Bucks excited over potential of ‘Greek Freak’

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmopo and his brother Thanasis stepped out of the car at the BMO Harris Bradley Center to a picture perfect day in Wisconsin.

The sun was shining and the temperature was a just right. Thanasis even commented to Bucks general manager John Hammond the weather and the city sure seemed nice.

While Antetokounmpo will soon learn about Milwaukee’s winters, the Greek forward is thrilled to have the chance to bring his game to the NBA. The Bucks introduced Antetokounmpo and point guard Nate Wolters on Friday at the Bradley Center, a day after making the 18-year-old their first round pick.

“I’m very excited to get drafted at number 15 of the first round,” Antetokounmpo said. “I will give 100 percent for the team and when the coach calls me to play, I will give everything to the coach.”

Much like his game, Antetokounmpo’s game is still raw. Standing at 6-foot-9 with incredibly large hands, his raw athleticism is noticeable even without a basketball in his hands. While Hammond said Thursday he expects Antetokounmpo to play small forward in the NBA, the man they call the “Greek Freak” feels he can play point guard, as well.

“I can play the point guard position, I can handle the ball well,” Antetokouonmpo said. “The thing that makes me special in the game is that I’m an unselfish point guard. If the team needs me to score, I can score.”

Bucks coach Larry Drew feels the potential is there for Antetokounmpo to develop into a very versatile offensive player.

“You would classify him as a point-forward, with his size, ability to take the ball off the glass and move in the open floor,” Drew said. “I was very, very shocked watching his games, just in how well he moved with the basketball in his hand.

“He’s a terrific passer. He’s a very unselfish passer, which makes him very unique.”

While Friday’s press conference welcomed Antetokounmpo to Milwaukee, it also could have served as a welcome to the United States gathering.

His trip to the Brooklyn for the NBA Draft was the first time he set foot in the United States. In fact, Antetokounmpo had never left Greece until a couple weeks ago when he traveled with the national team.

Not only will Antetokounmpo be a project on the court, but he’s also going to have to adjust to a completely foreign culture. He plans on bringing his family to Milwaukee, something the Bucks are helping accommodate.

He’s an investment for the Bucks, one they feel is going to pay dividends in the future.

“The beginning will be the culture because I’ve lived in Greece for 18 years,” Antetokounmpo said. “It will be a little difficult but I will have my family together with me, and it will be easy.”

Because of a commitment to the Greek national team, Antetokounmpo won’t be able to play for Milwaukee’s summer league team. The U-20 European Championships run from July 1-21 in Estonia, still providing him with basketball experience.

“We knew that going in,” Hammond said. “It’s something that happens. When you are dealing with international players of this magnitude, especially I think with his importance moving forward with the Greek national team, we knew this.

“It would be nice if he were here, but it’s not like he will be sitting around doing nothing. He’s going to be developing his game, getting better, playing with very good players and his game will continue to grow.”

The acquisition of Wolters was made official Friday morning. The Bucks traded the draft rights to Ricky Ledo, the 43rd overall pick in the draft, and a future second-round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for Wolters, the 38th overall pick.

The second-round pick the Bucks are sending to the Sixers is the pick they acquired last June from Houston in the Samuel Dalembert trade. Milwaukee still holds its own second-round pick for next season.

“He’s a guy that we had on the board as first-round pick,” Hammond said of Wolters. “We’re really excited to have Nate. He’s a big guard, a 6-foot-4 point guard. He scored at South Dakota State because his team needed him to do that. He has a great feel for the game and a great knowledge of the game.”

First selected by Washington before being traded to Philadelphia and then Milwaukee, Wolters’ draft night was a crazy one. His emotions went from excited to be drafted to wondering where he actually was going. But when he got the phone call from Hammond, he knew he was going to the Bucks.

“It was a pretty wide open draft, so I thought my range was pretty wide,” Wolters said. “I really didn’t know what to expect. It was a crazy couple of minutes. I didn’t really know where I was going, but I was sure glad it was the Milwaukee Bucks. I think it’s a great fit.”

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