The honeymoon between Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks is over.
Milwaukee’s superb season ended tonight with a Game 6 loss to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. Already, attention is turning to the 2020 offseason, when Antetokounmpo can sign a five-year super-max extension that projects to be worth $250 million. If he doesn’t, the pressure will turn way up as he approaches unrestricted free agency in 2021.
Antetokounmpo is already applying some.
Malika Andrews of ESPN:
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.
And if they can reach the NBA Finals next season, the Bucks can improve their chances of signing Antetokounmpo to the supermax in the summer of 2020.
Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon will be free agents this summer. It’s unclear how much luxury tax Milwaukee is willing to pay.
This leak could be Antetokounmpo trying to convince the Bucks to pay to keep this team intact.
Would he actually leave Milwaukee? At every turn, he has praised the city and organization. But the Bucks have also been on an upward trajectory for years. As they get closer to the top, it becomes more difficult to maintain that positive momentum. They’re now entering a crucial season with the clear goal of a conference title. That doesn’t leave much room for error.
The Lakers are rumored to be plotting to get Antetokounmpo. If there are signs he’ll actually become available, many other teams will line up just for a chance to sign him. Antetokounmpo is a special player, a superstar at age 24.
He also needed this loss. Having never advanced past the first round before this year, he didn’t fully grasp the high level of play and intensity this deep into playoffs. He hadn’t felt the heartache of coming so close and falling short, a highly effective motivator. Raptors like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol had already faced these tests, and that had a lot to do with Toronto winning.
I have no doubt this experience will make Antetokounmpo even better.
Antetokounmpo wants to ensure the Bucks match his desire to win. If they do, he and Milwaukee will remain committed to each other. The honeymoon isn’t the end.
But this is when it gets real.