NBA Rumor: Giannis Antetokounmpo Free Agency

123 rumors in this storyline

More Rumors in this Storyline

Gozlan: “From Giannis’ perspective, if he doesn’t take the supermax, two things: One, if he’s really interested in signing a supermax and wants the long-term security, wants the money, I think he would want it, but what could be holding him back could be what the salary cap is going to be. We still haven’t gotten any guidance from the NBA. The recent cap projection was $115 million. The following year was $125 million. Now, it could end up being the same salary cap figure for the next two years. If it were to be much lower and closer to what it is now, even less, then I would imagine Giannis would want to hold back on signing the supermax because that’s a lot less money to lock down versus what he was expected to get earlier. Under the $125 million salary cap, he was going to get around $250 million over five years. If it’s going to stick closer to the current $109 million salary cap or lower, he’s looking at closer to $210 or $220 million. That’s a big difference right there.”

Gozlan: “The interesting thing about how the Heat positioned themselves is that they’ll have a maximum contract slot for 2021, but they’ll also still be able to re-sign Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson, and Kendrick Nunn while still having Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro still on the roster. Robinson and Nunn have minimum free agent cap holds. They can just keep their Bird Rights, and it won’t cost them anything or take away their max cap space. Bam, who I think is an unbelievable talent and the modern center of what centers will be over the next decade, he deserves a max contract or close to it. Unfortunately, the Heat are not likely to give him the extension now just because then they would lose that cap flexibility to sign Giannis later in 2021. But with the way they positioned themselves, they can hold off on the extension, sign Giannis and then re-sign all those guys I was talking about, including Bam.”

The truth is that Giannis can choose from all 30 teams, because every one would move whatever salaries necessary to create the cap space for him. Or, as Jimmy Butler’s move to Miami last summer showed, a sign-and-trade can be worked out. Take the Clippers, for example: Multiple league sources have recently said the Clippers plan to pursue a deal for Giannis. One of the sources said Giannis has an “admiration” for Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.

Antetokounmpo can sign a supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks this offseason and will be a free agent in 2021 if he doesn’t. “I don’t know,” replied Zach Lowe. “The vibe everybody gets from Giannis, and this is all second, third-hand whatever… is that he probably would like to stay. I think he likes Milwaukee. He met his partner in Milwaukee. He has a son now in Milwaukee. I think he likes being the best player on a team and having it be his team. It’s clearly his team. But I think the case for the Bucks all along, and I think they would be honest about this if you asked them about it, the case for them all along has been winning. Winning championships. The ability to win championships. That’s the case for almost every star player.”

It is at least Dallas Mavericks dream. And one NBA analyst suggests Giannis Antetokounmpo joining forces with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis by landing with the Dallas Mavericks might be a tad more realistic than that. “Of all the (stars), I think he would (consider leaving an existing team to come to Dallas),” said NBA analyst Brian Scalabrine in a Tuesday visit with 105.3 The Fan’s “K&C Masterpiece.” “To leave a team, that’s a hard thing to do, especially if you’re a guy like him. Just think about Dirk Nowitzki. He was Dallas all the way, (and) it seems like Giannis is all the way (with Milwaukee). “But,” Scalabrine continued. “I think you (Dallas) have just as good a chance as anyone else. … Los Angeles, Miami, or any of the other favorite teams. I think the Dallas Mavericks, you look at their cap situation, with a superstar (in Luka Doncic) and (Kristaps Porzingis). … I’m telling you right now it’s not zero (chance).”

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP and favorite to repeat, is atop everyone’s list, even though the Milwaukee Bucks star has routinely shot down questions about hitting unrestricted free agency following the 2020-21 season, when his four-year, $100 million deal expires. “I think he’s focused on winning right now and he wants to win it all, not just get to the Finals,” a league source said. “But it won’t stop people from reaching out.”

Even with his upcoming supermax decision full of uncertainty, with the new realities of the league in effect following the pandemic, Milwaukee’s front office isn’t worried about opposing players trying to potentially recruit him. “Zero. We can only control what we can control. If it’s considered tampering or recruiting or whatever it is, in our league people talk, people are connected, people have relationships,” said Bucks GM Jon Horst. “At the end of the day, I have full confidence in my personal relationship, our league’s relationship, our coach’s relationship, his teammate’s relationship with Giannis in what we’re doing and what we’re about.

