Greeks in the NBA: Season Preview

Greeks in the NBA: Season Preview
 

AGONAsport.com’s Peter Katsiris previews the 2017/2018 NBA season from a Greek perspective as he forecasts what’s to come for the Greeks plying their trade abroad in the NBA…

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As the curtain is set to be raised on another NBA season on Tuesday night, Greek fans of the NBA have four players to keep an eye on across the league.
 
Last year’s headlines, and rightfully so, were dominated by Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s safe to say that we can expect more of the same from the Greek Freak in 2017/2018, but aside from the Greek Freak there are other storylines to keep an eye out for this season: How will Tyler Dorsey settle in Atlanta? Will the Greek towers stand tall in Sacramento?
 
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO

Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Division/Conference: Central Division, Eastern Conference
Team Projection: Playoffs
Player Projection: Starter, All-Star
 
Where else can we start but in Milwaukee? Antetokounmpo is set to begin his fifth season in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, and he will be in tough to beat last year’s amazing campaign. Leading the Bucks to the playoffs, first NBA All-Star appearance, NBA Most Improved Player, are just a few of the feats Giannis earned last season; not to mention, the Greek Freak was arguably the most exciting player to watch in the league last season.
 
A big part of the excitement surrounding the Bucks last season was Antetokounmpo’s dynamism and ability to pull-off highlight reel plays almost every time he touched the ball. While Antetokounmpo’s skill was always known, the Greek Freak surprised many with his abilities – a reality that benefited the Bucks in the standings.
 
It seemed to be all about the man known in the State of Wisconsin as Giannis. The Bucks’ one-name superstar was just that last season, a superstar. The reality is, however, that in 2017/2018 an NBA superstar is expected to lead their teams to glory. With that in mind, the expectations surrounding Giannis and the Bucks are much, much higher. With the Bucks having tasted the playoffs yet again last year in a first round elimination to the Toronto Raptors, the expectation in Milwaukee is that the Bucks will show growth this year and not only make the playoffs but venture out of the first round for the first time since the 2000/2001.
 
The Bucks have one of the youngest rosters in the league, let alone the Eastern Conference; however, as the club showed last year there’s loads of potential in Milwaukee. Not only do the Bucks have youth, but they also have athleticism as Milwaukee’s roster is comprised with some of the most exciting rookies in the league. Much like 6 foot 11 Antetokounmpo, the entire Bucks roster has length as the Bucks rank fourth tallest in the league in terms of height.
 
Although the future looks bright in Milwaukee, the reality is the Bucks’ quest for glory – at least in the short-term – will have to go through one of the best teams in the league in the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bucks may be situated in the weaker of the two conferences, but being paired with the Cavaliers in the Central Division is certainly a tough challenge in terms of scheduling.
 
Odds makers have the Cavaliers and Celtics tipped to contend in the East, or rather battle to decide who loses to the Golden State Warriors in next spring’s NBA Finals. While on paper, the Celtics appear to be the biggest threat to keep-up with the Cavaliers, the likes of the Bucks and the Toronto Raptors could be right there alongside the Celtics.
 
While Giannis has made it no secret that he wants to win basketball games, the 22-year old is coming off a controversial summer in which he didn’t play for Greece at EuroBasket 2017. Antetokounmpo’s absence was a massive loss for Greece en route to a quarter-final finish, but the nature of his absence – a war of words in the media between the Bucks organization and the Hellenic Basketball Federation – has many concerned if this is the start of a trend in regards to Antetokounmpo’s international career. The Greek Freak’s international career might be a future story-line, however, as it is highly unlikely that Antetokounmpo – like other Greeks in the NBA – will join the Greek National Team for the mid-season FIBA 2019 qualifiers.
 
TYLER DORSEY

Team: Atlanta Hawks
Division/Conference: Southeast Division, Eastern Conference
Team Projection: Out of the Playoffs
Player Projection: Bench Depth
 
It was just a few seasons ago that the Atlanta Hawks were a lock for the NBA Playoffs , and the conversation was surrounding the Hawks ability to clinch home court advantage in the first round. Fast forward to 2017/2018, and the Hawks are not even in the conversation for a playoff spot, let alone compete for one. Meaning for Tyler Dorsey, the situation in Atlanta is rather bleak heading into the rookie’s first season in the NBA.
 
