NBA Rumor: Giannis Antetokounmpo Free Agency

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Giannis Antetokounmpo: Los Angeles is not for me

But with the Bucks ousted from the playoffs early, Giannis Antetokounmpo is in fact on a visit to sunny California. Perhaps the less punishing weather and vibrant nightlife will help sway him to an eventual move to LA? Given his recent comments on the city, it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case. “This city is not for me,” said the Bucks star about Los Angeles.

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But what could have caused such a definitive proclamation from the Greek Freak? Restaurant prices, apparently. Giannis was caught for an ambush interview as he and his family were leaving Catch restaurant in LA on Wednesday. While the Bucks star admitted he did enjoy the meal, he quickly quipped that the final tally on his bill was not to his liking. “It was incredible. Expensive, expensive. This city is not for me,” said Giannis after his meal at Catch LA.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: Hopefully, I can play 20 years with the Bucks

At the mere mention of another decade of basketball though, Antetokounmpo interjected. “No, I want to play 20 years,” Antetokounmpo said, repeating one of his goals. “Hopefully, I can play all 20 of those years with the Bucks. “But we’ll see, I can’t predict the future, but that (pointing to the list), that’s a compliment. Being (No.) 24 and I just turned 27. That’s all my hard work that has paid off. But I gotta — we just lost — I gotta keep going. I gotta keep improving as a player. I gotta keep enjoying the game. Gotta stay in the moment, live in the moment and where it’s going to end up when I’m done with it and I’m done with the league and out of the league, who knows. “That’s a compliment. I can take that right there and talk about it, show it to my kids.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo opens the door to playing for another team

In the end Giannis decided to stay in Milwaukee because it was difficult. And then, improbably, the Bucks won. “One challenge was to bring a championship here and we did,” he told me. “It was very hard, but we did. Very, very hard. I just love challenges. What’s the next challenge? The next challenge might not be here.” It’s not that he doesn’t love Milwaukee, he said. But he was always wary of things becoming too easy. “Me and my family chose to stay in this city that we all love and has taken care of us—for now,” Giannis said. “In two years, that might change. I’m being totally honest with you. I’m always honest. I love this city. I love this community. I want to help as much as possible.”

“I don’t think it’s, ‘I’m thinking about leaving the Bucks,’ ” Saratsis told me. “But I think he’s genuinely like: ‘Okay, I have reached the pinnacle. The next challenge is, let’s repeat.’ But what happens if you do repeat? What’s the next challenge? What is that next barrier? When you think about it from a basketball perspective, by the age of 26, this kid has accomplished everything,” Saratsis said. “So sometimes you’re going to have to manufacture what those challenges are.”

Saratsis wanted Antetokounmpo to go to bed some nights believing he was delaying a decision until summer, then see how he felt in the morning about it. Other nights, the top five NBA player should go to bed believing he was signing the extension, then see how he felt in the morning. Peace of mind over money. Serenity over settling. “There was nothing we were going to go to the Bucks with and they were going to say no,” says Saratsis. “It’s not just a business decision, it’s an emotional decision. Yeah, things can change and we can ask for a trade if you want to, but for all intents and purposes this is the next few years of your career, in the prime of your career, and I want you to be happy.”

“The challenge for the Bucks is just selling him on winning,” said Wojnarowski. “I know this about Giannis: his decision is not about wanting to be in a big market and have all the trimmings that come with Los Angeles or New York or wherever it is. I don’t think that’s part of his decision making. I think at his core he’s immensely loyal. I believe he loves the people in Milwaukee. Loves that community. He loves the organization. But he wants to win and that’s what he’s weighing.”

Instead, their combined $1.6 million in waived salary will prevent the Lakers from signing a 15th player to start the season (the team is hard-capped at $138.9 million after using its non-taxpayer mid-level exception on Harrell). It’s a short-term problem that will resolve itself in a few months. As the price of a minimum contract prorates downward daily, that last spot may be used to add another player on the buyout market months down the road.

Beyond asking too much of Davis, it would likely mean the Lakers part ways with Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Harrell, Caldwell-Pope, Schroder and just about everyone else on the roster. Of course, if the Bucks were willing to trade Antetokounmpo for Kuzma, Caruso, Harrell, Caldwell-Pope, Schroder and just about everyone else on the roster, they might have a deal. If L.A. has any faint hope, it’s that Antetokounmpo demands a trade…to the Lakers. Given the Lakers’ dearth of tradeable future first-round picks (most tied up with the New Orleans Pelicans in the deal that brought in Davis), the Bucks would obviously do everything they can to get their star to re-sign. But failing that, the Lakers may not be atop their priority list if they did decide to move Antetokounmpo.

Will The Greek Freak fit the Miami Heat? “He would,” Milwaukee Bucks legend Michael Redd told me on the Heavy Live With Scoop B Show. “He would. They got the shooters. They got the closer in Jimmy Butler. But I think Khris could be that as Giannis continues to develop, maybe the offense is more Khris-centric in a sense because we saw what Khris can do from a closing standpoint and a playmaking standpoint. So Khris can be Jimmy and Jon Horst will continue to do a great job of putting shooters around Giannis. There’s parallels there. The culture of Miami is different than Milwaukee but, he could fit in Miami for sure. It’s going to be tougher with that Brooklyn Nets team coming next year. Hopefully it’ll be without KD’s injury, which is everything. His recovery is everything to that team but, the East is going to be tough next year again, so we’ll see how everything turns out.”

