Bucks take teen from Greece with No. 15 pick
MILWAUKEE (AP) - Despite an acknowledged need at guard, the Milwaukee Bucks selected 18-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 6-9 forward from Greece, with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night.
"If it were about need and being safe, we'd take the backcourt pick,'' Bucks general manager John Hammond said. "That wasn't about this. This was about taking the best player on the board.''
Antetokounmpo averaged 9.5 points and 5.0 in 26 games last season for Filathlitikos in Greece's second division.
The Bucks had been projected to select a guard to replace shooting guard Monta Ellis, the team's leading scorer last season, who opted out of his contract to become a free agent. In addition, starting point guard Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent.
Among the guards still available when the Bucks made their pick were Dennis Schroeder of Germany, Shane Larkin of Miami and Sergey Karsev of Russia, each of whom went shortly after Milwaukee's pick.
Hammond said the guard situation would have to be addressed through free agency.
"That's what we'll have to do,'' he said. "We understand that.''
Bucks coach Larry Drew, who was hired in early June after coaching the Atlanta Hawks the last three seasons, admitted he had some catching up to do on Antetokounmpo.
"To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of him,'' Drew said. "I remember watching him the first day and just seeing where this kid was, his skill level. His skill level, it's pretty amazing. A kid this young, physically, he's not a very strong kid. I'm talking about skills, I'm talking about his ability to get in between those lines and do things. This kid has it.''
"Just sitting with John yesterday, I was just shaking my head and I said, `John, he will not be there at 15. He won't be there,''' he said. "I am really excited about this kid.''
Hammond said Antetokounmpo started to appear on the NBA's radar in December.
"There are no secrets in the NBA,'' Hammond said. "You can be at a major NCAA Division 1 school or an NAIA school, if you can play, people know where you're at. This kid just kind of blew up midseason and people started talking about this young kid in Greece and the talent and ability that he had. So we all flocked over to see him. When I was there, I was probably there with five or six other NBA teams at the time watching him.''
Hammond said Antetokounmpo is being viewed as being on the roster as opposed to possibly being in the developmental league, although there is a lot of work to do. Antetokounmpo is listed at 210 pounds and both Drew and Hammond said he would have to get stronger, but each emphasized the tremendous upside.
"I remember when we drafted Brandon (Jennings), I said he had all-star speed and quickness. That's all we said,'' Hammond said. "And, I don't think we've made a habit of saying this sort of thing, but I do think this kid has potential all-star talent. I really believe that he has it.''