Should Thanasis Antetokounmpo be on the Bucks roster … or any NBA roster?
By GERY WOELFEL
I’m sure you heard the old but apt saying about having friends in the right places.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo is a classic example of having a friend in the right place.
Antetokounmpo plays, albeit on a limited basis, for the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s been on the Bucks’ roster for the last four seasons.
In his tenure with the Bucks, Antetokounmpo has played in 160 games. This season, he’s appeared in a mere 33 of the Bucks’ 78 games, averaging a paltry 4.1 minutes game.
For this, he is being paid $1.87 million.
It’s a gig that virtually no other player in the NBA has been afforded. Some longtime NBA observers contend there’s never been a player who has had such a high-paying job for doing so little.
But Antetokounmpo has a friend in the right place: His brother Giannis Antetokoumpo, the Bucks’ superstar. And to many in the Bucks organization, and even some around the NBA, what Giannis wants, Giannis gets.
And it’s amply apparent Giannis wants Thanasis on the Bucks, whether he is an NBA-caliber player or not.
In the last two weeks, I spoke with three NBA officials. I posed a simple question and sought a simple yes or no response. The question was: Would Thanasis be on any NBA roster, if not for his brother’s exalted stature with the Bucks?
Here are their responses:
- An NBA player personnel director: “No,’’ he responded immediately.
- An NBA scout: “Let me think about this for a few seconds. (He then pauses for about 10 seconds before answering). No.’’
- An NBA general manager: “Hey, we know what that’s all about. It’s all about appeasing Giannis. But to answer your question, no.’’
Thanasis, who was recently suspended one game by the NBA for his moronic head-butt of Boston’s Blake Griffin, is in the final season of his contract.
Will the Bucks, who are in salary-cap hell, finally cut the cord and let him walk?
Or, will they continue to “appease’’ Giannis, just like they have the last four years?
The heavy money, of course, is on the latter.
It’s commonly known Brook Lopez has transitioned from being primarily an around-the-basket scorer early in his career to being mostly a perimeter shooter since joining the Bucks five seasons ago.
It’s been a starling transformation.
Did you know Lopez took only seven 3-point attempts in his first SIX SEASONS with the Nets? And did you know he didn’t make a single one? Again, in six seasons.
In stark contrast, during his five seasons with the Bucks, Lopez has launched 1,526 treys and made 535.
Money, money …
Lopez is enjoying a banner season. He should be, in this scribe’s humble opinion, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Interestingly, Lopez is in a contract year. And, quite often, when a player is in a contract year, he is motivated to play better than usual.
Now the questions are: Will the 35-year-old Lopez remain in Milwaukee, and what kind of contract offer will likely come his way?
Lopez is pocketing $13.9M this season, a sum that clearly isn’t commensurate with his significant contributions to the Bucks.
“I’d give him $16M or $17M a year for two years,’’ a general manager said. “But I’m sure he wants more money and more years and I can’t blame him.’’
As for whether Lopez will remain in the 414 area code, that seems a slam dunk.
Said an NBA exec: “They (the Bucks) like him and he likes them. And Giannis wants him there.’’
And that settles that.
Pat Connaughton has played an integral role off the bench for the Bucks.
Until this season.
Connaughton is in the throes of a deeply disappointing season. He’s shooting a feeble 39 percent from the field – the lowest since his rookie season in Portland in 2015-2016 – just 34 percent from 3 point range and a career-low 65 percent from the line.
Coincidence or not, Connaughton’s court time have gone south in recent games, getting only 16, 20 and 18 minutes in the last three outings.
It goes without saying Connaughton needs to pick up his game if the Bucks intend on picking up the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy at the end of the season.