- Giannis Antetokounmpo can become a free agent in 2021
- Miami, Toronto, New Orleans favored to sign Antetokounmpo
- Milwaukee can still offer Antetokounmpo a Supermax contract
- As always, keep an eye on the Los Angeles teams
The Milwaukee Bucks were 53-12 prior to the NBA’s stoppage, due to COVID-19. They scuffled to a 3-5 record after the regular-season restart, then beat Orlando in five games that were tougher than the scores suggested (also, the series was postponed for two games as the Bucks started a league-wide social-justice boycott). Then, they were thoroughly walloped by Miami in five games. And now the rumors that have been bubbling up will come to the surface: where will Giannis play next?
Of course, we’re talking about Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was just named Defensive Player of the Year and the odds-on favorite to win his second straight Most Valuable Player award. Antetokounmpo averaged 26.7 points, 13.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists during the postseason, but actually missed the Bucks’ Game 4 overtime win and their Game 5 loss with an ankle injury. That was poor luck on Milwakuee’s part, but truth be told, the Heat had dominated that series, again leading to the question, where will Giannis play next?
BetOnline has come up with some sports betting odds on where the Bucks’ superstar might end up next season. They have also assessed the NBA betting odds of Antetokounmpo signing a supermax deal with the Bucks. Here is a look at those odds. Also, any references to cap space is based on future estimates of what the salary cap is going to look like in the post-COVID-19 era.
Where Will Giannis Play Next Odds?
Miami Heat (+300)
I’m cheering for this, just to see if it would get the level of hate Kevin Durant’s move to Golden State sparked. But the Heat would be a great fit for Antetokounmpo, who has one year left on his current deal. They have a winning culture that starts with president Pat Riley and head coach Eric Spoelstra. Jimmy Butler might not be the best #1 player on a team. But with Antetokounmpo next to him, he would be a great #2.
What’s more is that Miami has both trade assets they could use to make a deal if Milwaukee wanted. If Milwaukee holds on to Antetokounmpo, they have the cap space to sign him in 2021.
Toronto Raptors +400
Antetokounmpo’s relationship with Toronto president Masai Ujiri has been well-documented. Uriji helped the Antetokounmpo family move to Greece from Nigeria, and wanted to draft Antetokounmpo in 2013. The Raptors, under Ujiri and head coach Nick Nurse, have their own winning culture as the defending NBA champions, defeating Antetokounmpo’s Bucks along the way.
The Raptors might not have the trade assets to move for Antetokounmpo, but they’ll surely be in the mix if he goes to free agency in 2021. They’ll have plenty of cap room to offer Antetokounmpo.
New Orleans Pelicans +500
The Pelicans will have a lot of cap space to work with, along with rising star Zion Williamson. The Pelicans also have some players they could trade for Antetokounmpo, such as Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball (who got traded from the Los Angeles Lakers for Anthony Davis). The idea of Antetokounmpo and Williamson together is a fantastic idea. But in theory, the Pelicans would have to do a lot to work around them.
Also, Antetokounmpo (who has already said he isn’t going to request a trade) likely wants to go to a team that has a chance of winning now. The Pelicans aren’t that team, and won’t be evenafter next season.
New York Knicks +700
Oh, the Knicks. Surely, they’ll have cap space. But it has been well-established that the idea of going to New York because it’s cool, just isn’t the case anymore. Also, Antetokounmpo seems like the NBA star who is least worried about what is cool.
The only way this happens is through free agency, because the Knicks have nothing to trade for Antetokounmpo. They would also have to try and pair Antetokounmpo with another star in that free-agency period. There are some interesting options: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, Blake Griffin and Paul George all have player options that year, but James will be 36 (which means the Knicks will try to get him), as will Paul (see comment about James). Griffin will take that option because of his injury history. Leonard and George might decide to stay with the Clippers.
Also, this is all to say, we wouldn’t bet on the Knicks landing one superstar in free agency, much less, two superstars.
Philadelphia 76ers +750
It would be interesting to see Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the same team, just for comedy’s sake. The 76ers would probably have to trade one of them (because if Milwaukee says yes to Tobias Harris being the best player they’re getting back, everyone there should be fired).
Getting Antetokounmpo for one of those two puts the 76ers at square 1, as all three basically play the same way. There would have to be a lot of overhauling to make this happen. I’m not sure Philly is the team to do that.
The Rest Of The Options
- Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers (+900)
- Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers (+1000)
- Golden State Warriors (+1100)
- Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers (+1200)
- Chicago Bulls, Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz (+2000)
- Brooklyn Nets (+2500)
The most intriguing options out of these teams are Dallas, Golden State and the Los Angeles teams. The Mavericks would love to pair Antetokounmpo with Luka Doncic, but they would have to trade Kristaps Porzingis, and his knee issues would probably make Milwaukee a little leery. The Warriors have the #2 pick in this year’s draft and could decide to move anyone not named Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (sorry, Draymond Green). The Bucks probably wouldn’t do that because this year’s draft wasn’t looking good pre-pandemic, and is probably worse now. Also, anyone outside of Curry and Thompson isn’t worth Antetokounmpo (again, sorry, Draymond Green).
The Los Angeles teams are intriguing. Leonard and George could stay in California and recruit Antetokounmpo to join them. James and (likely) Anthony Davis could do the same for the Lakers. That could be the best battle of the 2021 offseason.
Giannis To Sign Supermax Contract with Bucks
- Yes -250
- No +170
Of course, lost in the “where will Giannis play next” shuffle is the idea of Antetokounmpo staying in Milwaukee, which would be very lucrative. The cap numbers have to be sorted out, but it’s probably going to be around $220 million for five years. That is more than any other team. That is a lot of money to turn down.
However, Antetokounmpo seems to be the type of player that wants a chance to win a title. If Milwaukee doesn’t make moves to match that ambition, Antetokounmpo probably wouldn’t return. Head coach Mike Budenholzer, and his inability (non-willingness?) to make adjustments could be in trouble. The Bucks also allowed Malcolm Brogdon to leave to avoid the luxury tax, which Antetokounmpo might take into account. Stars like to feel that their owners/front office will do whatever it takes to win a championship.
One thing is for sure: The “where will Giannis play next” storyline is going to be one of the top dramas of the next 12 months.