Selected with the 41st overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, Dorsey finds himself third on the depth chart for shooting guard in Atlanta behind the likes of Kent Bazemore and Marco Belinelli. This means it is unlikely that Dorsey will see a wealth of playing time unless the Hawks run into injury trouble; however, that could change towards the end of the season with Hawks likely to be a seller rather than a buyer at the trade deadline later in the year.
 
Dorsey made a name for himself as a clutch performer on the college scene for Oregon last season. Dorsey’s range as a three-point shooter was on display as Oregon reached the Final Four at March Madness, losing to the eventual winners UNC 77-76 in the semi-final contest.
 
Although Dorsey wasn’t the most coveted prospect in this summer’s draft, the 21-year-old should add scoring depth to a Hawks organization that has been seriously depleted by player departures in recent seasons.
 
As the Hawks look to navigate the 2017/2018 NBA season, Dorsey could see some playing time as a losing record will put pressure on management to move veterans ahead of the trade deadline in February 2018.
 
Unlike Antetotkounmpo in Milwaukee, the reality is that Dorsey is not a major piece of the puzzle in Atlanta. Instead, the Hawks will rely heavily on point guard Dennis Schroder. Should Dorsey be given the chance to play alongside Schroder, a determining factor in Dorsey’s ability to secure more playing time will be his ability to build good chemistry alongside the German shot-caller.
 
KOSTAS KOUFOS

Team: Sacramento Kings
Division/Conference: Pacific, Western Conference
Team Projection: Out of the Playoffs
Player Projection: Depth role
 
Kostas Koufos starts the season as the starting center with the Sacramento, but that might not be the case by season’s end.
 
Koufos wasn’t part of the Greek National Team that participated at EuroBasket 2017, as the youth movement takes over the Ethniki. Still, at just 28, Koufos provides a solid option for the Kings front court – though it must be noted that he is far from elite status in the NBA.
 
With the likes of Willie Cauley-Stein and fellow countryman Georgios Papagiannis within the Kings depth chart at the center position, the Kings could lean on Koufos early in the season in order to drive up his trade value as Sacramento is destined for yet another disappointing season.
 
GEORGIOS PAPAGIANNIS

Team: Sacramento Kings
Division/Conference: Pacific, Western Conference
Team Projection: Out of the Playoffs
Player Projection: Depth role
 
Once dubbed the future of the center position within the Greek National Team, Georgios Papagiannis faces an uphill battle with his NBA club the Sacramento Kings in order to get back to that level of regard for the Ethniki.
 
Papagiannis will most likely start the season on the bench, but could see a fair share of minutes even though he ranks third on the Kings depth chart for centers behind the aforementioned Koufos and Cauley-Stein.
 
The Kings dealt the undisputed starting center, Demarcus Cousins, to the New Orleans Pelicans before the trade deadline last year. With the Kings not making any upgrades over the summer, it is apparent that Papagiannis will have a chance to earn the starter role in the line-up. Perhaps the leading cause that could keep Papagiannis on the bench is the tendency for Western Conference teams to switch to a smaller line-up.
 
With that in mind, there are several teams in the league – even in the West – that still rely on their big men to contribute offensively and if Papagiannis can impress in the small sample of minutes he is expected to get in the early going, he can perhaps work his way up the Kings depth chart.
 
Sadly for the Kings, the team is expected to continue to slump in the league’s tougher conference and with that miss the playoffs for the 12th straight season. The Kings’ brass could choose to keep Papagiannis with the big club, or opt to send the man they call Big George to the NBA G League with the Reno Big Horns.
 
Papagiannis’ ability to be a solid performer when called upon could also determine how active the Kings are in the trade market. The Kings likely consider themselves to have too many options at the center position and could be in the market to make a trade before the trade deadline.
s Peter Katsiris previews the 2017/2018 NBA season from a Greek perspective as he forecasts what’s to come for the Greeks plying their trade abroad in the NBA…
 
As the curtain is set to be raised on another NBA season on Tuesday night, Greek fans of the NBA have four players to keep an eye on across the league.
 
Last year’s headlines, and rightfully so, were dominated by Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s safe to say that we can expect more of the same from the Greek Freak in 2017/2018, but aside from the Greek Freak there are other storylines to keep an eye out for this season: How will Tyler Dorsey settle in Atlanta? Will the Greek towers stand tall in Sacramento?
 

 
by Peter Katsiris
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