The Milwaukee Bucks took their final bow of the 2020 NBA playoffs Tuesday night, falling to the Miami Heat, 103-94.
It was an unceremonious ending to an otherwise enjoyable year for Cream City. But for the small-market Bucks, the real discussion quickly turned from the season ending to the fear that this may be the beginning of the end of their contendership as they know it.
Starting now, Giannis Antetokounmpo has a decision to make. Signing a supermax contract sets him up with as much as $250 million over the next five years. Declining the extension and naming his next destination gives the Bucks one real choice: Trade him, or risk him walking in 2021 free agency.
According to SportsBetting.AG, the Miami Heat (+300), Toronto Raptors (+400) and New Orleans Pelicans (+500) are the early favorites to become Giannis’ next team. It’s important to note that this could be either via trade over the next few months or by free-agent signing in 2021. It’s also important to note that Milwaukee signing Giannis to the supermax sits as -250.
Rounding out the top 10 you have the Philadelhpia 76ers (+750), Boston Celtics (+900), LA Clippers (+900), Dallas Mavericks (+1000), Los Angeles Lakers (+1000) and Golden State Warriors (+1000).
There’s a lot to unpack here. For starters, the Warriors feel like a high-value bet in this scenario considering their No. draft pick 2 pick and high-dollar contract in Andrew Wiggins to facilitate a trade. The Lakers also feel like a good gamble at +1000 if you think Giannis has the patience to wait for 2021. Even Toronto feels a tad underrated if you believe Masai Ujiri has another trick up his sleeve.
But just outside the top 10, still in the upper half of the league, are six teams to round out the Sports Betting odds: Houston Rockets (+1200), Indiana Pacers (+1200), Chicago Bulls (+2000), Portland Trail Blazers (+2000), Utah Jazz (+2000), Brooklyn Nets (+2500).
As interesting as the new-look Nets are or micro-ball Rockets would be Giannis, the Trail Blazers sneaking in at +2000 should catch your eye just days after Stephen A. Smith tried to dent the internet by mentioning Damian Lillard would love to have Giannis by his side in Portland, citing them as a duo that could win a title during Lillard’s career.
Whether Stephen A. was reporting something Lillard has said in the past or speculating…well, sure. I would hope either way that Lillard would want to play with Giannis. Lillard has gone on record stating he won’t join a superteam, but he also hasn’t shied away from trying to speak his own star acquisition into existence.
Whether or not the Blazers can officially enter the Giannis Sweepstakes is debatable. Whether they should want to is not. Mortgaging then future is scary, and it doesn’t always work. But sometimes it does. Sometimes it gets you Kawhi Leonard and a title. And it always gives you a chance to win.
Giannis has said all the right things up to this point. Following the loss on Tuesday, the 25-year-old told reporters that he wants to build a winning culture in Milwaukee and compete for championships.
But this is also the NBA, and Giannis a superstar. And superstars have leverage to get what they really want.
If Giannis is ready to move on, the Bucks need to consider honoring his request.
And even if the odds may not be in the Blazers’ favor, a certain cinematic line we all know and love comes to mind.
So you’re telling me there’s a chance.