Last week Chris Sheridan broke the news that Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri had recently made a trip overseas to scout one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft. His name is Giannis Adetokunbo. He’s 6-9. He’s freakishly athletic. And he regularly plays point guard for his team in Greece. Did I mention he’s a 6-9 freak who regularly plays point guard?
In Sheridan’s article on his website SheridanHoops.com, he refers to Adetokunbo as a former “best-kept secret in NBA scouting circles” who put on “quite a show in the Greek national junior tournament attended by Bryan Colangelo of the Toronto Raptors and Masai Ujiri of the Denver Nuggets.”
According to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com, Adetokunbo’s parents fled from their native country of Nigeria to Greece in 1992 and gave birth to Adetokunbo shortly thereafter. He’s then stared playing basketball around age 10 and was spotted by a famous Greek basketball coach while playing pickup around town. These days he stands roughly 6-9. He has gigantic hands which punctuate a 7-3 wingspan and has grown three inches in the last 10 months.
More from DraftExpress on his game:
It’s popular to say that a prospect–particularly an obscure one– “plays every position on the floor,” but in the game we watched in Greece, that was indeed the case. The competition level, as you can see in the video scouting report above, is indeed nothing to write home about, but it’s difficult not to be taken aback by the incredibly versatile skill-set Adetokunbo brings to the table at 6-9.
The tallest player on his team, Adetokunbo started the game off at the power forward position, but played on the perimeter almost exclusively. Similar to the way Kyle Anderson is used at UCLA, he initiates a lot of his team’s offense in the half-court and regularly rebounds the ball and takes it coast to coast, showing fantastic body control. He’s an extremely smooth ball-handler and a surprisingly adept passer, looking extremely unselfish and very focused on getting his teammates involved. He’s capable of driving left or right and reads defenses far better than you’d expect considering his age and size, as he shows great sparks of creativity and smarts that make it easy to envision him developing into a point forward type as his career progresses.
Defensively is where Adetokunbo might have the best potential considering the superior size and length he brings to the table at his position—likely small forward. He’s not very consistent in this area yet, as he lacks significant experience, is not physical enough keeping a body on opponents and fighting through screens, and plays too upright on the perimeter. The instincts he displays here are very intriguing though, as he shows good anticipation on the defensive glass and is capable of making his presence felt in the passing lanes and as a shot-blocker.
Several aspects of this story should warrant significant interest from Nuggets fans…
First and foremost, Adetokunbo is an incredibly tantalizing prospect. Although he lacks seasoning and high-level experience, his tools are undeniable. If drafted by the Nuggets he could continue to stay overseas to polish his game or come straight to the U.S. in order to truly experience what it takes to succeed in the NBA. Either way the Nuggets would have the luxury of taking their time with him due to the immense amount of talent already accumulated on the current roster.
The second interesting storyline here involves African pedigree. Both Ujiri and Adetokunbo’s parents have roots in Nigeria. Ujiri is also the director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders African program and first cut his teeth in the NBA as an international scout. There’s a good chance he knows the up-and-coming talent from his native continent of Africa better than any scout in the league today.
In the 2012 Draft, Ujiri took two international prospects and seemingly stole at least one. There are a few more international prospects slated to drop in the first round this year, but if Adetokunbo’s one of them and Ujiri is the man who drafts him, we’ll just have to forgo any unnecessary speculation and immediately mark it down as another steal.