Teammates, family and superstars: NBA rookies dream of matchups

Thanasis Antetokounmpo #43 of the Knicks poses for
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Thanasis Antetokounmpo #43 of the Knicks poses for a portrait during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot at MSG Training Center on August 3, 2014 in Tarrytown, New York.(Credit: Getty Images / Nick Laham)

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Some NBA rookies are looking forward to playing against former teammates at the next level. Some are looking forward to facing up against their basketball idols. And then there's Knicks rookie Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who wants to play against his younger brother.

Antetokounmpo, the 51st overall pick by the Knicks, doesn't know when, or if, he will see playing time on an NBA court. But when that time comes, he wants to implement his defensive skillset by guarding the opponent's best offensive weapon.

Even if that means locking down Giannis Antetokounmpo, his younger brother, who earned the nickname "Greek Freak" during a breakout rookie season for the Milwaukee Bucks last year.

"I'll probably tell Coach that I want to guard the best player on the other team. If that happens to be my brother, I'll have to guard my brother," Thanasis Antetokounmpo said at the NBA rookie photo shoot on Sunday.

Other rookies have other plans.

Chicago Bulls rookie Doug McDermott has his sights set on matching up with former Ames (Iowa) High School teammate that together won 53 consecutive games and back-to-back state championships.

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"I think it'd be cool to guard Harrison Barnes, my high school teammate," McDermott said. "But it'd also be one of my least favorite matchups because I know he'd get after me."

New Orleans Pelicans rookie Russ Smith is looking forward to facing recent Orlando Magic signee Peyton Siva, with whom he shared a championship-winning backcourt at Louisville.

"We know each other real well, and he knows my game real well," Smith said. "It's gonna be fun to battle against him."

A few rookies are setting the bar even higher by targeting matchups with some of the league's biggest names. Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston says he wants to match up with Houston's James Harden. They share a similar game and appearance.

Sacramento Kings first-round pick Nik Stauskas says going toe-to-toe on the court with LeBron James, his current favorite player, is the matchup he wants most. But he'll be quiet while doing it.

"You know how guys used to talk to Michael Jordan and fire him up?" said Stauskas, the eighth overall pick out of Michigan. "I'm not going to say anything about guarding LeBron for that reason."

For some rookies, however, matching up with NBA stars such as King James and Kevin Durant doesn't sound as appealing.

"I don't want to get switched on LeBron or KD," a laughing McDermott said. "That might be a tough matchup for me."

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