Last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t sign any players to contracts beyond the 2020-21 season because they’re trying to preserve their cap space for the 2021 free agency period, when Giannis Antetokounmpo is set to hit the open market.
To get the ball rolling on their courtship of Giannis, the Lakers signed his younger brother Kostas Antetokounmpo to a two-way contract in July. However, according to a report from Dave McMenamin of ESPN in July, they were also interested in him as a prospect, and it’s not hard to see why.
Kostas is 6’10 and has roughly the same build Giannis did at 22 years old. The difference between Kostas and Giannis, though, is that Giannis showed flashes of potential before he broke out into NBA superstardom. Those flashes have been far and few for Kostas this season.
In 38 appearances for the Lakers’ G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, Kostas averaged 14.1 points on 62.3% shooting from the field, in addition to 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, while averaging 25.4 minutes per game. On the surface those don’t seem like bad numbers, but it doesn’t take much digging to see that Kostas has struggled to be an impactful player even at the G League level.
Despite shooting 62.3% from the field, Kostas has posted an offensive rating of 109, which can be largely attributed to the fact that he’s a bad shooter. Of the 324 field goals Kostas has attempted this season, only 42 of them have come from outside of the paint. On 3-point attempts, Kostas has shot 6-39 (15.4%) from the field, and on mid-range attempts, he’s shot 0-3.
Kostas can still be a valuable player without a 3-point shot, but he’d have to be elite on the other end to do that. While he has all the physical tools to be an elite talent on the defensive end, the fundamentals aren’t there and, as a result, he’s posted a defensive rating of 114.4 for an overall net rating of -5.4. Again, it doesn’t take too much digging.
It’s not too late for Kostas to figure it out (after all, this is only his second year in the NBA), but the fact that he doesn’t have skill or strength to play the 3, 4 or 5 is concerning for a player his size. Like, you can’t be a multi-positional player if you can’t even play one well.
All that being said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lakers give him another look next season, if for no other reason than the fact it would give them another year to sell him — and, in turn, Giannis — on the organization. And who knows? — if Kostas figures it all out before 2021, the Lakers could have a good problem on their hands.