More than 24 hours removed from the selection of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the overall atmosphere surrounding the pick is a mix of optimism and fear. The optimism lies in the overall potential of the 18 year old prospect who’s regarded as one of the most physically gifted prospects in this year’s draft. While that optimism and excitement is high, there’s fear with Giannis because of the mystery and relative uncertainty that comes with taking such a young international prospect who’s never really competed against any type of high-level competition.
The Bucks are throwing those concerns to the wayside as they announced that Antetokounmpo will be making that immediate leap from Greece to the US where he’ll be joining the Bucks during the 2013-14 campaign. That transition seems to be risky for a player who’s so raw and unknown but it will allow Larry Drew and the rest of Bucks management to get a better reading and understanding on his overall progression as an athlete and player. It would make sense for Antetokounmpo to spend some time in the NBADL with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants but again Hammond and Larry Drew think otherwise with this quote taken moments after the pick; ” “The best thing to do is keep him right here with us. Be around NBA players, be around NBA games, be around NBA travel.”
While that approach sounds good in theory because he can get to the NBA lifestyle and how the game is played, it would be the best move for him to be moved to Fort Wayne to play solid minutes against some good D-League competition. The lone issue with a move to the D-League is that the Bucks won’t be able to have full-on access to him because three other teams share possession of the Mad Ants as their affiliate. With that said, it should be in the best interests for the Bucks organization to either outright purchase the Mad Ants (similar to what the Heat did with the Sioux Falls Skyforce) or to build an expansion team in a place like La Crosse so it would be easier and faster to move around Giannis from the parent club to the affiliate.
When Giannis is a part of the big league club, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him play 10-15 minutes a game behind a veteran small forward. As of June 29th, the only small forward the Bucks have besides Giannis is Mbah a Moute so it’s more than likely that Hammond and company will bring in a veteran stop-gap via free agency or trade to help out the progression of the young prospect.
That progression and development of Antetokounmpo will probably be the defining event that will either help or kill Hammond’s job and legacy because of how risky of a pick it is. If Giannis flourishes into an All-Star caliber player who you can combine in the front-court with Henson and Sanders, then it could make the Bucks relevant for the first time since the Big 3 days of the early 2000’s. The polar opposite would Antetokounmpo joining the ranks of the many foreign prospects that were drafted as hot young prospects but quickly tumbled down through the cruel world of the NBA where they get thrown out like spoiled milk.
What does the future hold for Giannis as a Bucks uniform? I honestly have no idea but the journey will be so strange and special that you have to cherish it even if it might just crash and burn right in front of our faces.