Winners and losers from Giannis Antetokounmpo re-signing with Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo decided to stay home in Milwaukee, signing a super-max extension, in part because he believes he can win there (his biggest concern). The fact the Bucks can guarantee him $228.2 million over the next five years didn’t hurt.

Antetokounmpo’s decision was the most impactful player decision in the NBA since LeBron James decided to come to Los Angeles, and there have been reactions and reverberations around the league. As with every big move, there are some winners and losers, and while there are far more winners in this case let’s break it down.

Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Duh. The man just locked in $228.2 million. Even Steve Ballmer thinks that’s a lot of money. Antetokounmpo also gets to stay in the only city he has called home in the United States — he’s said he’s not drawn to the bright lights of Los Angeles or Miami — and the first city he and his family ever felt safe, comfortable, and welcomed.

Antetokounmpo used his leverage to pressure the Bucks to upgrade the roster and only signed this deal after being convinced that the Bucks were serious about winning — and willing to spend to do it. Antetokounmpo knew what he wanted and got it.

Winner: Milwaukee Bucks and Bucks’ fans

The Milwaukee Bucks locked up the two-time reigning MVP as he heads into his prime, a move that should make them contenders for each of the next five years (if they’re not, it’s more about the Bucks front office than Antetokounmpo). That’s a win for Milwaukee, a win for their fans, and a win for small and mid-sized markets around the league. Do most things right, build a winner around them, and those markets can keep a superstar.

However, this does not guarantee the Bucks a title in the next few years. According to odds provided by our partner, PointsBet, it’s just slightly better than 50/50 that Antetokounmpo wins a ring with the Bucks.

Losers: Miami/Dallas/Toronto

These teams are not really losers, but they are teams now forced to recalibrate. All of them kept cap space or trade options open to land Antetokounmpo if he decided to move on from Milwaukee. Now each one has to adjust their master plan.

Miami is in the best position. The Heat already used their cap space to lock up Bam Adebayo, and they still have a lot of young players that would be interesting to a team looking to trade a superstar. Miami made the Finals a last season yet is still poised to chase another star (via trade or sign-and-trade), and will be in that position for years.

Toronto is retooling the roster around Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby at the forward spots, and they locked up Fred VanVleet this offseason, but the Raptors now need to strike a deal with Masai Ujiri and then go find their next star.

Dallas is in the toughest spot of the three because they lack picks and young players they are willing to give up in a trade. Dallas has no clear path now to adding a third star because they needed to do it through free agency and…

Loser: 2021 Free Agency

LeBron James signed an extension to stay with the Lakers, and as expected Anthony Davis did the same — neither inked shot deals either, the Lakers have them for three years. Paul George signed a max deal to stay with the Clippers. Now Antetokounmpo is off the market.

The much-hyped free agent class of 2021 suddenly looks very thin. Kawhi Leonard is the biggest name, but with the George re-signing in Los Angeles — and the fact Leonard forced his way back to SoCal — it is widely expected around the NBA Leonard re-signs with the Clippers. Who are the best free agents after that? Rudy Gobert, and maybe Victor Oladipo depending upon how he plays this season. Those are good players, and this is a deeper free agent class than this past one, but the franchise-changing talent at the top is gone. This class is not nearly as sexy.

Which leads to…

Winner: Houston Rockets (and maybe the Washington Wizards)

With teams not able to find a superstar through free agency, suddenly James Harden‘s star shines a little brighter. He’s a former MVP and one of the top five players on the planet, a guy who can drop 30 a night and do it efficiently. The concerns about him being 31 with a lot of miles on that body (on and off the court), the concerns about having to re-sign him in two years at age 33, the concerns about how well he plays with other stars are all still there, but for teams that don’t have options those risks don’t look as daunting. Houston continues to ask for more than anyone will offer for The Beard right now, but this helps the Rockets’ leverage.

Miami has said it is interested in Harden, and if it can get a deal done for Tyler Herro, some other young players, salary guys (Kelly Olynyk, Andre Iguodala), and a couple of picks, it might well be worth it.

That is, unless the Heat want to wait and see what the Wizards do with Bradley Beal. Like Houston, Washington is sitting in a better spot to trade its star now, except the Wizards have no intention of doing so — at least in the short term. They want to see if they can make a playoff run with Beal and Russell Westbrook. But if that goes sideways by the trade deadline, or by next offseason, Washington may feel differently, and it will be in a strong position.

