Giannis Antetokounmpo Makes Big Contract Decision, Dashes Lakers Dream

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Getty Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Score one for the NBA small markets while, at the same time, witness a few dreams die in places from Miami to the Bay Area to Los Angeles.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time reigning MVP, has agreed to a supermax extension to stay with the team, a five-year contract worth a hefty $228.2 million payout—at least. At an average of $45.6 million per year, Antetokounmpo will be the highest paid player on a per-year basis in the NBA next season, moving ahead of Lakers star LeBron James ($44.5 million).

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The Bucks keeping Antetokounmpo marks one of the most significant contracts in the history of the NBA. He becomes just the sixth player in the NBA to sign a supermax deal, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, joining Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and John Wall. The supermax was put into place as an NBA rule to encourage star players to remain with the teams that drafted them.

While it is a huge moment for the Bucks as a franchise, Antetokounmpo’s deal is a blow to teams around the league that had been protecting cap space to make a run at him in free agency in the summer of 2021, when his current contract expires. The Warriors were long rumored to have targeted Antetokounmpo, either by trade or in free agency, but the Lakers had also planned to make a run at him, as well as the Miami Heat.

That’s not happening. It will be time for contingency plans in all those markets.

Lakers Had Giannis Plans

The Lakers had been meticulous in their plans to protect cap space for the summer of 2021, as the team seeks to find a young star to pair with Anthony Davis as James ages. Davis is 27 and Antetokounmpo is 26. He would have been the ideal candidate to put alongside the Lakers big man for the next five-to-10 years.

For a time, at least, it appeared that Antetokounmpo could be a realistic target for the Lakers. The team has his younger brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo, on the roster as a two-way player and Giannis Antetokounmpo has spoken about his desire to play with both of his brothers (older brother Thanasis is also a member of the Bucks).

Antetokounmpo was asked about that in February. “I think that would be amazing,” Giannis said of playing on the same team as his brothers. “Obviously, we’d spend more time together, and I’m 100 percent sure my mom would love that,” he said, before adding: “But if we could, like, team up on a team, Milwaukee, L.A., whatever, that would be awesome.”

But the Lakers seemed to give up on the prospect of landing Antetokounmpo this offseason, especially when they granted James a two-year extension that took away a big chunk of their cap flexibility.

There still could be plenty of talent on the 2021 market–Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have options, Rudy Gobert, DeMar DeRozan, Steven Adams, Holiday–but the biggest fish will not be on the board.

Bucks Went All-In This Offseason

So Antetokounmpo will stay put in Milwaukee. There was speculation that he was not happy with the team in the wake of last year’s playoff flameout, the second straight year the Bucks entered the postseason as the favorite to reach the Finals but failed.

Milwaukee had a disaster of a second-round showing against the Heat, and their season ended in major disappointment there.

The Bucks set out to upgrade the roster significantly this offseason, and did so by adding guard Jrue Holiday as well as backups D.J. Augustin and Torrey Craig. The added forward Bobby Portis, too.

There was some concern about whether that would be enough to persuade Antetokounmpo to re-sign, especially after the Bucks botched a potential sign-and-trade with Sacramento for Bogdan Bogdanovic. Turns out, though, it was plenty to keep the MVP in green.

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