The New York Knicks disappointed a number of fans when they waived Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo didn’t play very often during the preseason, but his explosiveness and defensive upside made him the popular fan choice for the final roster spot.
Since the controversial decision, one question has persisted: what’s next?
Antetokounmpo was an NBA D-League standout who turned down a significant pay increase to return to Westchester in 2014-15. The key to his decision was the opportunity to make the Knicks’ main roster in 2015-16.
That may not happen right away, but Ian Begley of ESPN New York hypothesizes that Antetokounmpo will make a temporary return to the Westchester Knicks.
"“I don’t have a feeling if Thanasis has a future there,’’ Lotsos said. “It’s important wherever he plays [in the D-League], he has an important role. If that’s Westchester, fine. If [there is] not such a plan there, we’d have to find another place.” They said he had a good camp, and I believe them.’’"
Antetokounmpo sacrificed bigger money to play for Westchester in 2014-15, and it’s not guaranteed that he’d do so in 2015-16.
Locally, it’s quite possible that an NBA team will offer Antetokounmpo a non-guaranteed contract. He’s 23 years old, explosive and committed to defense, which isn’t as easy to find as it may seem.
Already attractive as an upside project, Antetokounmpo puts the icing on the cake by displaying a willingness to sacrifice offensive touches for the betterment of the team.
That mentality is very difficult to find amongst young players.
Antetokounmpo isn’t the rising star that his brother, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is, but he’s a strong enough defensive prospect to be on an NBA roster. His offensive game is raw—specifically his jump shot—but he’s explosive in transition and a utilizable threat along the baseline.
A top-heavy team with a weak back end of the rotation or a contender with an open roster spot could conceivably have a place for the 23-year-old.
If not the NBA, Antetokounmpo could find a new home overseas. He’s a big enough name to warrant some measure of hype in Europe,
Per Berman, Lotsos would only field, “Great,” offers from European teams.
"“To go to Europe, we’d want a great opportunity, not just a good opportunity,’’ Lotsos said. “We will wait a little [to see] what’s going on with some NBA teams, check out some interest, see what’s up there. Most of the European league [teams] are already in progress.”"
Someone will come calling. The question is, will it be a team in the D-League or the NBA?
That’s $481,091 more than Antetokounmpo would make in the D-League.
In terms of guaranteed money, only four players are currently signed for less than $100,000 in 2015-16, per Spotrac.com. Of those four players, not a single one will make less than $50,000—twice as much as Antetokounmpo.
Between his athleticism, upside and reasonably expected desire for more money, New York could run into trouble with bringing Antetokounmpo back to the D-League.
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