The Los Angeles Lakers seemed to be mostly done adding to their roster, but they made one of the most interesting additions they could have possibly made at this point in the offseason by claiming former Dallas Mavericks power forward Kostas Antetokounmpo off of waivers on Sunday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. He will be the Lakers’ second player on a two-way deal, along with Zach Norvell Jr.
Kostas Antetokounmpo — the younger brother of NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo — heads to the Lakers on a two-way deal. https://t.co/zpdgRZaedj— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 21, 2019
Players on two-way contracts can be called up to their team’s NBA roster for up to 45 days during a season, time in which they’re paid a pro-rated NBA salary. This year, two-way players will earn nearly $80,000, not including NBA wages. Antetokounmpo and Norvell will spend their time not called up by the Lakers playing for the South Bay Lakers in the G League. They do not count against an NBA roster, so the Lakers still have one guaranteed contract spot left as of right now.
Antetokounmpo — whose brother is reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo — averaged 1 point and 1 steal in two games for the Mavericks last season while on a two-way contract, but the obvious connection a lot of people are going to make is that this addition is less about Kostas, and more about Giannis.
The Lakers proudly trumpeted their cap space for 2021 while introducing Anthony Davis last week, a summer that just so happens to be when Giannis projects to enter unrestricted free agency at 26 years old. Could bringing in Kostas be a way to sell themselves to Giannis via a third party, similarly to how they signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to set the stage for fellow Klutch Sports client LeBron James a few summers ago? It’s possible, and it lends credence to the idea that the Lakers brought in Giannis’ former coach, Jason Kidd, as an assistant coach on Frank Vogel’s staff for similar reasons.
But look, if bringing in Kostas guaranteed Giannis, there would have been teams lining up to offer him close to a max deal last summer, and he wouldn’t be on a two-way contract. Giannis is that good.
There are also other reasons this is not a guarantee of Giannis coming, including that he’s said he could “never” see himself playing in Los Angeles in the past (via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, emphasis mine):
He enjoyed the opportunity to be back with his teammates and in the city he calls home as the Bucks prepare for a difficult, critical final 25 games of the season. He also appreciates the comfort of playing in a city where the spotlight isn’t as bright as Los Angeles.
“I could never see myself being out there,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s great for two, three days but it’s a little bit — things are going a little bit crazy.
”Of course, because of the All-Star Game, there was a lot of people there. … In Milwaukee — I love Milwaukee — it’s low-key. I can walk down the road, down the streets without anybody bugging me — nobody interrupts my conversation or anything. I love how quiet and calm Milwaukee is.”
It’s not the only time he’s said as much:
But things change, so it’s possible Giannis could alter his thinking if he hears good things from his brother. However, as things stand, the Milwaukee Bucks just signed Giannis’ other brother, Thanasis, so if assembling his whole family like Infinity Stones is the goal, the Lakers are still one short among his siblings currently in the NBA.
This is obviously all just speculation for now, and maybe the Lakers do really like Kostas as a player. These things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but this is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows around the NBA for reasons beyond what Kostas can bring on the floor.