Antetokounmpo attributed it to multiple factors, starting with the physicality of the game. He pointed out that the body types in the NBA differ from those in Europe, using the example of Walter Tavares. While Europe might have only one player of Tavares' physical stature, the NBA features several individuals with similar attributes.

Credit: Getty Images via AFP - Scanpix
Credit Getty Images via AFP - Scanpix

Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija recently joined Thanasis Antetokounmpo on his Thanalysis podcast, where they reminisced about their past encounters on the EuroLeague court and delved into the reasons why some European players struggle to transition their talent to the NBA.

Free throws this season

Points made: 17,6
Accuracy: 78,5%
Place in standings: 20
Record max: 32
Record min: 7
Most made FTs: Kristaps Porzingis

When Thanasis asked Avdija if they had played against each other during his time with Maccabi, the Israeli star recalled their match-up vividly.

"I played with you, you played in Panathinaikos," Avdija responded. "I remember that. You also had a crazy dunk versus us. I remember that because I was on the bench, I was not playing."

The conversation shifted to the differences between European and American basketball.

"That's crazy," Antetokounmpo reacted. "I tell people there is so much talent in Europe. For example, here [in the NBA], if you are out of the rotation, they have a plan for you or because it is what it is, like playoffs or whatever. But back home, it's a hierarchy, you are just not playing because you are young a lot of times. Most of the time."

"If you are on the team, you are probably going to play. But I agree with you," Avdija said.

Curious about why some overseas players struggle to showcase their abilities in the United States, Antetokounmpo shared his analysis. He attributed it to multiple factors, starting with the physicality of the game. 

"That's a whole package," the Greek NT member acknowledged. "The number one is the body type, the physicality. For example, here in the NBA, you don't have the same bodies as in Europe. Let's say you have a guy like [Walter] Tavares from Real Madrid. In Europe, you have one guy like Tavares. In the NBA, you have like six or seven guys like him."

Additionally, Antetokounmpo highlighted the distinct playing styles in Europe, mentioning the limited number of point forwards and versatile power forwards compared to the U.S., where players possess a broader skill set, and positions are not as defined.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Thanasis  Antetokounmpo
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Position: SF
Age: 30
Height: 203 cm
Weight: 98 kg
Birth place: Athens, Greece

"In Europe, you have maybe two or three guys who play like point forwards -- [Will] Clyburn, Sasha Vezenkov, Chris Singleton. You have specific guys who play the four and can dribble and create. In the U.S., everybody. There are no positions."

Antetokounmpo then went on to say how good Singleton was at that time, while he was playing alongside the two-time EuroLeague champ.

"By the way, Chris Singleton was my teammate in PAO. I got him to see up close. He is so so talented," Thanasis underlined.


Returning to the theme of pros struggling in the NBA, Antetokounmpo stressed the significance of the mental aspect.

"But it's hard. The mental part matters so much," he emphasized.

"It matters the most," Avdija added. "People don't understand that. In the NBA, everybody is talented to an extent. Some guys are more talented, some guys are less. Everybody got talent, right? What's the other layer you have? That's what separates the good from the average. Extra stuff like mentality, work ethic, and all that stuff.

"Everybody who comes to the NBA is talented, they are good players, everybody can score. It is that next step, that small details that we talked about. I think this stuff separates the great from the good and the average. And, of course, consistency. The hardest thing to do in the NBA is to be consistent because you play so many games. We also travel so much. Waking up every day and performing -- this is a quality that separates you."

Lastly, Avdija reminisced about his time under the guidance of his former Greek coach in Tel Aviv, Ioannis Sfairopoulos. The 22-year-old acknowledged the tough love he received from the mastermind.

"It was tough," Avdija recalled. "He gave me the first minutes in the EuroLeague. Also, I received a lot of screams from him, but it was worth it. I even miss it [the shouting]."

Full Thanalysis podcast:

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Deni Avdija

Deni  Avdija
Deni  Avdija
MIN: 26.58
PTS: 9.17 (50.4%)
REB: 6.41
As: 2.78
ST: 0.86
BL: 0.38
TO: 1.62
GM: 76