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The Bucks signed Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother. It doesn’t matter if he can play

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We have that and more in Monday’s NBA newsletter.

NBA: New York Knicks-Media Day William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the Milwaukee Bucks signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the older brother of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, to a two-year deal for the veteran’s minimum. Thanasis spent three games on a bad Knicks team a couple of years ago after some fairly mundane work in the G League. Then he went back to Europe to play professionally, finding team success for Panathinkaikos. In 2017-18, Antetokounmpo averaged 8 and 3 in the Greek league and just 3.6 points per game in the Euroleague. (He won the Greek League’s Most Spectacular Player award, which makes me wonder what the criteria is for Most Spectacular Player, something I’m having trouble determining.) In 2018-19, at age 26, he averaged 4.2 points per game in the Euroleague.

Now he’s in the NBA on a two-year deal.

Needless to say, it’s hard to imagine Thanasis getting another NBA shot if not for his last name and his brother’s stature. The Bucks signing Giannis’ brother two years prior to Antetokounmpo hitting free agency is a pretty flagrant attempt to curry favor. But you know what? It’s totally fine. The Bucks have a roster spot to play with and the vet’s minimum doesn’t really cost you anything but the roster spot. Milwaukee has confidence that it’s rotation can withstand the rigors of an 82-game season and another deep playoff run without using Thanasis’ spot on a more classic end-of-the-rotation NBA vet or promising 21-year-old.

If Thanasis’ presence makes Giannis even 1 percent happier in Milwaukee, or 1 percent more focused this season, then it’s likely more valuable than any other end-of-the-bench asset. In fact, every title hopeful should have a roster spot reserved for a star’s relative or a symbolic mascot. Heck, the Warriors did that with Andrew Bogut last year. Why not the Bucks and Thanasis Antetokounmpo?

The Dallas Back Door

The Mavericks failed this offseason. No one thought Dallas was in play for the top free agents or trade targets, but as Kirk Henderson and Rebecca Lawson explain at Mavs Moneyball, the team essentially wasted the cap savings from the lopsided Harrison Barnes trade by failing to close on Danny Green and everyone else they chased. Unless the Mavericks make a trade soon to absorb a player into cap space, contracts for restricted free agents Kristaps Porzingis and Maxi Kleber will take Dallas completely out of the race.

But I think the Mavericks will be better this season after signing Delon Wright and adding Seth Curry this summer. Those two guards plus Tim Hardaway Jr. and J.J. Barea (never leave us J.J.) should provide just enough guard play to let Luka Doncic and Porzingis handle the heavy scoring loads. Wright has some strong upside (Raptors Bench 2018 Forever) and would seem to be the key to Dallas finding a strong defense somewhere in this roster.

As with so many teams, the Mavericks’ fate rests in the hands of their best players. If Porzingis is healthy and plays like an All-Star, the Mavericks can be good soon. If Doncic continues to develop, the Mavericks can be good soon. The other stuff -- especially having a few capable guards -- matters a lot. But the upside of this team is all up front. The hope now is that Wright, Curry, and the other can give Doncic and Porzingis enough cover to thrive.


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