Encouraging early returns on Georgios Kalaitzakis

It’s safe to say that most fans had to go to Google right away to find out who this Greek mystery man was when it was revealed that Georgios Kalaitzakis was the Milwaukee Bucks pick on the 60th, not dissimilar to what fans did had to do when they chose another Greek player in the first round of the 2013 draft that they had never heard of!

This is on a much smaller scale, of course, and there are no real expectations around Kalaitzakis of doing much for the Bucks this season. Heck, even after this season, don’t expect the final design selection to become anything more than a development flyer for the Wisconsin herd.

Apart from that, through two preseason games and a public scrimmage within the squad, we have a little glimpse of what Kalaitzakis can do. Sure, we took a sneak peek at the Summer League, where he played two games averaging 10.5 points and five assists, but he was able to play against two teams this preseason now that played against the majority of their regular rotation players , much better to find out what kind of player Kalaitzakis was.

The positive reviews came early for the 22-year-old after the Bucks held an intra-scrimmage open to the public prior to the start of their preseason campaign. Eric Nehm of The Athletic (subscription required) wrote about how Kalaitzakis’ energy burst the instant he stepped into the scrimmage, impressing with his passing play and defensive competitiveness. We’ve got over 50 minutes of preseason kalaitzakis so far and I’d say things have been encouraging.

Early impressions of Georgios Kalaitzakis through the Milwaukee Bucks’ first two preseason games in 2021

It’s safe to say that fellow rookie fellow Sandro Mamukelashvili outperformed Kalaitzakis in the first two preseason games, including a 20-point double against the Brooklyn Nets. However, Mamukelashvili also played high-level college basketball in North America for four years, unlike Kalaitzakis who played a different style in Greece.

Kalaitzakis looked a little insecure at times and was still getting used to the Bucks’ schemes and the overall NBA game difference, but he had some solid moments. Let’s start with his shooting, which wasn’t great in two games and went off the field 2 for 10. He’s certainly not lacking in confidence when he decides to shoot, pull-ups over Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin, all while doing his best to take LaMarcus Aldridge off the dribble.

It was a solid effort realizing he had a bigger and slower player, but Patty Mills came out of the corner to help and that was enough to adjust Kalaitzakis, which allowed Aldridge to settle for the block recover. He would have been better off trying to kick Justin Robinson or Javin DeLaurier behind the 3-point line, but you like the rookie’s confidence.

At least he has a good sense of when to attack a disparity. It’s a good idea to take Aldridge out of dribbling and then he went up against two smaller players in Mills and Bruce Brown later in the game. It’s not always the nicest shot attempts, but it’s good to see Kalaitzaki’s understanding that he can use his size and burst against certain players.

His flair for the game is evident in his passing game, which is by far the best part of his offensive game. Some of the scouting reports on Kalaitzakis from Greece were that he could play a role forward because of his ball and pass feel, which we’ve seen tremendous lightning bolts so far.

This happened about a minute before Kalaizakis was rejected by Aldridge and that’s what you’d rather see. He attacks, sees Jevon Carter come to help Robinson and hits him for the 3 point wide open look. It was also a nice little no-look dish from Kalaitzakis that Carter kept busy with Johnny O’Bryant on the fringes so he couldn’t put Robinson back. However, it wasn’t always nice.

I see what Kalaitzakis was up to with a pass over the top on Mamukelashvili. It was a misunderstanding, but I don’t think this pass would get over Jaren Jackson Jr.’s long limp, regardless of whether Mamukelashvili was at the point where Kalaitzakis thought he would be.

He had another assist in the Nets game where he pulled Bruce Brown over to help and hit Jordan Nwora for an open 3 in the middle of the shot. He’s much more advanced as a passer than a goalscorer, but he’ll find his way against less strong competition at the start of the G-League season.

On the defense, it was a trial by fire against the Nets for Kalaitzakis as he guarded Durant and James Harden on multiple possessions simply because he was one of the few sized wings available to the Bucks in that game. He picked up three fouls in particular, one was a deliberate foul and the other was a phantom call after a defensive rebound from Harden. His second foul, however, was while guarding Durant.

He’s overdoing it a little too much, which leaves Durant room to ride his right hand, but Kalaitzakis still does a good job of staying on his hip and competing, and won’t let the light bucket in. Sure, it led to a foul, but he’s guarding arguably the best scorer in the world. They want him to stay competitive and make it hard for Durant to do what he did. He won’t be an elite defensive stopper, he will make mistakes, but the point is to correct them forward. He also blocked a stepback from James Harden after being faked while dribbling, which showed a nice recovery, so that was pretty neat too.

You start to see some of the reasons why the Bucks Kalaitzakis turned 60.

It wasn’t perfect for Kalaitzakis, especially to shoot the ball, but he got better after a tough pre-season game against the Grizzlies and that’s what matters, especially at this early stage. As long as he’s better, that’s a positive sign.

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