The wait is over and Giannis Antetkounmpo is not going anywhere.
The two-time reigning NBA MVP has signed a five-year, $228 million supermax contract extension to remain with the Milwaukee Bucks and attempt to build a real playoff contender with the team that drafted him with the 15th pick back in the 2013 NBA Draft.
The contract includes an option for Antetokounmpo to opt out in the fourth year of the deal, the forward’s agent, Alex Saratsis, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The 26-year-old shared the news of the extension in a heartfelt message to the city and franchise on Twitter.
“This is my home, this is my city. I’m blessed to be able to be a part of the Milwaukee Bucks for the next 5 years. Let’s make these years count. The show goes on, let’s get it.”
The news came as somewhat of a surprise in the NBA world considering the near-constant chatter on the topic of Giannis’ next destination after he would inevitably leave Milwaukee.
Teams like the Miami Heat were shopping trades, and Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors (who it was recently revealed through a behind the scenes documentary attempted to trade for Giannis during that 2013 draft) was keeping enough space on his team’s salary cap for a max free agent next summer, when the seven-year pro would have become an unrestricted free agent. But not so fast, Milwaukee hospitality must be better than we thought.
With the surprise extension, the fear of an Antetokounmpo trade during the season has evaporated, which means the Bucks should be much more focused on the task at hand: winning an NBA championship. Oddsmakers and betting sites have already lowered Milwaukee’s odds from +650 in mid October to +550 odds on 888sports as of this writing. However, with James Harden’s fate still up in the air and two Eastern Conference teams in the running for the former MVP’s services, I’d take a wait and see approach on any Milwaukee futures as of now.
Though the Greek Freak’s Bucks have been stellar in the regular season, posting the top record in the NBA for two years running, they have been abysmal in the playoffs. In 2019 they squandered a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual NBA champion Raptors, and last year they surrendered a round earlier to the Heat in just five games. These shortcomings are what fuelled the recent frenzy around the question ‘Where might Giannis go?’
And after all the talk, he’s staying right there in Wisconsin as he continues to try to push the Bucks back to the NBA Finals for what would be the first time since the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it back in 1974. The franchise’s first and only championship came three years earlier in 1971 with the bespectacled Abdul-Jabbar leading the way alongside one of the first great hoops ambassadors, Oscar Robertson.
Despite reaching the Finals and winning his third MVP with the team in 1974, Kareem still asked for a trade from the organization after that season, and the rest is history. Lucky for the Bucks, history didn’t repeat itself this year.
“It’s simple. You’ve got to be better than what you were last year. If you did not win the whole thing, you’ve got to get better,” Antetokounmpo said back in September. “If you win the whole thing, you’ve got to get better and do it again.”
The Bucks certainly did not end up winning the whole thing after that quote from Giannis, but they did get better in the offseason, though they did it in the sloppiest manner possible. First, they gave up three first round picks, two first-round swaps, and two quality guards for Jrue Holiday. While I love Holiday, that price seems far too costly.. unless they win the big one, of course.
They followed that up with a botched sign-and-trade for sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic, who would have been a perfect fit in Milwaukee, and when that didn’t work, they settled for depth signings including veteran table-setter PG DJ Augustin, premier perimeter defender Torrey Craig, and a solid scorer in Bryn Forbes. Holiday is a great player with a wonderful mental makeup that will do everything you need him to, but it still feels like the Bucks are a piece away from real contention with the likes of the Lakers, Clippers, and Heat.
Antetokounmpo, a native of Athens, Greece, has put together quite an impressive resume already at the tender age of 26. The two-time and reigning MVP and DPOY, four-time All-Star, four-time NBA All-First or Second Teamer, and three-time NBA All-Defensive Teamer will surely be looking to add a team honor with the Bucks to his already overflowing trophy case come next summer.