Giannis Antetokounmpo is everything we’ve asked the Milwaukee Bucks for

Photo: Craig Ruttle
Photo: Craig Ruttle

If you didn’t know this post was coming, you know nothing about this site. After a rough couple of years, I’ve been waiting for something to get behind. I hoped for this on Thursday morning and I’m thrilled at this point.

Time after time we’ve all criticized the Bucks for worrying too much about right now. The constant pushes to get over the lowest bar – a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference – have grated the spirits of the most dedicated Bucks fans the past two seasons. John Hammond was chided for his asset management and Herb Kohl was cursed for his rigid win now mindset. With those two running the show, there will never be a rebuild and there will never be a superstar running up and down the court in green and red.

Those feelings are difficult to deal with and a lot to overcome. And the Bucks haven’t overcome them yet in the eyes of many. The coming free agency period is going to be a crucial one, with the futures of both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings hanging in the balance.

For one night though, Bucks fans had reason to hope and dream of better days. Sure, the reason was pure speculation, risk and the prospect of a huge payoff despite long odds, but people love that. There’s a reason casinos make so much money. Hammond more or less took Bucks fans to the casino yesterday, pulled out a stack of bills, threw them on a hard six at the crap table and gave it a shot.

At pick 15, the risk associated with Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t really that great. The average 15th pick doesn’t really do too much in the NBA. A serviceable rotation player is to be expected and an occasional Larry Sanders will be found. But rarely do we look back on a 15th pick with glee and jubilation.

Today, we can dream of looking back on this night in five years and laugh about how fortunate the Bucks were to get the mysterious 6-foot-9 forward from Nigeria via Greek.

But I should make it clear that Antetokunnmpo likely isn’t going to glide into the Cousins Center and blow the roof off from day one. We shouldn’t expect 55 points nine games into his career. By that I literally mean he probably won’t score 55 points in his first nine games combined.

Some people aren’t going to like that. They’ll wonder why the Bucks didn’t grab someone a bit more prepared, more polished and closer to a finished project. The Bucks are going to take some hits this off season, especially in the backcourt and on the wings. There will be an opportunity for a young player to step in and play big minutes right away. There were some guys available when Milwaukee selected at 15 who could have been more ready to do that.

But isn’t that what we always get on the Bucks about? Thinking about this season, rather than the next three? We bemoaned the Tobias Harris-J.J. Redick trade because Milwaukee gave up on a potential piece of its future to secure a meaningless playoff position. Yet when Antetokounmpo was selected, I actually had someone tweet at me that this was a bad pick because only a few months ago Milwaukee traded Harris. As if a short-sighted maneuver in February meant that Milwaukee could only make short-sighted moves in June.

The draft is the great hope for a franchise like the Bucks. It might be the only hope. A free agent superstar isn’t landing in Milwaukee. To get a star, without question the most important thing in the NBA, Milwaukee has to be shrewd and lucky. The Bucks have two options for acquiring a star: Acquire as many assets as possible to position themselves favorably in the trade market or get historically lucky in the draft.

Right now, Antetokounmpo is an asset, simply because all NBA teams have to go on aside from his incredible measurements is some grainy footage, a few workouts and maybe a game or two against inferior competition. In a few years? He could be the best player to come out of a draft that seemed lacking in sure thing contributors any time soon. He could be the star the Bucks have been lacking for quite a few years.

Of course, he could flame out too. He could be too weak. He could struggle to pickup the American game. He could never make it. But for a team like the Bucks, making a selection 15th overall, where so few potential stars are available, he’s well worth that risk. If ever the Bucks were going to gamble, this is the place to do it.

So get over it if Antetokounmpo can’t contribute right away. Embrace the thought that is behind his selection. The Bucks are a win now franchise, but, for just a moment, be glad that they made a move for the future.

Categories: Draft Talk

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  1. Peter Barnhardt

    Great article Jeremy. I was in shock when Hammonds made this pick because, well, who the hell is Giannis Antetokounmpo!? After hearing feedback, watching some tape, and seeing the eye-opening athletic measurements, I am completely sold on this pick. Of course Giannis is raw and 3 years away from at least being an everyday player. His all star potential is mouth-watering. There is NO WAY we could have ever acquired a player with this type of ceiling any other way. I could see Giannis in a dunk contest someday. The prospect of having a 3,4,5 of GA, Henson, & Sanders is incredible. Holy length. Now time to find some guards…

  2. I feel like I did back in college when I got in the car to drive 20 hours for spring break. Unfortunately, back then all it took was sitting on my hands for a day before smelling the beach. Now I’m going to get bed sores, and I don’t even know if we’re driving in the right direction.

  3. Jeremy….THANK YOU!!!

    Majority of bucks fans who voice their opinion always say stuff like “we need young players! rebuild now!!” But when the bucks actually take a step in that direction they criticize for not selecting a player who can start right away and has already basically reached his ceiling. Great article!

