When, in a feature in the New York Times, Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo spoke about his willingness to leave the cozy bosom of Milwaukee, where he began his career and has played for 10 seasons, if the circumstances were right, he surely knew that he was igniting a rove of speculation about his future. Not long ago, Antetokounmpo was an innocent in the rough-and-tumble NBA, but you don’t win a championship and an MVP award without learning some media tricks along the way.
In his chat with the Times, Antetokounmpo said, “I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing.”
That was amplified by veteran reporter Marc Stein, who noted that, “The Lakers and the Knicks are already being mentioned as franchises presumed to interest Antetokounmpo down the road if he does decide to move on from Milwaukee.”
The problem for the Lakers, though, is a lack of assets to make a trade ahead of when Antetokounmpo hits free agency in 2025, after his five-year, $228 million supermax contract is up. L.A. could attempt to sign him outright in free agency that summer, but one executive did offer another path: Dump Davis. As in Anthony Davis.
Bucks Won’t Want to Rebuild
Should Antetokounmpo want to leave the Bucks, the thinking goes, it would be likely that Milwaukee seeks to avoid a major rebuilding—the team has made great inroads among its fanbase with its downtown arena, and does not much want to give that up. To do stay at a high level, rather than be overly focused on collecting draft assets, the Bucks could look to swap out Antetokounmpo for another major star. And Davis is a star who would happily play in Milwaukee.
“I don’t see (the Lakers) getting LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Giannis all together on a team,” the executive told Heavy Sports. “Either LeBron is retired at that point or you swap out Giannis and Davis. Davis is a Chicago guy, he was open to a trade to Milwaukee before. Davis, when he is healthy, is not really much behind Giannis and some would argue he is ahead of him.
“It’s just the health. If the Lakers wanted Giannis, they’d have to convince Milwaukee AD is healthy, then make the trade. It is just too much money to try to sign him in free agency, if LeBron is still there.”
Davis-Giannis Trade Could Make Sense
There would be details to hammer out, but a basic structure of a deal would be a simple swap of Davis and Antetokounmpo, probably with some sweetener included for the Bucks—a conditional first-round pick, maybe a young player like Max Christie, too.
As good as Davis can be—and as good as he was last year (25.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks)—Antetokounmpo is slightly better, and certainly more durable. He is also two years younger, at 28. That gives him an advantage over Davis.
Going back to when they first signed James in 2018, the Lakers have been considering who they might get to eventually replace him, to take the mantle from James as franchise cornerstone. It was supposed to be Davis, but his inability to stay on the floor has shaken the team’s confidence in that.
If he can put together another good year, though, Davis could be in prime position to be Giannis trade bait. “To me, they’d have to trade him for Davis,” the exec said, “that’s the only way he gets to L.A.”