Giannis Antetokounmpo Rumors: Bucks Won't Trade Star Even If He Rejects Contract

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2020

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, drives against Miami Heat's Jae Crowder, right, in the second half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible to sign a supermax contract extension this summer, and more than a few teams will be waiting eagerly to see what he decides to do.

Even if he doesn't sign that deal and instead chooses to become a free agent next year, Tim Bontemps of ESPN reported Monday that the Milwaukee Bucks have no plans to trade the two-time MVP:

"Multiple sources have emphatically said Milwaukee will not look to trade Antetokounmpo if he passes on the extension. Instead, the Bucks will try to improve their roster and use the next year to show Antetokounmpo why he should stay.

"Waiting would give Antetokounmpo maximum leverage over Milwaukee over the next 12 months. If the Bucks are willing to add to their payroll to improve the team—something ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski has reported they are—Milwaukee could chase a significant upgrade in trades (despite being short on prime assets)."

It's clear Milwaukee needs to make some roster changes after being the Eastern Conference's top seed two seasons in a row yet failing to make the NBA Finals. It may be difficult to add a third star alongside the Greek Freak and Khris Middleton, with players like Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo the top assets on the roster.

The Bucks also have the Indiana Pacers' first-round pick in this year's draft and their own 2021 first-round pick as potential trade chips.

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For instance, Milwaukee could make the money work in a potential Chris Paul trade by using a combination of those players, but would the Oklahoma City Thunder accept such a package? It's more likely the Thunder would prefer promising young players, draft assets and salary-cap relief (though the market that forms around Paul may dictate those demands).

If Antetokounmpo chooses to hit free agency, it would make the Bucks want to urgently improve their roster. Whether they have the assets to do so is another story.

His decision will affect other teams as well. As Bontemps noted, should Antetokounmpo sign a long-term extension with Milwaukee, it would end the hopes that teams like the Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks might have of signing him next year. It wouldn't be surprising if the New York Knicks were putting all of their eggs in the Giannis basket as well based on their pursuit of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last offseason.

In turn, those teams likely would be more willing to spend short-term money, unencumbered by the need to preserve the cap space they had been earmarking for Antetokounmpo.

His decision will carry weight for a lot of franchises. More than a few teams will remain on high alert, including the Bucks, if he decides to become a free agent next offseason.