Toronto Raptors plan to sign Kostas Antetokounmpo might have larger implications

Kostas Antetokounmpo (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kostas Antetokounmpo (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors are planning to claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers. Was he signed to make a pitch for Giannis for 2021?

Editors update: The Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly claimed Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers, taking priority over the Raptors reported claim. Toronto will not be able to sign Kostas Antetokounmpo.

When Kostas Antetokounmpo was waived by the Dallas Mavericks, most people jumped to the same conclusion. The Milwaukee Bucks, already having two of the Antetokounmbros, would make a claim to add Kostas to the roster as well. But as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend”. The Toronto Raptors ruined the Bucks plans at the last moment.

According to Varlas Nikos, of, the Raptors are planning to make a claim for Antetokounmpo, snagging him before the Bucks can make a move.

How they’re able to sign him before the Bucks

In the NBA, before a player is released, they must clear “waivers.” Essentially, the Mavericks send a note to all 30 teams that they no longer would like to pay Kostas his contract. The memo goes out to the league, and any team can choose to take Kostas from the Mavericks, at the same contract he was receiving in Dallas.

For Kostas, the contract is a two-way deal, meaning whoever “claimed” him just needed to offer a two-way contract, rather than one of their 15 regular roster spots.

But what happens if two teams want the same players?

Totally hypothetically, let’s say the Bucks and the Raptors were both interested in Kostas. In the NBA, waiver priority goes in reverse order of the standings. The team with the worse regular-season record is given priority in all waiver claims.

Toronto finished the regular season as the two-seed, Milwaukee the one-seed, therefore the Raptors are able to make a claim prior to the Bucks. Note: Any team besides Milwaukee could theoretically make the claim for Kostas ahead of the Raptors.

What Kostas Antetokounmpo offers

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Kostas is a 6-foot-10, athletic forward who is just 21-years-old and still has some upside. He just finished his rookie NBA season, spending almost all of it at the G-league level.

Playing at a lower level of competition, he didn’t exactly kill it. Kostas averaged 10.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. He shot the ball with average efficiency and turned it over nearly two times per contest.

On the one hand, he’s young and still has the potential to grow — it took his brother some time to develop as well. On the other hand, he likely would be out of the league if he wasn’t related to Giannis.

The real reason he was claimed

Let’s stop beating around the bush. If Kostas Antetokounmpo is passed up by 28 other teams it’s for a reason. He wasn’t claimed for his basketball abilities. He was claimed as a gateway to talk to 2021 free agent Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Regardless of what is common conception, you can’t openly tamper with players who are still on opposing team’s rosters. Of course, players have back-channeled deals setup prior to free agency. But to do that you still technically do need to have a back-channel.

Welcome, Kostas “Back Channel” Antetokounmpo! Toronto can’t tell Giannis how they’d like to open a max slot in 2021, but they can certainly tell Kostas. They can’t tell Giannis who they’d pair him next to, but they can tell Kostas who they’d like to add to the team. They can’t show Giannis the culture within the organization, but… you get the point.

It’s not that two-way slots are meaningless. There have been multiple times when teams have found end-of-roster players because of them.  Chris Boucher, formerly of the 905, is just one example of that.

With that being said, increasing your chances of signing Giannis Antetokounmpo, even by the smallest of margins, is worth more than Chris Boucher’s 45-KG weight in gold.

Next. Something every Raptors player can work on this offseason. dark

If you’d like to jump on your high horse about the Raptors needing to use their two-way spots on real NBA talent rather than a means to talk to Giannis, please go ahead; I just won’t be joining you. Masai made a practical decision to sign Kostas Antetokounmpo, and now we should all welcome him with open arms.