Is Masai Ujiri eying a Greek freak in the draft?

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, 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, 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.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • googergieger

    Well we do have the most famous Greek superstar in the NBA in Kosta Koufos!

    Well I think he’s like the only Greek player in the NBA, but still, we got something.

    • Greco21

      Koufos is the only Greek in the NBA.

      The best reason that he is the ONLY Greek in the NBA is that he grew up in the USA.

      It would be really difficult for a kid from Greece to adjust to the NCAA and NBA standards.

      It is SO different when it comes to drills, individual skills e.t.c.

      The Greek National team is one of the best in the world (ranks 4th i think) because of teamplay, fundamendals and off the ball execution.

      You will rarely see a Greek challenge you one on one or taunt, or whatever…

      On the other hand Greeks are crazy. They can make cinderela stories and the inevitable happen. And it goes on for thousands of years

  • TJ Mcbride

    His release point scares me and when you COMPLETLY reconfigure a shooting stroke and form you never know where it might lead. Very interesting prospect but his inability or lack of will power to be physical is going to be a very large problem for him. To use his unorthadox physical tool set to it’s full potential he needs to bulk up and play physically. With out that physicality he is just another long body attempting too many blocked shots. I would be interested in this guy if we kept him over seas for at least another year, maybe year and a half. But if Masai is traveling to watch him, that’s just improves my idea of him. #inmasaiwetrust

    • G

      JaVale is still lanky and utilizes his size and athleticism pretty well. I don’t think every tall player is required to “bulk up” to be effective.

      • mile high

        Javale is much bigger and more physical and should not be used as comparison here.

        BTW, if people are satisfied and happy paying McGee 11 million per year for 10 minutes per game, then I can only rest my case and shut up.

  • D3Ntilthe3ND

    He regularly plays PG, but only average 1.4 assists?

    • al68

      Las asistencias no se contabilizan igual aqui en europa que en la NBA.
      Desde el mes de diciembre tiene contrato con el equipo español CAI de Zaragoza, por lo que si alguien quisiera contratarle tendría que pagar una indemnización al CAI, por lo que parece normal que se quede un tiempo en europa (la liga española es la más fuerte despues de la NBA), mejorando y aprendiendo.
      Creo que a muchos jugadores que se van a la NBA con 19 como Hamilton y Miller y que, para mi pierden los años mas importantes de formacion (19-21 años), en el banquillo siendo suplentes podrían aprender mucho en europa, madurar como personas al conocer otras culturas, y ganar un dinero que es lo que buscan al no acabar su periplo universitario.

      • NugNugz

        Me puedes explicar cómo son diferentes las asistencias en Europa en comparación con las de la NBA?

        Aparte de esta pregunta, estoy totalmente de acuerdo con lo que dices.

  • steve

    2nd rd pick baby! i don’t mind storing guys overseas especially when we have the roster we do.

  • Will the NC Nugget

    Good prospect for Nuggets of the Future led by Manimal 94nier J Hamm Q Miller

  • PlainsNugFan

    This kid is intriguing. He should be playing in the U.S. against real competition. The “competition” in the video is no better than small school HS basketball in the US. No wonder so many euro prospects can’t hack it in the NBA, e.g. Tskitishvili.

  • Legalize Denver Nuggets

    Look at that kids baby face. And then his monster hands. He’s gonna get even taller, I’d say. Thanks for the post guys- def an intriguing prospect. I wonder how on the radar he is for other teams now?

    And I wonder what that dude Chu-chu is up to right now this very second? Remember that Masai late round Nigerian draft pick? I assume he did not end up having the talent?

    • Idlejack

      I think Toronto,Celtics,Thunder and Nuggets have already scout him,Celtics more extensively.
      In the latest 2013 mock draft of “draftexpress” is at 25 and for the last 1,5 month that they “discovered” him he is between 25 and 29

  • Markos

    Amazing talent! I actually posted a link about him 2 weeks ago on this blog!

  • Zorba

    Me too I posted the scouting video a couple of weeks ago. The video is from league B in Greece, but here we can talk about a huge potential! His brother, Thanassis Adekotumbo is also very interesting. He’s 6-7, 20 years old and plays at sg and sf. He isn’t as versatile as his brother but his athleticism and shooting are better.
    Take a look at the links below

    Ps: they’re of Nigerian origins, a fact that explains Masai’s interest as a scouter of the Nigerian NT

  • kwelitysoul

    Wow, a Skeeta reference…how dare you?!

