ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — If Charles and Veronica Antetokounmpo had their way, Thanasis Antetokounmpo would join his brother, Giannis, as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The older brother of Milwaukee’s promising young forward will find out his fate this Thursday when he is expected to be picked during the second round of the NBA Draft.
"I think they’re praying every night for me to be with the Bucks," Thanasis Antetokounmpo said of his parents.
Will their prayers be answered? Possibly. There’s a real chance the Bucks could use one of their second-round picks on Thanasis, and it wouldn’t be just to do the family a favor. After a year in the NBA’s Developmental League, the eldest Antetokounmpo brother is drawing second-round interest from numerous teams.
"The guy has to be a legitimate prospect," Bucks director of scouting Billy McKinney said. "He’s proven that he has improved his skill enough for us to take a look at him. But I’m sure there will be other teams that will be impressed with some of the things he can do athletically and feel they can help him refine his skills to help him become a complete player."
Aside from being five inches shorter than Giannis, Thanasis is a different type of player than his brother — not nearly as skilled but stronger and more developed physically.
In 50 games for the Delaware 87ers in the D-League last season, the soon to be 22-year-old averaged 12.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. While being Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother may have helped a bit when it came to exposure, Thanasis is earning his own way into the NBA.
"It was a great experience," Thanasis said of playing in the D-League. "You play with guys who came from the draft and were sent down to the D-League, guys who were just in the NBA and they went back to the D-League, guys who wanted to make the NBA. It helped me adjust my first year in the States."
While Giannis is expected to develop into a consistent offensive threat, Thanasis’ offensive game has a much lower ceiling. The expectation for him, at least off the bat, is to bring energy and use his size to excel on the defensive end of the floor.
"He just gets after you," McKinney said. "He’s one of those guys, he guards you so close that when you go home at night, you’ve got to look around to see if he’s still with you. He’s pretty intense."
The Bucks hold three second-round picks (No. 31, No. 36 and No. 48) in Thursday’s draft and have a variety of options and directions they can go with the selections. Milwaukee could use them all, package one or two of them in a trade or even take an international player and keep him overseas for the time being.
NBADraft.net and DraftExpress.com have Thanasis going No. 41 overall to Denver, and he certainly could be in play for the Bucks at No. 36 or No. 48 if he falls that far.
"It’s not in my hands and it’s not in my family’s hands," Giannis said. "It’s in the Bucks’ hands. Anything the Bucks choose to do, I’ll be happy with that, because I love the Bucks and I love being here. I think they’re going to make the right choice."
"I know my brother is capable to play in this league. By his workouts every day, he’s showing it. We’ll see, you know?"
At 19 years old, Giannis is still understanding the business of basketball. He learned a bit about how the league works last season, when he watched teammates he respected and had become friends with get traded or bought out.
If Milwaukee drafted Thanasis, there’s a chance — albeit slight — the Bucks would have to release or send him to the D-League if he didn’t make the roster. That would be a cruel lesson for Giannis to have to experience, but McKinney said it won’t factor into Milwaukee’s decision-making process.
"Their way of thinking, coming from Greece, is a little different than players coming from the United States," McKinney said. "They have a little bit more of a global view of things and probably a better understanding of what it entails to be able to make a team."
With Giannis’ parents and two younger brothers already living in Milwaukee, it makes sense why the family would love to see Thanasis get picked by the Bucks. The two brothers would love to be teammates again — they played together on the Greek team Filathlitikos — but understand it is out of their control.
"The Bucks gave us something; they got us a home here," Thanasis said. "They love my brother and they love our family. That’s really important to us."
"I’m not going to lie. I want my brother on the team," Giannis said. "But bringing my brother here, people are going to start talking, ‘He’s only there because of Giannis.’ I don’t want to hear that. I know he’s capable to play in this league."