Victor Oladipo eyeing move to Miami?

The chatter began with The Athletic’s Shams Charania noting the Heat’s interest in adding both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo — the two players that I had identified a week earlier as Miami’s most likely targets in 2021 free agency. And now comes a Wednesday report from the Indianapolis Star that “despite rampant speculation that he could end up with the Knicks (he fired Leon Rose of CAA, then his agent who is now president of the franchise), the strongest preliminary indication is Miami” as his next team.

Milwaukee is still considered likely to keep Antetokounmpo long term, but insiders cited the potential of the salary cap dropping both this offseason and in future years as a reason Giannis might take a wait-and-see approach. Still, the overriding belief is that whatever happens on the court will play the biggest role in his decision. “I always have said: Ask me once he has to make a decision,” one Eastern Conference scout said. “It all comes down to timing. So many things can change. “If they win it all, if they come through this and do that? There’s no way he’s leaving.”

Milwaukee is still considered likely to keep Antetokounmpo long term, but insiders cited the potential of the salary cap dropping both this offseason and in future years as a reason Giannis might take a wait-and-see approach. Still, the overriding belief is that whatever happens on the court will play the biggest role in his decision. “I always have said: Ask me once he has to make a decision,” one Eastern Conference scout said. “It all comes down to timing. So many things can change. “If they win it all, if they come through this and do that? There’s no way he’s leaving.”

It’s why, four years after the Durant coup, this Giannis to the Warriors noise remains at an incessant murmur, despite how truly impractical it is in reality. This is nothing like the Durant situation. Those dominoes lined up perfectly. These dominoes, linking Giannis and the aged, expensive Warriors, have lined up terribly. Context matters. Let’s look at the three large-scope reasons why the two circumstances are so different and why any longshot pursuit for Giannis is far more difficult.

Durant had turned 27 by the time he hosted his free-agency meetings in the Hamptons. Steph Curry, born five months after Durant, was 28. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were 26. It was a young, established core pitching a peer of a similar age. Come to us and let’s all plow through the league during our collective primes. That’s what drew Durant. If Giannis hits the market next summer, he will be 26. Curry — a friendly acquaintance, considered by those in the know as the dominant reason Giannis’ eyes would even tilt in the Warriors’ direction — will be 33. Thompson, currently in the late stages of his ACL rehab, and Green, showing early signs of a physical decline, will both be 31.

In Durant’s first season with the Warriors, Curry was the 82nd highest-paid player in the NBA. It was the final year of that well-timed (or ill-timed, if you’re Curry) rookie extension signed back in 2012. He was on the books for only $12.1 million, slightly more than Nikola Peković, slightly less than Marvin Williams. It’s very beneficial when your best player is paid like a fringe starter. It’s also helpful when your second- and third-best players, both All-Stars, are under market value. Thompson earned $16.6 million that season. Green earned $15.3 million. Neither were among the 40 highest-paid players in the league. That (along with the cap spike, which we’ll discuss shortly) laid a pristine route for Durant’s $26.5 million contract to fit snugly under the cap restrictions.

Circumstances would be quite different if Giannis reached free agency and wanted to sign with the Warriors. In the first season of what will be Giannis’ next contract, Curry is set to make $45.8 million, an NBA record (breaking the record he’ll set the season prior). Thompson is on the books for $37.9 million. Green is on the books for $24 million. Combined between the three: $107.8 million. Add in Andrew Wiggins, making $31.6 million, and that’s $139.4 million combined between four players. The projected salary cap for that season, delivered before this financially-crushing pandemic hit, was $125 million. So, no, unlike Durant, there’s no way that Giannis (and his next max contract, projected to begin at $37.5 million) can sign with the Warriors outright.

But in truth, all of the above should be on the table even if Antetokounmpo signs the extension because the Bucks are in win-now mode. But with an extension, they can make moves with the luxury of knowing they have a six-year window rather than a one-year window. Inevitably, that changes things. Finally, there is the thought that if he doesn’t sign the extension the Bucks should trade him. I wouldn’t do this unless they have very clear smoke signals that he plans to sign elsewhere. Again, the Bucks aren’t getting access to another talent like this for a long time in all likelihood. And any trade involving Antetekounmpo is impossible to win.