Antetokounmpo and Adebayo share the same agent, Octagon’s Alex Saratsis, which has led some to question whether Adebayo’s extension getting done now signals Antetokounmpo will ultimately sign an extension with the Bucks too. “I think they are totally separate decisions,” one Eastern Conference executive told HoopsHype. “If Giannis wants to go to Miami, he will find a way to get to Miami. I think, if anything, they want to keep that agent happy, and if he wants Bam extended, you do it. Miami has always been creative in finding ways to get things done. The bottom line is you have to do right by your players first. He’s not in a position to risk injury and could affect how he feels about the team long-term if they do not take care of him now.”

“What’s the correct verb for the way the Bucks are operating? They’re operating under the belief Giannis is going to re-sign. It is not 100 percent, but they don’t do these deals unless they feel really good about it. They feel better about it now than they did before. I think some people feel like these deals are being done to woo Giannis. I don’t think that’s happening, Zach. I think the Bucks are operating with knowledge. They’re doing these [deals] knowing that these players they’re acquiring for the foreseeable future with Giannis alongside them. Whether or not that’s a mistake, we’ll see. But I think there’s a lot of excitement in Milwaukee. And I think there’s a lot of excitement within the Giannis group right now. I think the momentum will continue.”

Bucks optimistic on Giannis extension?

Giannis Antetokounmpo will be offered the supermax extension by the Milwaukee Bucks at the start of free agency, which could be the most impactful NBA storyline both this offseason and for 2021. “I wonder how Giannis feels as he’s looking at this right now, you know, what he’s thinking about,” said Brian Windhorst in a podcast recorded before the Holiday trade. “Because he has about a month to decide on his supermax. I think he’s going to decide a lot of sooner. And I think there’s a lot of warmth in Milwaukee right now. I’ll just leave it at that.”

With speculation rife Antetokounmpo is considering linking with Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat once his Bucks contract expires at the end of the upcoming season, or potentially earlier if traded, Kyrgios has added fuel to the fire after providing an insight into his recent exchange with the “Greek Freak”. “I just asked him a bunch of questions,” Kyrgios told The Herald. “I asked him straight away if he was going to go and join Miami and then he had a massive smile on his face. Maybe that could be brewing.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo talks about future in Milwaukee

While there, he happened to give an exclusive interview to Swedish outlet Aftonbladet, a daily newspaper based in Stockholm. Of course, he was asked about his future with the Milwaukee Bucks, and had this to say (hat tip to Swedish journalist Alexander Nilsson): Giannis: “There are a lot of rumors. Everyone has opinions. But at the end of the day, I will do what is best for my family. I do not see why I could not be in Milwaukee for several years. As long as Milwaukee and I are on the same page when it comes to being one of the best teams in the league and winning championships, that’s fine. When it changes, it will not be good. It’s easy, I want to be a winner. I do not care about the money. My family is fine and I can take care of my children and grandchildren so that’s not the most important thing right now, it’s winning. As long as we can win and create a winning culture, it will be good.”

Miami has interest in re-signing Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder, but the Heat won’t do anything that jeopardizes their chances with Antetokounmpo. (The list of such things might include asking Bam Adebayo to wait until next offseason to sign his new contract — a way of maximizing cap space for Antetokounmpo. Adebayo and Antetokounmpo share an agent — Alex Saratsis of Octagon. This is tricky stuff, but I assume everyone will communicate what they need to communicate.)

There is also a question of how management will handle things if Antetokounmpo turns down the Designated Veteran extension, whatever the rationale. It appears they intend to keep him around no matter what, and that is the best approach considering there is almost no chance the Bucks recoup equal value in a trade and he could easily commit next offseason on the same terms or a shorter contract. While not signing an extension would send shockwaves through the league and get rival general managers and fans salivating, it is absolutely possible, if not probable, that the 25-year old stays in Milwaukee beyond the coming season.

Chris Bosh on the possibility of Giannis Antetokounmpo signing with the Heat: Yeah, that’d be pretty good. But I mean, yeah, it’s tough, man. I mean, they’ve had a crack at it. They were right there. They’ll have another opportunity next year. But that’d be devastating and painful for him in the city, if they don’t even at least make it to the Finals. I mean, in being in that position, you know, what do you do? Let’s be frank. I mean, I don’t really see a big time free agent, saying, ‘I’m going to Milwaukee’. Um, and that’s what makes it so tough sometimes. And they’ve done it the right way they’ve built around him. It’ll be really tough, man. And, and the allure of the game, it’s gonna be so many people coming after him.

Multiple sources have emphatically said Milwaukee will not look to trade Antetokounmpo if he passes on the extension. Instead, the Bucks will try to improve their roster and use the next year to show Antetokounmpo why he should stay. Waiting would give Antetokounmpo maximum leverage over Milwaukee over the next 12 months. If the Bucks are willing to add to their payroll to improve the team — something ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported they are — Milwaukee could chase a significant upgrade in trades (despite being short on prime assets).

Miami Heat prepared to go all-in for Giannis Antetokounmpo

Rival teams are monitoring Adebayo’s extension situation and the aftereffects if Miami bypasses extending their superstar big man. Miami is preparing to go all in on the pursuit of Milwaukee’s two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021 free agency, sources said. There is a school of thought that salary-wise, waiting on Adebayo’s extension would allow for as much space as possible for 2021. But given Adebayo’s presence, leadership and meaning to the Heat franchise, this is a straight-forward conversation between team executives and Adebayo’s agent, Alex Saratsis: A max extension this offseason or not.

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.”
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