  4. Good article.
    I liked the pick for the same reasons BUT…..
    judging by his demeanor in interviews it is just really hard to imagine this kid becoming a badass superstar. I don’t get the sense that he has much of a ‘fire’ judging by the way he talks, and its going to take a lot of fire for him to improve enough just to be on an NBA court at all period… but I’ve been wrong hundreds of times before so we will see. Maybe he will prove to be enigmatic, an aloof personality but a die-hard competitor on the court.

    • I don’t think it’s fair to judge interviews in terms of whether he’s got drive/heart or not. Especially when the guy is just learning English and is 18 years old. Let’s see what determination and drive he shows on the court and in practice, that’s most important. Nobody will mistake Durant for being fiery and revved-up when he’s not playing, yet I guarantee all teams would love to have Durant lol

      • Uh… but he is NOT Kevin Durant… and to compare him to would take an insane man to do so.

  5. I completely agree…… I’ve been trying to convince my friends this but they’re narrow minded. Now let’s tank for wiggins!!!!

  6. Love the article and loved the pick. All other choices at fifteen were rotational players with just as many question marks.

    • In next years draft, maybe. There was no one in this draft worthy of being a top 5 pick. There just were because somebody had to be.

  7. I think the Bucks had a fine draft. I like both players so much, I think they have found their 1 and 3 for many years to come, to go along with Sanders and Henson. Ilyasova can be the 6. Now all they need is the 2 and there will be a free agent to take that spot.

    The Packers were moribund for most of 25 years or so until they signed Reggie White. Everyone scoffed at the idea that a premier free agent would ever sign with them. Now the packers are one of the finest franchises in all of professional sports worldwide.

    The Milwaukee Bucks used to be the shining example of how to run an expansion franchise. Bob Lanier was delighted to be traded here. It can happen again and I believe it will.

    Who is the best shooting guard available this summer? That is their man.

  8. there was so much negativity on the Bucks Draftchat, but how can you grade something when the exam isn’t being taken until 2015? can’t wait for summer league to see where he is already at against better competition

  9. I feel kind of reluctant to go against the flow, and I have a lot of respect overall for Jeremy’s analysis, but this draft choice of Giannis is lunacy! It’s like buying a car that runs on a battery, or maybe even a car that runs on algae. Maybe, just maybe, these things will be great someday, but even then it will be so far in the future…
    What the Bucks have done is go from one extreme to the other. They made a stupid decision to trade a young player who is a possible star in the near future in Tobias Harris, but now they’ve made another stupid decision to draft a guy from the outer edge of obscurity who is mostly known from grainy footage.
    Maybe a team does this in the second round, but when we had a chance to get one of the 15 best players available, this is idiocy!!! Yes, you take a chance on a Shane Larkin, a Jamaal Franklin, but an untested, undeveloped, unknown player from nowhere? — I am literally sick about this and would fire the entire front office immediately.

    • I like how you label Giannis as an unnecessary risk, yet list guys like Franklin and Larkin as can’t miss.. glad you don’t work for the Bucks.. actually glad you don’t work for any NBA team, because every one passed on him.. some multiple times

        • Wow! I’m really out on a lonely island here. Just like old times with Tobias. Anyway…
          I don’t think that Larkin or Franklin or anyone else available to the Bucks at #15 were can’t-miss. What I do think is that there were guys available who had a reasonable chance of being solid contributors for the Bucks right away; and maybe starters down the road; and maybe, just maybe, stars of the future. (Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard, for example.)
          There are risks, and then there are risks. Drafting Giannis is like investing in the next green-energy craze. It’s like Bo Ryan giving an 8th-grade basketball sensation a scholarship to play for Wisconsin in five years.
          With Tobias, we knew he had played a year at a major university; we knew he was a star in the summer league; we knew he scored about 18 points against the Celtics in the season-opener. What do we have to go on for Giannis?
          Also, if the Bucks did such a lousy job of developing or appreciating Tobias, why do we think they’re going to do such a good job with a guy from halfway around the world? When we see LeBron and Dwight leaving their draft teams in the lurch, why are we so confident that Giannis would even want to stay with such a poorly-managed franchise, even if (and when) he does become a star?
          I sincerely hope I’m wrong about Giannis. I welcome him to the Bucks, pray that he thrives on and off the court, and will be cheering him on all the way. Even if he does stupendously great — and I hope he does — I’ll still think that this was an incredibly stupid draft pick.

