“Hopefully, we can build a culture in Milwaukee for many years that we can come out here and compete every single year for a championship.”
That was Giannis Antetokounmpo right after the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs in a fast five games by the Heat. He didn’t sound like a guy itching to get out of Milwaukee, and he said he’s not going to ask for a trade. The Bucks will offer Antetokounmpo a supermax contract this offseason, and if he doesn’t sign it then things get interesting.
Whether he signs the extension or not, Milwaukee has work to do to make this work (and maybe keep him). But, as much fans love team-switching drama, the Bucks remain the heavy frontrunner to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo, even if he reaches free agency.
Still, teams are lining up for a shot at the soon-to-be two-time MVP, whether via trade or free agency. That includes the Los Angeles Clippers, reports Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer.
The Heat are setting up to make a splash in 2021, whether it’s Giannis or another top free agent. Golden State, Toronto, and Dallas hope to make runs at Antetokounmpo too, league sources say…
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.
“A deal” implies a trade. That is unlikely, and if it happens it is only because next season comes apart for Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo comes to GM Jon Horst and says he is not re-signing, and they have to make a move at the next trade deadline. Fans/talking heads will make the “you have to get something for him before he leaves” argument, but it’s flawed on two levels. First, he doesn’t want to leave (read the quotes above and remember Milwaukee is the only home he’s had in the United States, it’s where his partner and son are). Second, Milwaukee knows it is a mid-sized, non-glamour market in the NBA — this is their one chance with a superstar for a decade or more, and it is going to go down swinging trying to keep him.
Which would lead to the summer of 2021 and a potential Giannis Antetokounmpo free agency.
The Los Angeles Clippers as a free agency destination would have sounded like the ramblings of hippie burnout on an LSD trip 10 years ago, but anymore — this is the team that landed Kawhi Leonard last summer. Owner Steve Ballmer is wealthier than any other NBA owner by far (and any NFL owner, for that matter), and while that doesn’t let Los Angeles violate the salary cap rules, it does allow them to do everything else first class. The Clippers have built a reputation among players and agents as player-friendly, and they’re about to have a new, state-of-the-art arena (well, in four years). For the generation of players coming up, Donald Sterling is ancient history.
If Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent and tests the market, 29 other teams will be ready to take their shot. Remember, the Greek Freak will be 26 then — he is just entering his prime. While he needs to improve parts of his game (he needs a Kawhi-style pull-up 15 footer from the elbow or nail, it would transform his game), he’s still as good a player as there is in the league.
The Clippers would have a legitimate shot. The Milwaukee Bucks and Antetokounmpo may not let it get to that point.