Bulls Keep $228M ‘Pipe Dream’ Alive With Latest Move

Chicago Bulls

Getty Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee Bucks looks on during the preseason.

The Chicago Bulls have converted forward Kostas Antetokounmpo’s contract from an exhibit-10 to a two-way deal. Antetokounmpo, 24, will now split this season between the Bulls – for up to 50 regular-season games – and the Windy Coty Bulls in the G-League. He will not be eligible for postseason play.

Antetokoumpo was one of five players vying for one of the Bulls’ two-way slots along with Carlick Jones who was with the team last year and former DePaul standout Jovan Freeman-Liberty.

Chicago also waived undrafted rookie Justin Lewis while signing Okaro White to his vacated two-way slot.

Still, it’s Antetokounmpo whose name stands out for rather obvious reasons.

Antetokoumpo Sticking Around

The Bulls did not give many minutes to the players on the bubble this preseason. Their roster is set with their top-15 contracts so there were only ever the two two-way slots and the opportunity to earn a G-League contract out of much of summer league and preseason.

To that point, the Bulls sign and waived guard Ethan Thompson with the intent of sending him to the Windy City Bulls.

Lewis was always a long shot to stick after tearing his ACL in a private workout.

It’s not as though Antetokounmpo lit the world on fire this summer, either. He averaged 2.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in two games during the preseason. He did shoot 66.7% from the floor and showcase some passing ability and athleticism.

In the eyes of many, however, this signing is and always has been about trying to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo away from the Milwaukee Bucks “down the line”.

Giannis piqued interest when he said he “could see” it happening but those two words are doing a lot of work. He is signed through 2026 on a $228 million supermax contract with the only team he has ever known in the NBA.

As NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson points out, Giannis to Chicago remains a “pipe dream”.

A Sneaky Addition

Kostas Antetokoumpo’s claim to fame goes beyond his famous brother, though. Kostas also won a championship as a member (mostly a passenger) on the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers with current Bulls guard Alex Caruso.

He hasn’t played much NBA basketball with just 22 games under his belt.

Antetokounmpo averaged 5.8 points and 2.6 rebounds for ASVEL, a French League team owned by former San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker. In his last G-League stint, Antetokounmpo averaged 14.1 points 7.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.3 blocks while starting 37 of 38 games.

The initial link to the Bulls came after he impressed Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas in a EuroBasket friendly match.

“For sure I’m a defensive player,” Antetokounmpo previously told Johnson, “able to guard multiple positions and switch 1 through 5. And then offensively, I space the floor and run the floor too. I definitely want to improve on my outside shooting and my playmaking in general.”

The three-ball has not shown consistently but everything else has.

With Lewis no longer a potential factor, the Bulls were light on players standing between 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-10 that were big men.

Not the Only Connection

If the Bulls are truly planning on a potential run at Giannis, they would likely have to do more than sign his brother anyway. He already plays with the eldest of the four brothers, Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

But the Bulls also hired Nikolaos Pappas as an international scout. He was the sports director for the Greek Men’s National Team.

Will all of these moves pay off in the form of one Greek Freak?

Who knows. But as unlikely as it may be, credit to Karnisovas for continuing to “look at everything” when it comes to trying to improve this team. There was once a time when the Bulls wouldn’t even be involved in these kinds of low-risk high-reward moves and this particular move has the potential to pay off in its own right.

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