Giannis Antetokounmpo Could’ve Been A Sixer, Says Darryl Morey

Former Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie chose the eventual Rookie of the Year over the then unproven ‘Greek Freak.’

Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee bangs bodies with Amir Johnson of the Sixers.
Tom Lynn / AP Images

Former Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie chose the eventual Rookie of the Year over the then unproven ‘Greek Freak.’

The Philadelphia 76er’s “The Process” is finally reaping its rewards with the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons leading the way but progress could’ve been achieved faster if Sam Hinkie went with everyone else’s instincts and drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Darryl Morey, current Houston Rockets general manager and close friend of Hinkie, expected his former ward to take Antetokounmpo with the 11th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. Morey believed Antetokounmpo was high on the Sixers’ list and thought Hinkie would gamble on the potential of the Greek baller with their late lottery pick.

Instead, the Sixers drafted point guard Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse. The Sixers also traded for the sixth pick but had Nerlens Noel in sight.

“I was actually really surprised Philly didn’t take him,” Morey said. “They ended up taking the Rookie of the Year so they did fine. But [Giannis] was this super-high-upside guy. We had bet that [Hinkie] might take [Giannis] because we were like, ‘Super-high upside, might as well go for it.'”

Antetokounmpo went to the Milwaukee Bucks four spots later. The NBA All-Star is one of the leading candidates for the Most Valuable Player Award this season.

Carter-Williams was a revelation in his first year in the NBA as he ended up winning the Rookie of the Year Award. However, MCW’s game has since regressed and is now considered a journeyman after playing for four teams in five years.

To be fair with Hinkie, the 2013 NBA Draft had a lot of hits and misses. The first overall pick was Anthony Bennett of UNLV, who went to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bennett is now considered a draft bust and is currently out of the NBA after bouncing around in the league.

Victor Oladipo, the second pick of the 2013 draft, underperformed in his first few years with Orlando and Oklahoma City before blossoming into an All-Star with the Indiana Pacers this season.

Oladipo is by far the only player drafted before Antetokounmpo to get an All-Star nod. In fact, the only players taken before Giannis who are playing significant minutes for their respective teams are Otto Porter, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, C.J. McCollum, and Steven Adams. Cody Zeller, Noel, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, Kelly Olynyk, and Shabazz Muhammad have struggled to find their footing in the league because of injury, lack of opportunities, or the influx of younger talents.

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Despite missing out on Antetokounmpo and being criticized and ostracized for “The Process,” Hinkie remains a popular figure among NBA executives. According to Bleacher Report, league owners and executives regularly approach Hinkie for advice. A number of league personalities also said they have no problem employing Hinkie but “wouldn’t put him in charge” of their franchise.

Some in the league also believe Hinkie was treated unfairly.

“They clearly changed the rules on Sam,” one executive said. “That wasn’t all on him. If he lasts five more months, maybe it all looks different and he is given credit for what they’re doing now.”