By orchestrating a complex sign-and-trade last summer with Brooklyn for guard D’Angelo Russell, the Warriors got younger while obtaining a key trade chip. In February, when negotiating the deal that sent Russell to the Timberwolves, Myers made sure that Minnesota included a lightly protected pick in what’s expected to be a loaded 2021 draft. This is the same type of advanced planning that helped the Warriors land Kevin Durant in free agency in July 2016.

The Heat All-Star knows people are going to play up this angle regardless: “I’m pretty sure people are going to run with that this summer and next summer,” Adebayo said of the common agent denominator. “In 2021, people are going to run with that. “But, at the end of the day, he takes care of me like he takes care of Giannis. And that’s just what you need in an agent. You want a guy that actually cares about everybody and not just some people who are doing better than others.”

The Heat All-Star knows people are going to play up this angle regardless: “I’m pretty sure people are going to run with that this summer and next summer,” Adebayo said of the common agent denominator. “In 2021, people are going to run with that. “But, at the end of the day, he takes care of me like he takes care of Giannis. And that’s just what you need in an agent. You want a guy that actually cares about everybody and not just some people who are doing better than others.”

Giannis likely to stay in Milwaukee?

There’s little doubt that Giannis Antetokounmpo, reigning and likely repeat MVP, has every reason to stick around in Milwaukee over the long term. The Bucks have a sparkling new downtown arena and a state-of-the-art practice facility, a long way from the state of play when Antetokounmpo arrived—back then, the Bucks were in the mostly moribund Bradley Center and practiced on the grounds of a Catholic Diocese headquarters in St. Francis, a few miles south of Milwaukee.

Giannis' agent keeping options open on extension

In an effort to keep their star in Milwaukee, the Bucks are expected to offer Giannis Antetokounmpo a supermax contract this summer. “Is he a client you could see staying with one team for his whole career?” asked Zervakis. “Yeah, I think so. Obviously everybody talks about his impending free agency, and I think everything is open,” Saratsis said. “I think he’s someone who could easily say, ‘I’d like to be in Milwaukee my entire career.’ I think he’s also someone who, depending on how the team does, could say, ‘I need a change.’ But for him, staying is absolutely a viable option.”

Miami has told teams that Tyler Herro is off limits, at least for now. The Heat hit big with the Herro/Duncan Robinson/Kendrick Nunn pickups, and Miami isn’t interested in any contracts that stretch beyond 2021 … when Giannis Antetokounmpo could be a free agent, and Pat Riley will have another chance to lure a transformational star to South Beach. Danillo Gallinari fits that mold, and Gallo’s three-point shooting would be a welcome addition to Miami’s frontcourt.

On the NBA Africa League… Giannis: “I didn’t know much about it – it’s amazing! I heard about it earlier in the season and being able to watch games in Africa is amazing. We were able to play in the NBA Africa Game in 2015 and the people in Africa love basketball – there’s so much talent in Africa. I’ve spoken with Masai [Ujiri] and he’s going to do some big things – I’m sure he’s part of this league so I’m really excited to find out more things about it and hopefully we can play a regular season game in Africa as well.”

In truth, as Antetokounmpo shared with The Athletic, the two players took part in a jersey swap afterward (our Steve Berman reported from the Bucks locker room that Antetokounmpo had a signed Curry jersey with a note written inside the zero in his ‘30’). “Steph is a — he’s a fun dude,” he continued when asked how well he knew Curry. “I really don’t know him, know him, but whenever we’ve (played each other) he’s always come up to me, talked to me. It’s fun.”

It’s all fun fodder for the fans, too. But guess what? For the Warriors or any of the other 28 teams that would love to land “The Greek Freak,” none of it is likely to matter if Giannis and the Bucks stay on this same track. The combination of their winning, his play, and his constant praise of the organization’s functionality means subplots like these don’t need to be taken seriously just yet. That doesn’t mean the Bucks can afford to lose focus. It’s quite the contrary, in fact. Keep pushing toward the playoffs, and competing with the kind of relentless spirit that the 25-year-old seems to always employ and demand.

