When the Spurs were in the Finals last week, there were stories making the rounds that San Antonio deliberately avoided U.S. players in favor of players born overseas. At the time, I didn’t think much of it.
In picking Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks are perhaps drawing up a blueprint similar to the one the Spurs used to build their winning machine.
Of course, the Bucks didn’t pick Giannis Antetokounmpo because he was born overseas. They picked him because he’s young, athletic, and in a small pool of freakishly long players hoping to be drafted, Giannis is super, hyper-freakishly long. Plus, he could still be growing.
But picking an 18-year-old is always a risk and no matter the talent level, the Bucks have to rely on Antetokounmpo to develop. He has to work. Has to listen. Has to lift weights and eat right. It’s not easy.
For a lack of better words to choose from, by picking a player from overseas, the Bucks have reined in a player who hasn’t been spoiled or tainted by amateur basketball in the U.S. It’s plainly evidently from what he said in his post-draft press conference. Antetokounmpo doesn’t sound like a kid who will soon complain about having to wear a warm coat in December or play in a city that doesn’t maximize his Q-rating.
Antetokounmpo, on being drafted:
I can’t describe how excited I feel to get drafted in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s a dream come true. But this is not the end. It’s only the beginning, you know, to a very long road that maybe some day will give me the opportunity to make my NBA team successful.
But I know I’m not ready, but I have a lot of work ahead of me. But I’m not afraid. I will give everything in the court, in the gym. And I will prove to the Milwaukee Bucks that they made the right choice. And then I want to thank my agent for the work a lot for all of this, for the draft, for everything. Thank you.
He later added:
This moment I’m very happy. And I think in the past, make me sad. We struggled a lot in the past to have a better life, and now that I get drafted in the NBA, for sure we’re going to have a better life. And I think now my mother and my father at home, they will be very happy to see me drafted, because four years in sadness and poverty is very difficult. Maybe after four years, maybe today it’s the happiest day of their life to see me drafted, to see all that work and effort that they gave then, he work out. He worked out, a good thing.
Welcome to Milwaukee, Giannis.