If the Miami Heat eliminate the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals—a likely scenario, considering Miami is up 3-1 in the series—all of the attention around the NBA will turn to the future of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
With his free agency a year away, speculation will begin brewing about whether the Greek Freak can win a title in Milwaukee, and whether he'll consider leaving the Bucks, either by pushing for a trade or hitting the open market and signing elsewhere in the summer of 2021.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith reported on Monday's Get Up that one player who will be monitoring the situation is Portland Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard:
"You've got teams like Portland, led by Damian Lillard, who would love to have Giannis," Smith said. "Talk to a guy like Dame Dolla, he believes that, 'Hey, Giannis and me together would win the chip.' Those are the kind of things that could potentially be options out there if he can't get it done in Milwaukee."
A few things are worthing noting here. One, just about every player in the NBA would love to pair with the defending MVP.
Two, it's hard to imagine the Bucks ever entertaining the notion of trading the Greek Freak. And even if they did, Portland's best package would likely be built around players like CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons and draft picks.
Other teams could do better. The Golden State Warriors could build a deal around Andrew Wiggins, the No. 2 overall pick this year, the 2021 Minnesota Timberwolves top-three protected pick and other future draft considerations. Other teams rife with future firsts (the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder) have ammunition. The Philadelphia 76ers could get cheeky and offer Ben Simmons in a deal.
Barring Antetokounmpo going scorched earth and demanding a trade—which seems unlikely—it's more probable that Milwaukee will look to shake up their roster and add another complementary star player to the roster.
For example, consider the framework of this three-team deal:
- Bucks get: Chris Paul
- Thunder get: George Hill, Josh Richardson, Ersan Ilyasova, D.J. Wilson, Mike Scott
- Philadelphia 76ers get: Eric Bledsoe
The Bucks would get another star offensive creator and shot-maker to pair with Antetokounmpo. The Thunder—who would obviously need to tweak their roster to accept five incoming players—would get out of Paul's exorbitant contract in a glorified salary dump, freeing up a ton of money for next year's free agency.
That would also allow them to feature Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in a starring role in the backcourt. And the Sixers hop into the deal, getting a much-needed halfcourt facilitator in their backcourt.
That's, obviously, a patchwork trade idea. The point is that the Bucks could still have avenues to improve their team in the upcoming offseason to entice the Greek Freak to sign a long-term contract extension. Put another away, pump the brakes on any Lillard-Giannis super teams.