By Panos Katsiroumpas/ email@example.com
So, after Zach Auguste, Ian Vougioukas and Lukas Lekavicius and before Justin Denmon, the Greek double champions announced the acquisition of Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
His inclusion in the Greens at this particular time is of much greater value than if this move was made last summer. Thanasis’s season in Andorra last year was very good for him, as he was infused with the logic of European basketball to a large extent and he showed continuous improvement throughout the season.
Now, with a year not simply on European courts but in the best championship in Europe under his belt, he’s clearly more prepared to contribute to a higher-level team. Before we analyze him as a player, let’s get to know him a bit better.
Who he is
Thanasis Antetokounmpo was born in 1992 and grew up in Athens with his brothers. His teenage years were quite difficult and basketball was initially a way out from the problems, before it became a livelihood.
The young forward played basketball – like his younger brother by two years and NBA star, Giannis Antetokounmpo – in Filathlitikos Zografou. That’s where he experienced the parade of managers coming from the other side of the Atlantic to watch the two brothers. He was selected in the 2014 draft by the Knicks in the second round. For two years he chased his dream of playing in the NBA in every way he could, but apart from a 10-day contract, which gave him only a few minutes playing in the colors of the Knicks, he wasn’t able to break free from the D-League.
After this experience, he decided that the best option would be to return to Europe, with Andorra giving him the opportunity to play in the Spanish Championship. Both Thanasis and the team were improving as the season wore on and the results were impressive. The team was in the Copa del Rey for the first time, and there, after a thrilling quarterfinal, they were defeated by the subsequent winners of the competition, Real Madrid. Aside from this, Andorra reached the playoffs and gave another exciting battle with Real, falling heroically after the third game of the series.
Now, the Greek forward belongs to Panathinaikos for the next two years.
What’s most important is that Panathinaikos signed a player with huge potential who is still learning and improving. Thanasis’s transformation from the Pre-Olympic tournament in Turin until today is big. And this I say with absolute certainty, since I watched several of his team’s games in Spain, especially from February onwards.
Thanasis is a beast of energy and this, on its own, is a huge asset. He can play defense against any opponent and, especially in recent years, we often see forwards taking on suicide missions against the opposing team’s best guards. Of course, Nick Calathes can play this part comfortably for the Greens. But Thanasis’s presence is definitely an extra defensive weapon. What the Greek forward clearly improved in Spain was the aspect of perception, of understanding spacing and how he can get better positions in offense and defense. Especially in the part of positioning in defense, but also in providing help, he has made great progress.
Aside from this, he learned how to move better, especially in offense without the ball. He can cut inside very quickly, while his jumping ability also makes him excellent above the rim.
The transition, both in defense as well as in offense, is his strongest point. He’s explosive and can follow any play on the open court, while in defense his presence alone can be a deterrent to any thought of attacking the open court. If Panathinaikos try to run a lot throughout the season, they will have yet another weapon in their arsenal.
Antetokounmpo’s weakest point is shooting, while he still needs to work on his game with the ball on the court. Despite this, he has visibly improved in the second part, and the more he works on it, the more he will improve.
Shooting is a special category and it cannot be underestimated in any way. Besides, in Europe, the teams’ scouting is at a very high level and any weakness of a player is going to appear in the way it’s going to be dealt with. Especially in a team where even Calathes is not the best and most consistent shooter, this can be an issue.
The addition of Antetokounmpo is an addition that can give a lot of things to Panathinaikos, but the way the coaching staff will manage the player will also play a big part. Besides, Hanga’s example in Baskonia is one of the most characteristic. Three years ago, Ibon Navarro deemed that the player wasn’t right and he went to Avellino on a loan. When he returned to Baskonia and his role changed, he became one of the best players in the entire EuroLeague. Therefore, in such cases, the way the coaching staff manages each player’s case and the things it will ask of him, always play a huge part.