Though they managed to extend their Eastern Conference semifinal series with a Game 4 win over the Heat, it seems to be a matter of when, not if, the Bucks will be eliminated from the 2020 NBA playoffs. Milwaukee lost the first three games of the series, and no NBA team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit.
As soon as the final buzzer goes off to signal the end of the Bucks’ 2019-20 campaign, one of the most important offseasons in franchise history will begin. At that moment, all eyes will shift to Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Defensive Player of the Year and likely back-to-back MVP.
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Much like Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard before him, if Antetokounmpo enters free agency, his decision could change the landscape of the league. But is “The Greek Freak” actually ready to leave Milwaukee?
Let’s start with the basics here before we jump into the rumors…
When will Giannis Antetokounmpo be a free agent?
Antetokounmpo is not eligible to become a free agent until after the 2020-21 season. He signed a four-year, $100 million extension with the Bucks in 2016, and that deal did not include any player or team options.
Here are the figures from that extension, per Spotrac:
Will Giannis Antetokounmpo sign a supermax contract with the Bucks?
While Antetokounmpo can’t start the free agency process this year, he is eligible for a supermax contract with his current team. That’s why the upcoming offseason is so huge for the Bucks.
As Milwaukee general manager Jon Horst has previously indicated, there will be no hesitation from the front office. The five-year supermax deal could land in the neighborhood of $250 million — it’s difficult to nail down an exact number because of the uncertainty about the salary cap — but the Bucks are prepared to pay whatever it costs to keep Antetokounmpo.
“I think we all fully believe that if we continue to put the right things in place and give Giannis the right opportunities — he loves Milwaukee, he loves the state of Wisconsin and I think he’ll be a Buck for a long time,” Horst said during a town hall event last year.
Antetokounmpo has been described as incredibly loyal, which is an advantage for the Bucks, but he is also fiercely competitive. If he doesn’t believe Milwaukee is built to win championships, he could turn down the supermax, let the 2020-21 season play out and become an unrestricted free agent.
After the Bucks lost to the Raptors in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals, ESPN’s Malika Andrews reported on this exact situation and why it could present problems for Milwaukee:
Antetokounmpo has consistently made public proclamations of his love for Milwaukee, as he grew up and became acclimated to American culture in Cream City after moving from Greece. Antetokounmpo adores the Bucks medical staff. His mother moved to Milwaukee. But he is all about winning. In more concrete terms, a source close to Antetokounmpo said that getting to the NBA Finals is not just an ambition, it could tip the scales as he weighs his contractual future.
Signing the supermax contract would immediately end all speculation surrounding Antetokounmpo. On the other hand…
Will Giannis Antetokounmpo leave the Bucks?
Yeah, this could get crazy. The rumors are already ramping up, and the Bucks aren’t even officially out of the playoff picture yet.
From Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill:
[The Heat have] contained him and shown the soon-to-be two-time Most Valuable Player his biggest warts in a raw but controlled fashion, similar to the job the Toronto Raptors did to him for the last four games in the conference finals last year.
It’s no wonder many in league circles believe Miami and Toronto are the frontrunners in the Antetokounmpo sweepstakes, with one observer telling Yahoo Sports “it’s an open secret” within the Orlando bubble.
In addition to the Heat and Raptors, the Warriors have also been linked to Antetokounmpo, but Golden State would have a much tougher time clearing the cap space necessary to land him. The Warriors wouldn’t have the benefit of an unprecedented cap spike like the year they added Durant to the roster.
If Antetokounmpo told the Bucks he plans to leave regardless of what happens during the 2020-21 season, then Milwaukee could call teams like Golden State, Miami and Toronto to discuss possible trade packages rather than lose Antetokounmpo for nothing. At this point, though, that’s jumping too far ahead into the future.
Bottom line: The Bucks want Antetokounmpo to sign the supermax contract and stay in Milwaukee through his prime. Other contenders are hoping for a change of heart.
Only Antetokounmpo knows what comes next.
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