    • Ryan

      Agreed. Tsk, tsk…. (pun intended)

  • Idlejack

    I m Greek and I’ve watched him in a few games so let me tell you a few things about this kid.
    He playes more at 2 and 3 than at point.
    As he hasn’t Greek citizenship,he has not yet play with the best players of his age (international matches with national teams).
    The team he is playing for doesn’t have a solid basketball academy so he somehow lacks fundamentals.
    His shooting motion is bad.
    He is not strong enough for a 3 not quick enough for a 1.
    He is not ready yet.
    He is perfect for the Nuggets.
    You have to understand that because his team is playing in the second division of Greek basketball League(A2) his opponents are not talented but they are far more strong and experienced than him.This is a good learning experience for any young fellow.
    Also his team is not playing for the shake of developing him or any other talent.Currently
    they are second in the board.If he couldnt handle pressure he wouldn’t play.
    In other words his basketball IQ is in high level
    He has a rare talent for European player of his age: creating his own shots.
    He can penetrate and finish with both hands and also shoot of the drible.
    His motion is bad but the shots are falling.
    He’s got really good ball handling maybe not for point guard but definitely for 2 or 3.
    He rebounds well for a guy that spends most of his time in the perimeter.
    He is good at intercepting passes and block as a help defender.
    I think this is exactly what Nuggets seek.
    He fits perfecty in their philosophy.
    Plus Nuggets dont need him right away so he can stay for a couple of years in Europe to gain experience and buid up his body.

    Just hire him a personal trainer and you’ll have an amazing player in a few years.

    • heykyleinsf

      thanks for the scouting report!
      cool insights.

  • Zorba

    The Greek article I read says that Giannis is supposed to be drafted at the n. 18 of the first round…

  • mike

    OFF topic: For the people whining about the switching Karl does, in some cases I agree, but this article indicates it will become more common in the NBA as an antidote to some of the activities the offenses have used to combat the Chicago/Boston style defenses

  • Tom

    I remember watching this a while ago. His game reminds me a lot of Corey Brewer. Back in the day, Brewer had a lot of potential too, but he never quite made the progress people hoped. Maybe the Nuggets can let Brewer walk and draft this kid to replace him?

    • Idlejack

      This kid ain’t ready yet.
      Even if he comes immediatelly after the drafts in NBA it would be at least a couple of years before he can provide anything for this team.

  • slader

    It’s always a tough choice about foreign picks: will they develop better abroad or in the D-league? Maybe in Greece (in this case) our kid will get more experience in minutes but less real development attention than he would within the NBA system.
    Masai elected to keep Fournier stateside, and it suddenly looks like a stroke of genius.

    • al68

      Yo creo que el basket de las grandes ligas europeas es mejor, aunque es solo una opinion, porque los partidos son más intensos sobretodo si juegas la euroliga, aprendes a jugar con presión y para mi a veces mucha más presión que la de los PO de la NBA.
      Siempre es un riesgo Dirk pasó de la 2ª div. alemana a la NBA, y mirar luego lo que está siendo.
      Respecto a este chico no le he visto jugar, solo he visto videos, pero creo que el año proximo tiene contrato con un equipo de la 1ª division española, y pienso que le ira bien para desarrollarse. Ya os ire contando si viene aquí y es elegido por Denver.

      • Zorba

        He now belongs to Saragosa but he has a 400.000 euros buyout option for the nba.

        • Ryan

          That’s an important point. If a player (or the team possibly) can afford to pay his buyout, they can come to the NBA, whether they want to or not. Fournier had a pretty cheap buyout and, since he was a 1st round pick, forced his way onto the Nuggets’ roster, as they would have forfeited his rights if they hadn’t. It’s a great idea to stash players for a couple years, but you can’t always do that if you spend a 1st round pick on them…

          • Ryan

            Sorry, the above post should say “… whether THE TEAM wants them to or not…

  • heykyleinsf

    What I immediately think of is perimeter defense..
    especially around the arc.. which would rock for us.

    I just love the job Ujiri is doing in general..
    If he likes him.. I trust him..
    You got to hand it to this guy..
    the Melo trade and the last few drafts,
    I love the job he’s doing..
    so much.. that I worry he will go and defect
    on us.. to the Lakers or Suns or Spurs or someone..
    The Kroenkes seriously need to keep this man happy.

  • toluenehawk

    At the end of the season they should trade ty, mozgov, and a first round pick for a sign and trade with LA to get Dwight Howard.

    • Scott

      Um how bout no.

  • a_roth

    As nice as that sounds, the Nuggets need help at PG to back up Lawson next year, not to get rid of the best PG we have.

    Also, the Lakers, as a team over the luxury tax, are not permitted to participate in a sign & trade in the new CBA.

    • toluenehawk

      Its time to hand the keys of this team to Andre Miller and let the Fournicator back him up.

      • a_roth

        The only keys Andre Miller needs are the keys to the Nursing Home. His style doesn’t mesh with anyone else on the team, other than JaVale.

  • dynamo.joe

    You know who fits this team?

    DJ Stephens. 6’5″, watch him kiss the rim. An inch or 2 short for a SF, but if anyone should know height ain’t everything, it’s a Denver Nuggets fan.

    Hyper-athletic wing for our hyper-athletic switching D.

  • Andrew K

    But if he is such a good prospect, how will Denver expect to get him so late in the draft???

  • Zorba

    Danny Ferry was in Greece to meet Giannis, so it is probable that he’s going to be drafted at n.18 by Atlanta…