Greek Freak providing hope for Bucks

Greek Freak providing hope for Bucks
January 10, 2014, 8:45 am
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Mark Strotman

You can catch the future of the NBA tonight on Comcast SportsNet as the Bulls take on the Bucks at 7:30 p.m. It all begins with Bulls Pregame Live, where Mark Schanowski and Will Perdue will preview tonight's matchup. And stick with CSN after for Bulls Postgame Live for player reaction, highlights and analysis.

You've heard of Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart, just a handful of the expected Lottery picks who NBA general managers hope will change the course of their respective franchises. It's not a stretch, either. The 2014 NBA Draft may wind up being one of the best ever, rivaling the 1984 and 2003 drafts, which saw multiple Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers be selected in the Top 5.

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The Milwaukee Bucks almost certainly will select in the top 5 of this year's Lottery, but they have may gotten in on the future talent pool a year early with rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 6-foot-9, wiry 19-year-old, accurately nicknamed the Greek Freak, is providing excitement, production on the court and hope for Bucks fans who hope "Alphabet" will be the steal of last season's draft, when the Bucks selected him 15th overall.

First off, Antetokounmpo has quite the personality. Check out this video from ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, who interviewed Antetokounmpo via Skype about how his first season in the NBA -- and first year in the United States, by himself -- has gone. It's incredible. He speaks of idolizing Kevin Durant -- Antetokounmpo has drawn comparisons to the Thunder star in size and length -- how excited he was to earn his driver's permit in Milwaukee ("oh, I'm the best," he said of his ability to parallel park), how he's not even done growing, according to his doctors, and how his favorite Christmas present was a pair of Gucci shoes from Larry Sanders ("They're very nice. They're my first Gucci shoes. When the next rookie comes in, I want to take care of him," he said with a smile.) Watch the video. It's great.

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Antetokounmpo is excited about his opportunity, and the Bucks are just excited about how the rookie is taking advantage of it.

In his first season, Antetokounmpo is averaging 6.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 22.6 minutes per game. He entered the starting lineup in the middle of December, and in those 10 games has averaged 8.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and nearly a steal and block per game in 31 minutes. With the Bucks competing for the worst record in the NBA -- they have a league-worst seven wins -- the Greek Freak is going to get all the run he can handle, and so far he's making good on the increased minutes.

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At just 19 years old, he's the same age as the college freshmen drawing rave reviews, except Antetokounmpo has a year of NBA experience under his belt already. There's no telling if he'll wind up being a star or if he'll even warrant the Bucks selecting him 15th overall as a massive unknown and project, but ESPN's Chad Ford recently said in a chat that he would have taken Antetokounmpo first overall in a re-draft of the 2013 Lottery.

What's scary is the Bucks likely will have their pick of talented freshmen (or Smart, a sophomore point guard at Oklahoma State) to help build the foundation of the franchise around Antetokounmpo, 23-year-old John Henson, 25-year-old Larry Sanders and 22-year-old Brandon Knight.

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The Bulls will try and slow down the Greek Freak tonight on CSN. It all begins at 7 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. And stay interactive throughout the night by checking out Bulls Pulse, using #BullsTalk to join the conversation on Twitter.