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Jazz's Perrin expects more D-League alums in future draft classes

For Thanasis Antetokounmpo, it was the best choice.

Growing up poor in Greece, basketball provided a miracle lifeline for his family when his younger brother was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks last year. So Thanasis, a player himself, came with his family to the United States to carve out his own NBA path.

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For P.J. Hairston, it was really the only choice.

NCAA violations at North Carolina stripped him of his collegiate eligibility.

"When I was told I couldn't play, it was probably the worst thing I could hear in my life," he said at the pre-draft workout in Chicago. "At the same time, I couldn't sit around and sob and cry and be mad at myself. I had to figure out what my next step was."

So, uninterested in playing in Europe, Hairston joined the Texas Legends of the NBA's Development League.

Both Hairston and Antetokounmpo should be drafted later this month, and Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel expects to see more D-League alums in future drafts.

"It's going to be more and more," he said.

With new NBA commissioner Adam Silver in favor of raising the league's age limit, it could accelerate that process.

"I would guess if the league raises the age limit that there will be more players that will go that route," Perrin said. "Everybody's not made to go to school. Some of them are just players. A lot of them now, with the one-and-done, can get through one year. But I don't know if they can get through two."

Hairston, who was held out of a workout with the Jazz on Sunday because of back spasms, is a first-round talent, who could be in play for the Jazz at No. 23.

The D-League was a shock.

"I wasn't supposed to be there. I was supposed to be in college," he said. "But at the end of the day, it helped me a lot."

It was difficult being away from Carolina, watching his old teammates struggle. At the same time, he faced stiffer competition and received more attention from professional coaches and staff.

That's why Perrin believes more young players will eventually take the same path.

"D-League experience is much better than college," Perrin said. "They're playing more of an NBA schedule. They're not playing two games a week. They're playing three games a week. They could play back-to-backs. They're playing with more experienced players. It's a huge advantage, I think."

With the Delaware 87ers, Antetokounmpo averaged 12 points, four rebounds and two assists a game last year.

"I wanted to choose a route that brings me closer to the NBA," he said.

Along the way, he impressed the Jazz with his athleticism and hard play.

"Still a little bit raw offensively, but he's a much better, much better athlete than his brother," Perrin said after the Greek swingman worked out for the Jazz this week. "Really can run, really can jump. He's strong, plays extremely hard. But he's still learning to play the game of basketball."

Antetokounmpo is projected be drafted in the second round.

"It's going to be a dream come true," he said.

— Aaron Falk

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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