What Could’ve Been: Antetokounmpo Had A Real Shot At Joining The Celtics
It’s time to use your imagination for a second and imagine Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo donning a Boston Celtics jersey on a June night in 2013.
And your time is up!
That was a fun exercise, right?
Well in all seriousness, that could’ve happened had things gone differently on that June night back in 2013.
Lets go back and find out how the Celtics missed out on one of the best players in today’s NBA.
So here we go.
The Celtics came into the 2013 NBA Draft with the 16th overall pick and plans with the Dallas Mavericks to move up the board if a certain player was still available.
That specific player they had their eyes on was the one and only Kelly Olynyk.
And guess what?
Olynyk slid to the Mavericks at 13, so the Celtics pulled the trigger and made the deal with Dallas to move up to draft the longhaired wing forward out of Gonzaga.
Boston traded the Mavs their 16th pick, plus a pair of second-rounders to jump three spots.
The thing is though, just two picks later, the Milwaukee Bucks drafted the youngest player in the draft, but more importantly a future top-10 player in the NBA.
“With the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft the Milwaukee Bucks, select Giannis Antetokounmpo, from Athens, Greece. He previously played for Filathlitikos B.C. Greece.”
And just like that the Bucks landed what would become a franchise-altering player, who would become known as “The Greek Freak.”
While the Celtics drafted a decent role player, who’d be coming off the bench and would only end up starting 36 games for the C’s over four years with the team.
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But who would’ve known that Antetokounmpo would end becoming a double-double machine?
President of basketball operations, Danny Ainge, reflects on the drafting of Antetokounmpo with Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.
“Giannis was a really bright talent,” Ainge said. “He was really young. He played on a pro B team in Greece, and I saw him practice. I met him. He was very skinny. I thought he was absolutely a worthwhile project.
“But never in a million years did I see him becoming a potential best-player-in-the-league type of player. And I saw his potential as a good player because he could handle the ball, and he was long. But he was really, really skinny, and I think he was about two or three inches shorter than he is now. But what an amazing player.”
Ainge continues on, saying “the only thing about a guy like Giannis is everybody missed on that, pretty much. Nobody thought he was the best player in the draft and had that type of potential, and yet I think that everybody after the top eight or 10 players probably considered him to some level.”
It’s like they always say, “a shot not taken, is a basket not scored.”
The Bucks took a shot on “The Alphabet” and scored 26.9 points worth of baskets a night with this pick.
But it’s not easy to identify top-tier talent in the draft once you get beyond the transformative players or the ones that are slated to go in the top three to five. And the further you move down the draft board, the harder it gets to land the big fish.
Like Ainge said, “the whole world could see that LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant were going to be great. Those guys were pretty easy to see. But Giannis, you’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He’s a bright kid and a hard worker, and he’s developed into one of the great players in our league.”
Hindsight is 20-20, right?
Had the Celtics and Ainge decided to draft Antetokounmpo over Olynyk, we’d be sitting here looking at a totally different team.
Chances are there would be no Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Gordon Hayward, unless one of those players shifted to the two spot or Antetokounmpo slid over to the four. Or the Celtics could’ve said screw it, and loaded up with “bigger” players who can knock down buckets and play at both ends of the floor.
But not even Miss Cleo could’ve predicted this.
Here’s few things to consider:
The C’s would being dealing with a tight salary cap if Antetokounmpo was here. Because chance are he would’ve signed an extension here in 2016.
NOTE: Antetokounmp signed a 4-year/$100M extension in September 2016.
Would the Celtics still have traded Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving?
What if everything stayed the same, but the C’s did draft “The Greek Freak?”
Imagine this starting lineup for the Celtics: Irving, Hayward, Tatum/Brown, Antetokounmpo and Al Horford? And the odd man out would be the sixth man. That’d be one ridiculous starting lineup!
If the Celtics were rolling out that starting lineup, night in and night out, the 20th highest scoring team in the NBA for the 2018 season would be right at the top with the likes of the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.
But what’s done, is done and we have move on without Antetokounmpo and Olynyk, thankfully.
So with that being said, the Celtics are right there with the best of them, even with an injury plagued team. And without a superstar like Antetokounmpo.
Now lets go get Banner 18 against the guy who could’ve been!
UP NEXT: The Celtics (55-27) continue their first round action as they welcome the Milwaukee Bucks (44-38) to the TD Garden on Tuesday for game two of the NBA Playoffs. The C’s currently lead the Bucks, 1-0, in the best of seven series. Catch the call of the game with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell, live on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Pre-game coverage begins at 7:30 p.m., with tip-off set for 8:00 p.m.
— By John ‘The Dude’ Hardiman, 985TheSportsHub.com
John Hardiman is a Digital Producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for John? Hit him up on Twitter @HardiDude or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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