Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks have some big free agency decisions to make in the summer of 2021.
When Giannis Antetokounmpo was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks back in 2013, little was known about the Greek phenom. He was the 15th overall pick and at the time, he was a lanky kid who some felt wasn’t ready for the physicality of the NBA. At first, Giannis was a bit timid on the court as he only averaged 6.8 points per game in his first season. In his second campaign, Giannis averaged 12.7 points and displayed improvement as well as a more mature physique.
By the 2018-2019 season, Giannis was known around the league as the “Greek Freak.” His massive stature made him a tour de force on the court. He could grab rebounds, make plays, and score like nobody’s business. His efforts paid off as he averaged 27.7 points, 5.9 assists, and 12.5 rebounds per game. With Giannis leading the charge, the Bucks finished first in the Eastern Conference and were two games away from the NBA Finals. After a career year in Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo was rewarded with the MVP trophy.
This season, Giannis is pulling off more of the same. At the time of writing this, the “Greek Freak” is averaging a whopping 29.7 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. The Bucks are first in the NBA with a record of 50-8 and if they continue this pace, they could very well find themselves with an NBA title by the end of the season. While this is all great for Bucks fans, there is an elephant in the room that can’t be ignored anymore. The elephant has become so massive that the windows are breaking and the foundation is about to crumble. Of course, I’m talking about the fact that Giannis becomes a free agent at the end of the 2020-2021 season. Thanks to his accomplishments, he will be eligible for the supermax contract which would see him earn over $250 million over the span of five seasons.
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The supermax was created a few years ago as a way to keep superstar players on small-market teams. When Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, the NBA realized they needed a strategy to combat super-teams and keep players dispersed throughout the league in order to maintain parity. So far, the supermax has worked -- to an extent. For instance, Damian Lillard recently stayed in Portland thanks to the supermax. Not to mention, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and John Wall are all notable examples of the high-priced contract keeping players grounded. However, there are some times where it hasn’t worked. The best example is Kemba Walker who left Charlotte for Boston. One could make a fair argument that Charlotte didn’t want to pay the supermax. Regardless, players like Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis have also avoided supermax deals as they demanded trades.
All of this is important to Giannis and the Bucks as it could dictate what happens in the summer of 2021. Both sides have huge decisions to make. On one hand, you have Milwaukee Bucks owner Wes Edens who needs to figure out whether or not he wants to fork over the money required in a supermax situation. Meanwhile, you have Giannis who needs to figure out whether or not he wants to stay in Milwaukee longterm. It's an interesting conundrum although based on the way the NBA has played out over the last few years, it will most likely wind up being a one-sided affair. Of course, this is because the Bucks won't think twice about offering Giannis $250 million. He's an MVP-caliber player who has singlehandedly made the franchise relevant again. The "Greek Freak" earning potential for the franchise is massive and if they can keep him on board, the team will be able to prosper for years to come.
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Where things get tricky is Giannis' thoughts on all of this. Over the past few months, Giannis has stated that he's not the type of player who wants to become a celebrity and get famous. He's a modest guy who just started a family and wants to be happy, regardless of where he plays. With this in mind, Milwaukee seems like the perfect place for him. It's a relatively quiet city in the Midwest that allows him to be a superstar but also go unrecognized in public. In theory, all of these factors would push him to want to stay. In reality, Giannis could be swayed by other factors. For instance, creating a superteam that can dominate the league is very enticing. As of right now, rumors are circulating that the Warriors could be looking to make a play for Giannis and pair him with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Lakers are also interested in Giannis and based on recent comments, the "Greek Freak" wouldn't mind playing there with all of his brothers. Of course, there is also the rumor that Giannis might want to join the Raptors and play with the likes of Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakiam.
At the end of the day, rumors are just that: rumors. There is no telling what Giannis is thinking and for all we know he could already be talking to the Bucks about staying. Despite this, if Giannis doesn't win a championship within the next two seasons, there will be a good reason for him to want to look elsewhere. This is not to say the pieces around Giannis aren't good -- they are. But as they say, the grass is greener somewhere else and Giannis might be enticed to explore. If that happens, the NBA will be thrust into a free agency debacle that will shake up the league for years to come. Giannis is a generational talent who can change a franchise's fortunes with his mere presence. The Bucks are well-aware of this because they're a product of his abilities. With that being said, Giannis holds all the power and fans can't wait to see what he does with it.