Greeks in the NBA: 2018/2019 Season Preview
AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris checks-in with a preview of the 2018/2019 season for Greece’s flag-bearers in the NBA…
Another new NBA season is upon us as the 2018/2019 season tipped-off on Tuesday night with the two-time defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, among the four teams in action on opening night.
On Wednesday, however, Greece’s representatives will be in action as their respective teams begin their pursuit of the Larry O’Brien trophy. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the contingent of Greeks in the NBA, while younger brother Kostas could make his debut over the course of the season after landing in Dallas in the most recent draft.
Elsewhere in the NBA, Tyler Dorsey is set to begin his sophomore season with the Atlanta Hawks while veteran big man, Kostas Koufos, will begin his eleventh season in the league with the Sacramento Kings.
Having recently applied for a Greek passport, Canadian-born Naz Mitrou-Long is a longshot to feature for the Utah Jazz though he is likely to receive some mentoring from recently appointed assistant coach, Fotis Katsikaris in Salt Lake City.
Greeks in the NBA: 2018/2019 Edition
Kostas Koufos | Sacramento Kings
11th NBA Season; drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2008 (23rd overall)
Contract: entering final season of 4-year deal ($8,739,500)
Kostas Koufos, the most-experienced Greek in the NBA, will begin his eleventh season in the league in what could be his final season with the Sacramento Kings. Koufos used the player option in his contract with the club to remain with the Kings for the upcoming season, but is expected to head to unrestricted free agency next summer.
Koufos, a veteran presence on the league’s sixth youngest team, is slotted as the Kings’ third option at the center position behind the likes of expected starter Willie Cauley-Stein and backup Harry Giles.
The fact that Koufos starts the season sidelined by a hamstring injury doesn’t do any favours for the 29-year-old, who made 71 appearances last season. Unless the Kings are hit with an injury bug, Koufos’ role with the team will be nothing more than a depth option as Sacramento will likely lean heavily on their younger players.
Giannis Antetokounmpo | Milwaukee Bucks
6th NBA Season; drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013 (15th overall)
Contract: entering second season of 4-year deal ($24,157,303)
There’s no doubting that Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best Greek player to suit up for an NBA club. Perhaps what fuels that conversation the most is that the 23-year-old is in the conversation for best player in the league.
Indeed, it is downright foolish to label Antetokounmpo as the best player in the league, particularly with LeBron James and Kevin Durant not showing any signs of slowing down. However, the value Antetokounmpo offers to the Bucks cannot be denied.
As the Bucks begin a new era at their new arena in downtown Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo will be relied upon to guide the Bucks to glory. While title aspirations in Milwaukee shouldn’t be taken seriously, pressure on the organization will be at an all-time high if the Bucks fail to advance past the first round of the playoffs like in past seasons.
Form a personal standpoint, however, Antetokounmpo is on a journey. From being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2017, to getting his first start in the NBA All-Star Game last season, the former Filathlitikos man has a point to prove and should be considered in the MVP conversation should everything go to plan for the Bucks and their ‘Greek Freak.’
Tyler Dorsey | Atlanta Hawks
2nd NBA Season; drafted by the Atlanta Hawks (41st overall)
Contract: entering second season of 3-year deal ($1,378,242)
As the Hawks continue their rebuild in Atlanta, Tyler Dorsey faces the tough task of proving he belongs in the league on a team that isn’t expect to be very competitive this season.
Dorsey does know what it takes to make the Hawks roster, though. After a long stint in the NBA G League last season, Dorsey returned to the big club where he added value as a scoring option off the bench.
Thanks to a summer of change in Atlanta, Dorsey is penciled in as the backup small forward for the Hawks and could face the prospect of being used out of position as the Hawks have one of the most inexperienced rosters in the league. Although Dorsey doesn’t appear to have the skillset to set the league ablaze, his reliable long-range shooting could make him a favourable option off the bench for a Hawks team that is likely to experience plenty of growing pains all season long.
Naz Mitrou-Long | Utah Jazz
2nd NBA/NBA G League season; went undrafted in 2017 NBA draft
Contract: two-way contract with Utah’s NBA G League affiliate (Salt Lake City Stars)
Perhaps the most unknown Greek player in the NBA is Naz Mitrou-Long. Born in Canada, Mitrou-Long reportedly received his Greek passport this past summer and is eligible to play for the Greek National Team.
Mitrou-Long’s primary focus is to build a career for himself in the NBA after going undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft. The Utah Jazz, who signed Mitrou-Long to a two-way contract midway through last season, have opted to keep the 25-year-old within the organization though it does appear that Mitrou-Long is destined to spend most, if not all, of the season with Utah’s G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars.
Perhaps an added benefit for Mitrou-Long is the presence of former Greek National Team head coach, Fotis Katsikaris, who was appointed as an assistant to Quin Snyder. While Mitrou-Long isn’t expected to remain with the NBA club, the convenience of having the Stars play out of the same city could help build the bond between Mitrou-Long
Kostas Antetokounmpo | Dallas Mavericks
Rookie, drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2018 (60th overall)
Contract: two-way contract with Dallas’ NBA G League affiliate (Texas Legends)
A few short months after being selected with the last pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, Kostas Antetokounmpo hopes to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers, Thanasis and Giannis, and become the third in his family to play for an NBA club.
Antetokounmpo’s journey to the NBA might have to wait, however, as the 20-year-old isn’t expected to feature for the Mavericks from the outset of the season. Instead, Antetokounmpo is expected to spend most of the upcoming season with Dallas’ G League affiliate, the Texas Legends.
Although it’s unlikely that Antetokounmpo will spend large parts of the season with the big club, it isn’t totally out of the question that the former University of Dayton product makes his NBA debut in 2018/2019.