From now until Giannis Antetokounmpo officially puts his signature on a long-term contract with the Bucks, which could happen as soon as next summer, folks in Milwaukee will have to contend with the rumor that the beloved Greek Freak is set to bolt Brew City. That rumor becomes all the more daunting because it’s been attached to the Warriors, the team that swiped Kevin Durant from the small-market clutches of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016.
There are many around the NBA chattering about how the Warriors could do it again by signing Antetokounmpo in 2021. This week, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne mentioned it on the network. But not much of that chatter is coming from Milwaukee.
“Keeping Giannis, it’s a focus obviously,” one Bucks front-office source told Heavy.com. “But fighting the Warriors is not a focus. The Warriors are not the concern in the least. They’d have a long way to go to get him to Golden State, they’d have to give away a lot. He has never given any indication that he wants to leave Milwaukee. So a lot of that stuff, it is more chatter than anything.”
Thompson, Russell Would Likely Have to Go
Indeed, the Warriors are tied up by contractual commitments to Steph Curry (three years, $130 million), Klay Thompson (five years, $192 million), Draymond Green (five years, $118 million including this year) and D’Angelo Russell (four years, $118 million). There would have to be some serious payroll contortions to get far enough under the cap to offer Antetokounmpo a contract starting in the $35-40 million range.
The team would have to dump Thompson for sure, and either Russell or Green. Those are very hefty contracts to move, especially for Thompson, who will be coming off ACL surgery. To create room for Antetokounmpo, the Warriors would have to find homes for two of those big contracts for only draft picks, without taking money back.
Certainly, it is possible and Golden State has managed bold moves before. The Warriors were able to foist Andris Biedrins on the Jazz in a trade that brought them Andre Iguodala in 2013. But they gave away two first-round picks to do so, and Biedrins was only due one year at $9 million.
The luring of Durant is cited as evidence that the Warriors can make just about anything happen but that was a much different scenario. Golden State had the benefit of a spike in the salary cap in the summer of 2016, which gave them the room to get Durant without giving up core pieces.
And, the source mentioned, “What happened with Durant works both ways.”
Durant won two championships with the Warriors. But he wasn’t very happy in his time there and wound up leaving for Brooklyn this summer. No doubt Antetokounmpo, who has expressed how happy he is in Milwaukee, has taken note of how things went for Durant when he made the move.
There’s also the matter of Antetokounmpo’s projected teammates. One reason cited for his potential interest in the Warriors is his friendship with Curry. But Curry will be 33 in the summer of 2021, seven years old than Antetokounmpo.
Bucks Can Help Their Own Cause
Ultimately, the best way the Bucks can assure that Antetokounmpo stays put is to take advantage of the chance they have, this season especially, to earn a spot in the Finals. Philadelphia will be formidable, but with the Raptors having lost Kawhi Leonard, the Bucks will enter the 2019-20 season as the favorite to win the East.
Cash in and it’s unlikely Antetokounmpo leaves. That’s a more important concern than the Warriors.
As Bucks GM Jon Horst said on Fox Sports Wisconsin recently, “I think we all fully believe that if we continue to put the right things in place and give Giannis the right opportunities — he loves Milwaukee, he loves the state of Wisconsin — I think he’ll be a Buck for a long time.”