of Giannis won't escape the minds of executives when analyzing the 20-year-old Antetokounmpo. He needs a few years to develop, but through his first four NCAA games he without a doubt looks the part of a future NBA player. Scouts will want to tune in for Dayton's matchup against Mississippi State on Dec. 3 to see how Antetokoumpo stacks up against SEC-caliber athletes.