TMZ: “What was going through your mind when you saw Steph Curry trying to recruit Giannis?” Edens: “I think that they’re just friends. A respect for the game … I don’t think Giannis plays video games (laughing). I don’t know, but … ” TMZ: “Exactly. So he must be trying to recruit him for the Warriors, right?” Edens: “I don’t know. No comment. No comment.” TMZ: “Did you guys talk to Giannis afterwards, like, ‘Hey Giannis, everything still good with us?'” Edens: “I don’t think we need to. He’s loyal.” TMZ: “You’re not worried about losing him to the Warriors when free agency hits?” Edens: “Life is good in Milwaukee right now. They’re winning. I think everyone’s happy.”

Eric Woodyard: Coach Mike Budenholzer on if Giannis’ free agency wears on team: “I don’t know maybe there’s more than I realize but he seems in a great place, the group’s in a great place and we’ll hopefully keep it rolling.” See full comment below.

And…how does he react to such humor? Khris Middleton: He laughs. But I mean, we never talk about that, honestly. We don’t talk about that at all. We’re always focused on practice or gameplan or a game or watching film or something. For the most part, we respect our decision making, realize it’s not always about basketball, that it’s about family situations and what not. But we also, like I said man, we just really focus on basketball. We’re basketball junkies. Since we’ve been here, we’ve always been in the gym. Maybe not on the same (basket), but in the same gym working on two different ends and different parts of our game. I think that’s just our relationship. We’re basketball junkies.

Do you get caught up in that sort of chatter at all? I mean this week, we’ve got New York chatter, we’ve got other scenarios (being discussed)… (ESPN reported that Toronto is preserving its 2021 cap space in order to pursue Antetokounmpo, and league-wide rumblings persist that the Knicks want to convince Raptors president Masai Ujiri to head up their front office, in part, because of their belief that he could lure Antetokounmpo their way in free agency – if he ever gets there.) Marc Lasry: That’s great. Whether it sounds dumb or not, I’m very comfortable with the relationship that we have with everybody on this team. And I think at the end of the day, what players want is stable ownership. They want a culture which is focused on winning. They want a coach who they respect. They want to play in a city that they love. It’s what we all want. Let’s be serious. You just want consistency, and you want to know that what you’re being told is reality. So I think as long as we do what we’re supposed to do, everything is going to be fine.

“I want the Bucks to build a winning culture. So far, we have been doing great, and, if this lasts, there’s no other place I want to be. But if we’re underperforming in the NBA next year, deciding whether to sign becomes a lot more difficult.” The Athletic’s Joe Vardon followed up by asking Antetokounmpo specifically which words he feels were attributed to him incorrectly. “I’m not going to get into that,” Antetokounmpo said. “As I said, the last – what is it called – quote, paragraph, it’s words that I didn’t use. Underperforming or whether or deciding, all those words. I’ve never used in my life. “As I said, I’m not going to talk about it. There can be stories coming out. I said this, I said that. I said this. But I’m not going to get into it at all.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo told a Harvard University professor that if the Milwaukee Bucks underperform this season, it would make his decision on whether to stick with the team “a lot more difficult.” The unusually pointed language from the team’s superstar came in a spring 2019 interview with Anita Elberse, a Harvard Business School professor who was researching a case study on the Bucks’ turnaround and the challenges a small-market NBA team faces in retaining a superstar-level player.

Antetokounmpo, who has emerged as one of the best players in basketball, likely will be eligible to sign a five-year, $253 million contract extension with the Bucks next summer, or to opt out and potentially become a free agent in 2021. “I want the Bucks to build a winning culture,” Elberse and her co-author, master’s student Melcolm Ruffin, quoted Antetokounmpo as saying. “So far, we have been doing great, and, if this lasts, there’s no other place I want to be. But if we’re underperforming in the NBA next year, deciding whether to sign becomes a lot more difficult.”

Antetokounmpo, 24, is eligible to sign a five-year, $253.75 million super max extension in the summer of 2020 with the Milwaukee Bucks, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, which would be the largest in NBA history. This would apply even if Antetokounmpo fails to earn All-NBA honors this season, but his focus remains on team goals. “I feel like if you have a great team, and our goal is to win a championship and be the last team standing and get better each day, I think it’s disrespectful towards my teammates talking about my free agency and what I’m going through,” Antetokounmpo said. “So, when the time is right, we’re all gonna talk about it. I don’t think the time is right.”

