Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo looked to be on a mission this season.
The reigning NBA MVP, fueled by a disappointing result in last year's playoffs, somehow managed to improve on his 2018-19 campaign while also leading the Bucks to the best record in the NBA.
Antetokounmpo was averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists through 57 games prior to the suspension of play because of the coronavirus pandemic. More impressively, he produced at this level on just over 30 minutes per game.
The Greek Freak led the NBA in player efficiency rating (31.6) and defensive rating (96.3) while also ranking second in win shares (10.4) and value over replacement player (6.0), per Basketball Reference. Giannis also showed clear signs of evolution. Antetokounmpo was shooting nearly five percent higher from beyond the arc on an additional 2.0 attempts per game from that range.
With Giannis leading the way, the Bucks were establishing themselves as a juggernaut in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee (53-12) led the league in scoring, offensive rating and defensive rating, and it also boasted a deep bench with excellent role players.
But COVID-19 has abruptly altered the trajectory of the Bucks' season, and it might also have an impact on Antetokounmpo's future.
Marc Berman of the New York Post reported, "Sources indicate the pandemic has changed things so drastically, it's hard to pinpoint Antetokounmpo's future plans."
Giannis is eligible for a supermax extension this summer, and the Bucks will likely do everything in their power to lock him up for the foreseeable future. At the same time, Giannis might choose to wait out the market and test the free-agent waters in the summer of 2021.
Tim Bontemps of ESPN reported back in February executives around the league widely expected Antetokounmpo to re-sign with the Bucks. Then again, that was when they were front-runners to win the NBA title. Given the long layoff teams around the league have experienced, the Larry O'Brien Trophy might be up for grabs.
If the Bucks falter—or if the league cannot find an adequate path toward the resumption of play—Giannis might be more hesitant to sign an extension.
Ball Family Attempting to 'Steer' LaMelo to Knicks?
The New York Knicks have been doing some scouting ahead of the 2020 draft.
Ian Begley of SNY.tv reported the Knicks have taken a long look at North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony, who has tremendous tools but also dealt with injuries and inconsistencies while at Chapel Hill.
But sources believe it is possible the Knicks' could end up with another point guard: LaMelo Ball.
Berman reported: "Some league sources believe the Ball camp will try to steer the 18-year-old point guard to the Knicks, though such a maneuver will seem difficult if Leon Rose's club doesn't rise into the top four in the lottery."
Ball's father, LaVar, recently said on Complex's Load Management podcast he believes New York is the "best fit" for LaMelo, who spent this past season with the Illawarra Hawks in the National Basketball League (NBL).
However, it might be challenging for the Knicks to draft Ball if they are not in the top three. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman and Stadium's Jeff Goodman both have Ball going third to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Meanwhile, John Hollinger of The Athletic rated Ball as the top player on his draft board.
Needless to say, plenty of experts view Ball as the top guard prospect in the draft. It is easy to see why that is the case.
Ball averaged 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 12 games with the Hawks, per the NBL. He has tremendous size (6'7") and has consistently showcased good vision paired with an excellent handle. There are some concerns about his jumper and defensive effort, but the upside is evident.
The Knicks would almost certainly welcome the opportunity to draft Ball. Frank Ntilikina simply does not have the playmaking or scoring instincts front offices typically look for in a point guard, and Dennis Smith Jr. has not panned out in New York.
While the Knicks might need some luck to land Ball, it is also not out of the question for them to trade up in an effort to secure their point guard of the future.
All stats obtained via Basketball Reference, unless otherwise noted.