Jon Horst of the Milwaukee Bucks could be facing the most difficult decision an NBA GM ever has to make.
The league’s reigning back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s expected to be offered the league’s super-max, will be entering the final year of his contract in 2021. Without a long-term commitment, Horst has to consider either dealing The Greek Freak or try to convince him to stay.
But can Milwaukee miraculously improve its roster in one off-season? With over $90 million on the books for Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, and Giannis, there’s not a whole lot of money left for the Bucks to offer an impending free agent who will make an immediate impact.
Making matters worse, all three (excluding Antetokounmpo) are signed through 2023, including Middleton whose player option for the 2023-24 season is worth $40.3 million. It’ll be challenging for Horst to facilitate a significant trade that’ll revamp Giannis’ supporting cast, convincing a team to take on long-term contracts is always tricky.
However, if the Bucks look outside of keeping the league’s most valuable player to avoid being left high and dry with nothing to show for one the franchise’s greatest players at the free agency table, Horst should consider seeking All-Star talent in exchange for Antetokounmpo. Keep in mind, Horst cannot replace someone like Giannis.
Pascal Siakam To The Milwaukee Bucks?
It’s impossible in today’s league for a team to trade arguably the greatest player in the NBA and receive equal value in return. Still, trading for Raptors forward Pascal Siakam isn’t a horrible place to start.
In fact, if you have to trade Giannis, it’s as good as it’s going to get. The 26-year-old All-Star has given us plenty of reason to believe that he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.
Despite a poor showing in this year’s postseason, the 2019 NBA Most Improved Player took the reins Kawhi Leonard left behind and led the Raptors to an impressive 53-19 regular-season record, the Raptors finished third in the Eastern Conference. He averaged 22.9 points, shot at a 45.3% clip from the floor, including 35.9% from deep to go with 7.3 rebounds, and one steal per game.
Siakam inked a four-year, $130 million contract extension with Toronto last year that kicks in next season at $29 million. With Giannis making $27.5 million in the final year of his four-year deal, along with other pieces to match salaries, the Bucks should consider it to be enough in exchange for their budding superstar.
Milwaukee Bucks Could Avoid A Massive Rebuild
Hurst could also use this opportunity to move one of their heavy contracts (Eric Bledsoe) if he chooses to revamp his core (Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez) or simply plug Siakam into what he already has. Heading into a critical off-season, the Raptors would give Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and Serge Ibaka plenty of incentive to stay put.
But realistically, it’s going to take a trade demand from Antetokounmpo to truly get the ball rolling. At the moment, it’s difficult to gauge where the MVP’s head will be between now and the start of the 2021 campaign. So far, he’s given us mixed signals.
Antetokunmpo, who vowed to stay committed to the Bucks and the franchise’s future, even went as far as to say he isn’t the kind of star to jump ship and join forces with elite talent. It was the kind of reassurance Bucks fans needed to hear only to see Giannis make headlines days later for unfollowing his teammates on Instagram.
Since earning his second MVP award, Antetokounmpo told TNT’s “Inside The NBA” crew that he’s spoken to the Bucks organization since the social media incident and revealed that both sides are working towards revamping the roster and giving the Bucks a better shot at making a title run. Still, things are shaky in Milwaukee.
It’ll be interesting to see how the league unfolds after the NBA Finals, which All-Star players will be dealt, and if the Bucks can squeeze another playoff run with Giannis leading the way.