In preparation for the 2020-21 NBA season, teams have been filling their rosters with talent, including two-way players. With the Los Angeles Lakers retaining the talents of Kostas Antetokounmpo for the second straight season.
The 23-year-old signed with the Lakers in the 2019 off-season and spent the majority of the 2019-20 campaign in the G League with the South Bay Lakers. The season prior, Antetokounmpo spent his rookie year with the Dallas Mavericks on a two-way contract.
Players signed to a two-way deal spend the majority of the season in the G League. Normally two-way players are eligible to be called up to their parent team in the NBA for a maximum of 45 days per season.
With the 2020-21 season being shortened, two-way players can be active for up to 50 of the NBA’s 72-game schedule. Travel days and practices will not be included, as they have previously.
Evaluating Kostas Antetokounmpo against the standard set by his brother is a mistake. It may be unlikely that he will ever touch the success Giannis has achieved, but he still has the tools to be an NBA player.
Last season – his second overall and first in South Bay – he showcased some improved skills in a larger role than he had with the Texas Legends. His raw production increased, with averages of 14.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. This was against 10.6/6.1/0.7 splits the previous year.
He also improved his FG% from 52.5% to 62.3%, while taking nearly two additional shots per game. Those statistics demonstrate his improving ability to find his best spots on the floor and take advantage of them. Continuing to hone that skill is essential for him, since he projects to be a role player. He will need to be able to pick his moments carefully, and also not waste them.
In the final 5 games leading up to the 2019-20 G League suspension, Antetokounmpo was hitting new levels. As he was posting averages of 17.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block, on a 79.1% conversion rate from the field.
His biggest assets remain his physical tools and his motor. He is a competent if unexceptional post scorer, but some of his basketball skills continue to require improvement. His handle is uneven at the best of times, and he turned the ball over more frequently in his larger role with South Bay (2.7 per game, as opposed to 1.8 in Texas).
The other weaknesses in his game that are keeping him from a 15-man roster are poor shooting and defensive awareness. He shot 15% last year from three-point range on barely one attempt per game. His shooting at the foul line regressed from his first year also. As he ended his second season with a Shaq-esque 58.5% on 3.4 attempts per game.
Defensive awareness is perhaps the more concerning issue. While he performs well enough in the G-League, he frequently makes schematic mistakes on that end against NBA competition. Young players are not expected to be elite defenders, but with his physical tools he should be better.
On the whole, the 2020-21 season will be critical for Kostas’ future prospects at an NBA roster. Especially as it has been reported that the Lakers will be opting to remove South Bay from a G League bubble.
He has all the physical tools – and the name – to demand scouts’ attention. If he can reduce his turnovers and improve his defensive focus without losing offensive efficiency, he could very well play his way into a future NBA contract.
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