There’s been plenty of early speculation about where Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul might find themselves next year, but those are just appetizers, the bread and olive oil before a hearty Italian dinner. Westbrook and Paul are worthy assets but Giannis Antetokounmpo is a hoops colossus in his athletic prime, an earth-shattering, mountain-moving talent nearing a career crossroads.
The reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year has played it coy to this point, but soon he’ll have to decide what his NBA future holds. Will the 25-year-old megastar remain a Buck (we know Milwaukee can offer him the most money via the super-max) or will he seek a change of scenery in pursuit of an elusive Larry O’Brien Trophy, perhaps joining forces with a similarly championship-starved superstar in the process?
With anticipation building, Giannis addressed his looming decision in an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, asserting that his hope is to remain a Buck long-term, but before he makes the biggest choice of his professional career, the Greek prodigy needs to know Milwaukee is committed, not just to being a very good team, but a legitimate title contender. “I do not see why I could not be in Milwaukee for several years,” said the four-time All-Star, who insists money will not be a determining factor in where he lands. “It’s easy. I want to be a winner.”
Antetokounmpo was noticeably tightlipped when asked if he expects to sign a max extension with Milwaukee (a windfall that would net him upwards of $220 million), preferring to let the process play out. “It depends on what decisions they make. If they make the right decision, I'll be there for many years. If they do not, we'll see,” said Giannis, a two-time league MVP and already the seventh-leading scorer in Bucks franchise history. “The NBA is business and we take it day by day. Hopefully we can succeed together."
The former 15th overall pick still has a year remaining on his current contract, but if the Bucks are pessimistic about his chances of re-signing, Milwaukee could conceivably shop him either this offseason or at the 2021 trade deadline. As noted by Jack Maloney of CBS Sports, the Bucks can pay Antetokounmpo substantially more than his presumptive suitors who, at most, can offer him a four-year deal in the range of $140 million. While the 6’11” forward contends that winning is his top priority, the fact Milwaukee is able to offer $80 million more than the next-highest bidder certainly gives the Bucks a distinct advantage in the upcoming Giannis Sweepstakes.
Already up against the league’s luxury tax after rolling out the red carpet for sharpshooter Khris Middleton last offseason, piecing together a championship roster around Giannis in Milwaukee won’t be easy, though let’s not forget the Bucks posted the NBA’s top regular-season record in 2020, just as they did the year prior.