NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Giannis
Givony - President, Mike SchmitzFebruary 26, 2013Giannis Adetokunbo has emerged from relative obscurity to rank among the
very best international prospects in the 1994 age group. We investigate his
unique background and NBA prospects with a video scouting report, full
evaluation, and interview.
Scouting report by Jonathan
Givony. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz
Fleeing unrest in their native
country of Nigeria, the Adetokunbo family emigrated to Greece in 1992 in search
of a new beginning. The couple eventually settled into the Sepolia neighborhood
outside of Athens, a suburb with a considerable migrant population. Working
different jobs for the past twenty-one years, they were never recognized by the
Greek authorities as actual citizens, but fully intending on making the country
their home. That included doing whatever they could to assimilate their four
sons into Greek society, hence their decision to give them Greek names. Unlike
the US, being born in Greece does not guarantee citizenship; while registering
their children with the Nigerian embassy could mean deportation should they
happen to be stopped by authorities
The Adetokunbos gave birth to four
children in Greece, Thanasis (who stands 6-7), in July of 1992, Giannis (6-9) in
December 1994, Costas (6-3) in 1997, and Alex (5-9) in 2001. Their first son,
Francis (6-7), was born in 1984 and is a professional soccer player in Nigeria.
None of the Adetokunbos have received Greek citizenship, only being able to
attend public school thanks to their birth certificates.
Giannis began to play basketball casually together around 2003. As fate would
have it, the two were spotted one day by Spyros Veliniatis, a coach from
Filathlitikos academy who is an avid cycling enthusiast and happened to biking
by their local basketball court. Veliniatis was immediately taken aback by the
immense physical gifts the children displayed, and invited the two to join the
academy, the only club in Athens that does not charge a membership fee to
participate. Considering the family's financial background, this was
Thanasis and Giannis enrolling in the academy
coincided with the team progressing rapidly up the Greek minor league system,
being promoted six times in ten years from the D regional division of Athens all
the way up to A2, the second league of Greece. Filathlitikos now finds
themselves on the doorstep of A1, the top league in Greece, as they are in first
place with a 14-3 record more than halfway through the season.
Filathlitikos's success has come thanks to the homegrown talent they developed
and integrated onto their roster over the years, with head coach Takis Zivas
coaching both the club's senior and U18 team since its inception 15 years ago.
Many of the club's young players are the sons and daughters of immigrants from
Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Albania and Nigeria.
Thanks to the Adetokunbo's
arrival, Greek basketball might have the most interesting prospect the country
has seen in many years on their hands. Despite never having played for any of
Greece's youth (U16, U18, U20) national teams in an official capacity, Giannis
has drawn considerable interest as of late both in his home country and abroad,
with eight NBA teams already having traveled to see him. An invitation to the
senior national team is reportedly in the works for this summer, if his
citizenship issues can be resolved of course.
After watching a
considerable amount of film from his play in the second division and U18 league,
we decided to take a trip out to Athens ourselves to see what all the fuss was
about. It turned out to be very valuable use of our time.
stands out first and foremost thanks to the tremendous physical profile he
brings to the table, reminding somewhat of a Nicolas Batum
Sefolosha on first glance. He has great size at 6-9, 196 pounds, to go along
with a developed upper body and an overall terrific frame that should fill out
considerably in time. His wingspan has reportedly been measured at 7-3, but
perhaps most interesting is the size of his hands, as he's able to palm the ball
like a grapefruit which helps him out considerably as a passer, ball-handler and
smooth and fluid, Adetokunbo still hasn't reached his full potential as an
athlete, which makes sense if you consider he turned 18 three months ago and has
grown 8 cm (a little over three inches) in the past ten months—and still might
not be done growing. He's still working on his balance on the defensive end, and
isn't an incredibly explosive leaper—something that could change as his lower
body strength improves.