          • i guess we will have to resume this debate in 3 years to see who was right. Greek Freak/Larkin/Franklin. Who will be the most productive? Next year we will really get a chance to see what Harris is made of at least

          • and if you don’t take risks then you will be stuck in mediocrity, especially when we continue to draft in the middle of the first round

          • when Larkin is still a backup PG, because that’s where he’s slated to be and Franklin is in the D-League or overseas because he can’t shoot(and is a “shooting” guard)

    • You are mad on the Bucks trading Harris because he could “possibly” become good but you don’t like the Bucks draft pick because he could “possibly” become good as well? Yes Harris is better right now but you can’t judge the product till the very end. We don’t even know how good Harris will be this year after people start to figure out his game. Then he will just be a defensive liability. Give it a few years before you go crazy

  10. “At pick 15, the risk associated with Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t really that great. The average 15th pick doesn’t really do too much in the NBA” I think Jeremy nailed it right on the head with that quote. It’s too bad that Giannis isnt willing to go to Europe for a year or two but the bright side is that with him taking up a roster spot this season it will make the Bucks worse and closer to perhaps winning the Wiggins sweepstakes

      • He’s not Nigerian born. He was born in Athens, Greece. He has no Nigerian citizenship and hasn’t even been to Nigeria

        • totally correct, but I swear there was info out in the world in April when I first heard about him.. glad it was corrected regardless, and he is still able to play for Nigerian national team because of his ties

  11. If Giannis is even as good as Ersan someday, then this is a good pick. And his ceiling is much, much higher than the Turk. Jeremy is right, there is little risk at #15.

    How many American college players just like Franklin and Larkin get drafted and flame out? About half the draft.

  12. guys I’m from Greece and I’ve seen this kid at my hometown’s gym. I was so impressed by his skills! I mean he really got potential, plus he’s too mature for his age and determined to succeed! what he really needs is to strengthen his body, to play at top level (meaning that he stays in Milwaukee rather he returns to Europe) and he also needs moral support because he might be -at times- demoralized due to the cultural shock! just give him a chance, my feelings is for this kid that he is going to make it and make it big, he is not ready yet, thus he needs a good program so he continues developing.

    • good points and insights George. I was glad to hear Hammond talk about having a plan to help Giannis and his family feel comfortable and welcomed in Milwaukee right on draft day. That transition and preventing homesickness for the kid will be important I think.

  13. It’s exciting, but the Bucks’ offseason is usually more exciting than their season. More hopeful anyway.

    • obvious troll.. those two prospects in no way have any kind of comparisons or associations other than they both are Bucks draft picks

  14. Give Giannis will be a year or 2 and he could be a stud. Assuming its a rebuilding year, we have a chance to add wiggins next year. Get a fresh new start. I just wished we kept Ledo, can see him being a great player in the nba. They MUST resign Larry and Henson though! Huge part of the rebuilding process

  15. Unrelated to the topic, but, what’s with all those spams in the forum?

    Is it possible that the fans of the Milwaukee Bucks don’t have a single working forum/message board that is dedicated to their team?

  16. Great article. As soon as Stern said his name and they showed that he was 18 years old, I knew immediately what was going on. I think they finally realized that making a last minute run for the playoffs (and trading Tobias) was a big mistake. If we keep doing that, (as we have been for quite some time now) we will be in the same position year after year after year, and there will be a good chance the Bucks will be shipped out of Milwaukee. We need to start young and start building for anything to happen in this organization. Also, when I heard yesterday that Hammond is 100% on keeping Jennings, that also told me that we are doing to be young and we are going to rebuild. In 3-4 years we could be sitting very pretty with Giannis, an excellent pick from next years draft and Jennings and Sanders STILL being fairly young. Don’t forget our second round pick this year either. This could be good Bucks fans…real good.

    • I hope he is thinking rebuild. What we do in free agency will be a big indicator. I just hope that crazy man Kohl doesn’t force Hammond to put another mediocre team on the court. I think Hammond really does want to rebuild. I remember him saying in an interview awhile back that its easier to find stars in the top of the draft. Pretty much eluding that he thinks the bucks should rebuild to get a high pick, but my guess he has to follow the direction of Kohl.

  17. Pingback: NBA Draft 2013: Reaction, grades and more on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters | Top-Ranked Blog

  18. kenneth springer

    “with the 15th selection in the 1st round, the Milwaukee Bucks pick:”

    I said OUT LOUD,….. W H O ? Larkin : available- Schroeder: available

    Well….ive been a supporter of Hammond on draft day moves, and selections. Cant bailout on him now. I choose to think positive about G.A.

    Go BUCKS Go

  19. Sure there are a ton of ways this guy could end up not making it but like the blog author pointed out, it’s not a big risk at 15. If they did this at #5 sure, he better be a star but 15?

    Let’s say he’s got exceptional athleticism that nobody can dispute. Well, he’s going to be about 6’11” with the ball-handling skills of a guard/SF and he’s shown potential in distance shooting. If he can get stronger in the coming years, he’ll be pretty hard to match up with.

    And if the personnel philosophy of adding length and athleticism continues and they become more of a running team, it will be really exciting to watch Jennings, Sanders, Giannis and Henson run the floor. You’d basically have a 7 foot SF, a top defensive center and I think Henson will prove to be a balance of offense (10-15 ppg) and top defense.

    As for not knowing the guy based on name recognition, I suspect a lot of people couldn’t pronounce Olajuwon or Mutumbo when they were drafted and this strange German with a European game, Nowitski,seemed to turn out ok despite not having any NCAA fame and limited international footage.