Winner: Jrue Holiday

Antetokounmpo just signed a max contract, and Khris Middleton will make $35.5 million next season on top of that. Throw in $13.3 million for Brook Lopez at center, a combined $12.3 million for D.J. Augustin and Pat Connaughton, plus contracts to round out the roster, and suddenly the Bucks are a team over the tax line and with limited ways to improve for the season after this one. This means they MUST re-sign Holiday (something they needed to do anyway after giving up a boatload of picks to land him).

Holiday, who has a $26.7 million player option next season, is expected to opt-out and has all the leverage. He likely will get a contract that starts at about that number and extends out for years. Holiday is a former All-Star, and should be a better playoff fit in the backcourt for the Bucks than Eric Bledsoe, but he has the leverage to get paid like a superstar now.

 

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract

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Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.

 

Lakers reportedly leaning toward packaging Beverley, Nunn in trade

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While the Lakers have looked better of late winning 6-of-8 with a top-10 offense and defense in the league in that stretch, plus Anthony Davis continues to play at an All-NBA level at center.

That run — which still has Los Angeles sitting 13th in the West — came against a soft part of the schedule (three wins against the Spurs, for example), and is about to get tested with a few weeks of tougher games, starting with the suddenly healthy Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. While the Lakers have been better, nobody is watching them and thinking “contender.” Are they even a playoff team?

Which is why the Lakers are still in the market for trades. But Jovan Buha reports at The Athletic the Lakers realize moving Russell Westbrook and his $47 million may not happen, so they are focused more on a smaller deal moving Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (with maybe a pick) to bring back quality role players to round out the roster).

The Lakers are leaning toward [a Nunn/Beverley trade] at this point, the team sources said. That would entail making a smaller move to marginally upgrade the roster while retaining the possibility of following up with a larger Westbrook deal later in the season…

Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are both underperforming relative to their contracts. With the Lakers’ needs for additional size on the wing and a better complimentary big next to Anthony Davis, along with the roster’s glut of small guards, Beverley and/or Nunn are expendable. Packaged together, the Lakers could acquire a player or players in the $20 million range.

Trading Nunn and Beverley lines up with a couple of good options from the Lakers’ perspective. For example, the salaries work to get Bojan Bogdanovic out of Detroit, or it matches up with a deal for Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson out of San Antonio. However, neither the Pistons nor Spurs care much about adding veteran guards on expiring contracts in Nunn and Beverley, so it’s going to require the Lakers throwing in one of their first-round picks unprotected (2027 or 2029) and maybe a second-rounder to get it done. (With how well the Pacers are playing, it’s not a sure thing that a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade is still available.) The Spurs trade may be more appealing to the Lakers because Richardson and Poeltl are expiring contracts, so it doesn’t change the Lakers’ plans to use cap space to chase bigger names this offseason (Bogdanovic was recently given a two-year, $39.1 million extension).

These may not be the “move us into contender range” blockbuster Rob Pelinka and the front office hoped was out there, but either of those trades would make the Lakers better. It could move them into playoff-team status, and considering LeBron James turns 38 at the end of the month they can’t waste a year and retool next offseason.

The Lakers have made a number of miscalculations over the years, but they are all-in with this group now and have to find a way to maximize it, even if the cost is a little painful.

Khris Middleton reportedly set to return to Bucks Friday vs. Lakers

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The Milwaukee Bucks are about to get better. Likely a lot better.

Which should worry the rest of the league because the Bucks have looked like one of the two best teams in the Association this season: A 15-5 record with the best defense in the NBA and an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now they are about to get Khris Middleton back.

Middleton — the Bucks Olympian and All-Star forward — is set to make his season debut Friday night against the Lakers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Middleton had been recovering from wrist surgery.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and assists per game last season. More importantly in Milwaukee, Middleton is the hub of the Bucks’ halfcourt offense — he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll at the end of games, asked to create for himself and others in the clutch (with Antetokounmpo working off the ball and sometimes setting picks). Without him so far this season, the Bucks’ halfcourt offense has struggled, ranked 21st in the NBA this season in points per possession (via Cleaning the Glass). Overall the Bucks have a middle-of-the-pack offense because of it.

That is about to change.

While Mike Budenholzer will ease him back into the rotation as he gets his wind back, having Middleton back makes the Bucks much more dangerous. Which is bad news for the rest of the NBA.