It's popular to say that a prospect--particularly
an obscure one-- “plays every position on the floor,” but in the game we watched
in Greece, that was indeed the case. The competition level, as you can see in
the video scouting report above, is indeed nothing to write home about, but it's
difficult not to be taken aback by the incredibly versatile skill-set Adetokunbo
brings to the table at 6-9.
The tallest player on his team, Adetokunbo
started the game off at the power forward position, but played on the perimeter
almost exclusively. Similar to the way Kyle Anderson
is used at UCLA, he initiates a lot of his team's offense in the half-court and
regularly rebounds the ball and takes it coast to coast, showing fantastic body
control. He's an extremely smooth ball-handler and a surprisingly adept passer,
looking extremely unselfish and very focused on getting his teammates involved.
He's capable of driving left or right and reads defenses far better than you'd
expect considering his age and size, as he shows great sparks of creativity and
smarts that make it easy to envision him developing into a point forward type as
his career progresses.
Adetokunbo's long strides and great length allow
him to finish his moves in a variety of ways around the basket. He's largely
right-hand dependent, though, and will need to continue to improve his strength
and explosiveness to finish over the top of better defenses than he's facing at
Adetokunbo's perimeter shooting ability is not as refined as
his passing and ball-handling skills. While his shooting mechanics are
relatively consistent, and he's capable of making shots with both his feet set
and off the dribble, he sports a low release point and is not a knock down
shooter when left open. He's making 34% of his 3-pointers on the season in A2
thus far and 70% of his free throw attempts, so there's definitely something to
build off here.
is where Adetokunbo might have the best potential considering the superior size
and length he brings to the table at his position—likely small forward. He's not
very consistent in this area yet, as he lacks significant experience, is not
physical enough keeping a body on opponents and fighting through screens, and
plays too upright on the perimeter. The instincts he displays here are very
intriguing though, as he shows good anticipation on the defensive glass and is
capable of making his presence felt in the passing lanes and as a
The biggest thing holding Adetokunbo back at the moment is
his lack of experience. He's a late bloomer who did not have the benefit of
growing up playing against other top international talents his age in the
various FIBA competitions over the years. Similar to many young prospects still
growing into their frames, he's not incredibly physical at the moment, and is
not immune from showing questionable decision making in the half-court. He is at
times so focused on getting his teammates involved that he can be appear to lack
somewhat of a killer instinct, and his average perimeter shooting ability and
defensive prowess could surely become more of an issue against higher level
competition if he does not improve in these areas.
are some question marks about his true position and ideal role on the floor
against senior players. While the concept of a 6-9 point guard sounds great in
theory, there are very few teams and coaches that actually play that way, which
means he will have to continue to improve his ability to operate off the ball as
Adetokunbo's talent was recognized by first division Spanish team
Zaragoza in December when they elected to sign him to a
four year contract. He will move to the ACB next season—barring complications
with his passport—but reportedly has comfortable NBA out clauses at the end of
each year, including this summer. Adetokunbo's agent, Giorgos Dimitropoulos,
says that he will almost certainly be entering his name in the 2013 NBA draft to
gauge his prospects, and that there is an “80-90% chance” he will stay in. While
nothing is set in stone at the moment, NBA teams likely wouldn't mind leaving a
talent like Adetokunbo in Europe for a couple of years to develop on a team like
Zaragoza that is known for working very well with young players.
Adetokunbo has drawn interest from both the Nike Hoop Summit and adidas
EuroCamp in Treviso from what we've been told, and would strongly consider
attending if invited, though his unresolved passport issues make it difficult to
ascertain if he'd be able to do so. In the meantime, eight NBA teams (including
two General Managers) have been out to Athens to see him, and it's likely that
many more will follow over the next few months.
His talent is readily
seen on first glance as soon as he steps foot on the court, but there's
obviously still a long ways to go for him to translate that into production at
the highest levels of basketball. Regardless, this is as unique a story as
you'll find in this year's draft class and it will be fascinating to monitor his
progress both in the short-term and as he develops over the next few seasons.