MVP superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has a career defining decision to make after the Milwaukee Bucks’ disappointing five-game second-round loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals six days ago.
As much as the Bucks would love to control the situation, Giannis has the power to control his destiny like Anthony Davis did last offseason when he forced the New Orleans Pelicans to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers. Does Giannis stay in Milwaukee and trust the Bucks to acquire another superstar to make the team a legitimate championship contender or exert the power of his looming free agency like AD and chose his future home?
Here’s a quick look at the four options Giannis Antetokounmpo has:
1. Giannis Signs Supermax Contract with the Bucks.
There are good reasons why Giannis might actually prefer this as his best option. To start with, we’re in the middle of a pandemic that’s devastated the economy and transformed the future of the NBA from rosy to uncertain. There’s a case to be made the smart move would be for Giannis to take advantage of the mega dollars on the table and lock in generational wealth and security for his family. After all, who knows what the future holds?
Then there’s Giannis’ team first personality and professed love for the city of Milwaukee. It’s easy to imagine him deciding to sign the supermax contract offered by the Bucks and trusting them to do what they need to improve.
2. Giannis Declines to Sign Supermax with the Bucks.
This is probably the easiest and most likely option for Giannis to choose, basically remaining committed to the Milwaukee Bucks but smartly kicking any signing of the supermax contract down the road until next offseason. This option keeps Antetokounmpo’s options open while putting intense pressure on the Bucks to make substantive changes to upgrade the roster for next season, which could be a challenge considering their situation.
While the most reasonable path for Giannis right now, this option would ratchet up the pressure on the Bucks to make major moves to upgrade the team and transform them into a legitimate championship contender.
3. The Bucks Trade Giannis to Team of Their Choice.
One thing the Bucks cannot afford to do is lose Giannis Antetokounmpo to free agency with nothing in return so if he declines to sign a supermax contract, Milwaukee might be wise to quietly investigate the trade market. The offers the Bucks could receive for Giannis now with a year left on his contract would certainly be better than any possible sign-and-trade deal he’d have to approve a year from now or the risk of losing him for nothing.
While the Bucks don’t want to part ways with Antetokounmpo, they may have no choice because their current roster and financial constraints may make it impossible for them to upgrade the team. May be time to cash in.
4. Giannis Demands Trade to Team(s) of His Choice
What the Bucks don’t want to happen is for Giannis to decide to follow the route Anthony Davis took and demand to be traded to a specific team or list of teams because that could diminish what Milwaukee receives in return. Just the threat of Antetokounmpo doing this could be enough to make the Bucks seek to trade him this offseason, especially if getting him to sign the supermax deal seems like long shot and options to upgrade the roster dim.
This is the option the Los Angeles Lakers are hoping will become the path for Giannis joining LeBron and AD to form a new superteam dynasty whose championship window would extend well beyond James’ retirement.
Milwaukee and Antetokounmpo have started the process by meeting to discuss the future and how to improve the team. The showdown will come when the Bucks formally present Giannis with the actual supermax offer. Should Giannis lose faith in Milwaukee’s ability to upgrade the team and decline to sign, the Bucks probably can’t afford to take the risk of waiting until the following offseason and would be smart to look to trade him now.
The problem with the Lakers planned pursuit of Giannis is the only way they could acquire him would be through free agency a year from now as they don’t have the trading chips to even make a viable sign-and-trade deal. Joining the Lakers could only happen if Giannis committed to signing with the Lakers as a free agent next year and declared he wouldn’t re-sign with any team to whom he was traded, which is an unlikely long shot at best.
Frankly, Giannis signing the supermax deal with the Bucks would be good news for the Lakers in my opinion. I prefer seeing him stay in Milwaukee than creating a superteam somewhere else to compete with the Lakers. Further, I also dislike the idea of the Lakers wasting the coming offseason saving cap space to sign Giannis in free agency a year from now. Smacks too much of the lost opportunities of waiting for Kawhi Leonard last offseason.
I also don’t see Giannis as the kind of player who would want to follow the Kevin Durant’s lead and join a team like the Miami Heat who just beat him. He strikes me as the kind of loyal player who wants to stay in Milwaukee.