The NBA recently fined Bucks general manager Jon Horst $50,000 for violating league rules of discussing Antetokounmpo’s supermax extension during a televised town hall event, so he stayed away from the topic Monday. During media day, however, he showed up in a great mood while touching on a range of topics, notably managing outside expectations, alongside Budenholzer, with the ultimate goal of a title in mind. What others say in the next 10 months surrounding Antetokounmpo is out of his control. “Internal expectations are what matter to us, and we’ve been saying this for over a year now,” Horst said. “We believe it, we live it. We care about getting better everyday. We want to improve on what we did last year.”

Warriors not a concern in Giannis pursuit?

This week, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne mentioned it on the network. But not much of that chatter is coming from Milwaukee. “Keeping Giannis, it’s a focus obviously,” one Bucks front-office source told Heavy.com. “But fighting the Warriors is not a focus. The Warriors are not the concern in the least. They’d have a long way to go to get him to Golden State, they’d have to give away a lot. He has never given any indication that he wants to leave Milwaukee. So a lot of that stuff, it is more chatter than anything.”

The luring of Durant is cited as evidence that the Warriors can make just about anything happen but that was a much different scenario. Golden State had the benefit of a spike in the salary cap in the summer of 2016, which gave them the room to get Durant without giving up core pieces. And, the source mentioned, “What happened with Durant works both ways.” Durant won two championships with the Warriors. But he wasn’t very happy in his time there and wound up leaving for Brooklyn this summer. No doubt Antetokounmpo, who has expressed how happy he is in Milwaukee, has taken note of how things went for Durant when he made the move.
More HoopsHype Rumors
September 28, 2020 | 5:11 am EDT Update
Then there are the other members of the Best Five. Hayward won’t be opting out of his contract unless he has a long-term extension in place, which will be hard for a 30-year-old with a concerning injury history. Indiana is still home for the Haywards, and with Victor Oladipo looking to move on this offseason, according to sources, and Myles Turner possibly in the same boat, there could be an opportunity for Ainge to move Hayward and the abundance of draft picks in his war chest in a mutually agreeable way. Boston won’t have cap space again with three stars locked up long-term, so moving Hayward or Marcus Smart presents one of the few opportunities to get back a player making starter-caliber money.
Last year, Ainge passed on cashing in early on Terry Rozier, which worked out well as he was able to use Rozier to execute a double sign-and-trade for Walker. The move could have enabled Boston to retain Al Horford. Though it’s unlikely Horford would have struggled in the same way he did in Philadelphia if he stayed in Boston, the 34-year-old is starting to show his age. The Celtics likely will want to do the same with Hayward, who was exactly what they hoped for this season. Even with the COVID-19 recession, there should be cap space when Hayward’s deal expires, so the sign-and-trade option might not be as feasible as it was a year ago. Either way, there does not appear to be an impetus for Ainge to make an immediate move with Hayward.
The biggest move Boston has in front of it is whether to offer Tatum a max contract extension, which the team is expected to do. Tatum, though, said that wasn’t what he was thinking about right after his season came to an end. “That’s a tough question to answer,” he said. “I haven’t even thought about that yet. I was just focused on this season. “The front office and my agent gotta talk about it. But I’m not thinking about that right now. We just lost a series. Just thinking about the guys in the locker room and the games. That’s what I’m thinking about. Stuff like that, going to happen, if it happens, [is] not really my concern. I’m not even thinking about that.
Storyline: Jayson Tatum Extension?
The Miami center turned in a near-perfect game: 11-for-15 from the field, 10-for-11 from the foul line for a playoff career-high 32 points plus 14 rebounds as the Heat topped the Celtics 125-113 on Sunday, winning the Eastern Conference finals in a close series. “Bam is one of the great competitors already in this association,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s going to become one of the great winners in the history just because he’s so competitive. He moves the needle in every single day. You can’t put an analytic to his game and that’s probably why he was overlooked in college. “He competes every single possession. He’s really going into a leadership role. Way beyond his years. His offensive game is just growing daily. And he wants the responsibility, and he wants the accountability, and he isn’t afraid of putting that responsibility on his shoulders, and that’s what he did the other night.”
“Adebayo deciding he’s just going to drive the ball put us in a real bind with the shooters around him,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “And their physicality is something that I’m not sure that we probably talked about it enough. They’re strong, they’re physical, they’re tough and, him in particular, dominated that fourth quarter. Even the plays where he didn’t score, his presence was so impactful and it put us in a real bind with the ability to guard him.”