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The name helps, but older Antetokoumpo gets noticed

POSTED: Jun 24, 2014 8:25 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


If his younger brother can make it in the NBA, Thanasis believes he can.

Thanasis is the older Antetokounmpo brother, by nearly 2 and 1/2 years, but about four inches smaller, one season behind in a basketball hierarchy changing faster than either could have imagined and trailing by another wide margin in potential. He simply is not at the same level as a prospect.

Prospect Profile: Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Thanasis Antetokounmpo is good. Good enough to be tracking early in the second round when the draft is held Thursday night, close enough that the first round is realistic, and talented enough as a defender that a long career is very realistic. He just isn't Giannis.

The younger Antetokounmpo is the NBA original, the guy with the nickname that could have worked for the athletic Thanasis -- Greek Freak -- and coming off a promising 2013-14 of springing from projected long-term investment who may need two seasons to make an impact to the actual rookie campaign in Milwaukee that showed he was much further along. Giannis got the attention, the Bucks got the payoff.

Strangely, as it turned out, Thanasis did too. The unmistakable family connection from that last name drew a lot of eyes as he played for Delaware in the NBA Development League, sure, but he would have been noticed anyway playing at a level that gets heavily scouted by the NBA. The real benefit to the older brother was the confidence injection.

If Giannis could do it, so could he.

"Sure, sure," Thanasis Antetokounmpo said. "Giannis made me believe. He made me believe better that with hard work and you keep developing your skills and keep getting better every day, it keeps you going."

"And also make an impact much sooner...."

Thanasis Antetokounmpo Highlights

Thanasis did not wait for the end of the statement.

"Yes," he said. "Then people expect. Exactly."

Thanasis, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound small forward about three weeks away from turning 22, is No. 34, to the Mavericks, in the latest mock draft. That puts him in the range of the Bucks at 31, with Thanasis saying the chance to team with his brother "would be a dream for my family," and also to push into the first round a year after Giannis went 15th.

"We're not the same player," Thanasis said. "He's like 6-10. He's taller. I have to show people what I can do for me to play. When you see so many physical tools on Giannis and you see the upside, you say, 'Let's draft him' because you know. And he's got the good work ethic. You know in a couple years he's going to be very good in this league. But for me, it's different. I have to show people what I can do so people can trust me and rely on me. I try to be a reliable person."

Other notes in the final days before the draft:

*The Kings and Hornets may be picking in the bottom half of the lottery, but both are in very good spots. Sacramento is looking to get a starting point guard (Marcus Smart and Elfrid Payton could be there), upgrade the shooting (Doug McDermott) and get better on defense (Aaron Gordon) and will definitely have at least one scenario available with the eighth choice Thursday, while Charlotte has made increased perimeter scoring a priority and could be able to choose between McDermott and Nik Stauskas at nine.

The Kings situation is dependent on having the selection, obviously. As previously reported, they put the pick on the trade block immediately after the lottery, preferring to add an established player in hopes of making a Suns-like move up the standings in 2014-15 rather than go through another rookie learning curve.

*One other Kings consideration: Gordon is the third-rated power forward in the eyes of many teams, but would be the best fit alongside DeMarcus Cousins. Julius Randle and Noah Vonleh would both take shots from Cousins, even if DMC's ability to step out to the perimeter would help avoid a traffic jam around the lane, while Gordon needs to get a lot better in that area. But his defense would address a pressing need.

*Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star has a very good feature on Joel Embiid's unique path to the draft that gets more unique by the week.

*North Carolina State small forward T.J. Warren is getting good reviews from teams for his defense, a noteworthy development at a time when most of the attention goes to his scoring. One coach talked with conviction after a Warren visit that Warren would be able to guard both wing spots in the NBA. He already projects as a good rebounder.

*It's not just the uncertainty over whether Dante Exum can develop into a playmaker at point guard. There are similar concerns about Marcus Smart, along with Exum the two highest-rated prospects at the position, and Zach LaVine, so much with LaVine that some teams are listing him as a shooting guard because he mostly played off the ball in one season at UCLA and had good 3-point range.

What a strange year for point guards, with doubts about the best in the field to run a team but enough depth that several players taken in the second round will have very good chances not only to stick, but to have careers.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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