The last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft had a special message Thursday for the last pick of the 2018 draft.
“Whoever is drafted 60th tonight call me right after,” wrote Los Angeles Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas on Twitter. “LOL. I’ll give you the formula to get right!”
Nine hours later, after the Dallas Mavericks selected Dayton Flyers forward Kostas Antetokounmpo with the 60th pick, via a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, Thomas wrote, “Best player in the draft!!!! Mark my words.”
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Thomas overcame the odds to become a two-time all-star despite his late selection. He’s the most famous name of recent players drafted last, though it is possible for the last pick to build a career. Three of the six No. 60 picks since Thomas have played in the NBA.
Antetokounmpo, the first Dayton player to be drafted since Negele Knight went to the Phoenix Suns in the second round in 1990, will try to become the second Flyer in as many years to play in the NBA. Charles Cooke went undrafted last year but signed a two-way contract with the New Orleans Pelicans and appeared in 13 games.
While Cooke led Dayton with 15.8 points per game in 2016-17, Antetokounmpo was the sixth-leading scorer (5.2 points per game) for a 14-17 team. It was his potential and athleticism that drew the attention of NBA scouts — as well as the comparisons to his brother Giannis, the Milwaukee Bucks star.
Antetokounmpo was the only Atlantic 10 player to earn an invitation to the NBA Draft Combine in the spring and becomes the first A-10 player drafted since St. Joseph’s DeAndre’ Bembry in 2016.
“What you’re hoping is he turns into anything approaching his brother,” said ESPN’s Jay Bilas after Antetokounmpo was drafted. “He’s another long-armed, freakishly-athletic guy. If he puts it all together, who knows what can happen?”
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Dayton fans had a mixed reaction to the drafting of Antetokounmpo. While many congratulated him, some questioned why he was drafted over college players with better credentials — St. Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams, Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett or Cincinnati’s Gary Clark, for example — and whether he would ever play in the NBA.
The critics caused Antetokounmpo’s Dayton teammates to come out in support of him on Twitter.
“If you a real Dayton fan you would congratulate (Antetokounmpo) not talk about what he should have done or he is not ready,” senior forward Josh Cunningham wrote. “His dreams just came true tonight. Y’all should be happy for him and his family.”
Antetokounmpo joins a franchise that has missed the playoffs the last two seasons. The Mavericks still have Dirk Nowitzki, but he just turned 40.
Dallas acquired the draft rights to Luka Doncic, the top European star in the draft, after the Atlanta Hawks took him third overall. They also drafted Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson in the second round with the 33rd overall pick.
Mavericks General Manager Donnie Nelson called Antetokounmpo “a nice developmental player for us in the G-League,” according to an ESPN report Thursday. The Mavericks’ G-League team, the Texas Legends, play in Frisco, Texas.
While Antetokounmpo couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, he posted a message to Instagram thanking everyone who congratulated, and Giannis shared a video of he and Kostas dancing in a parking lot without shirts.
“This is how you feel when the third Antetokounmpo is drafted and you know one more is on the way,” Giannis wrote, referring to the youngest brother, Alex, a junior in high school.