While small-market NBA teams constantly have to worry about the possibility of their best players leaving town to team up with other stars in a bigger market, the Bucks may not need to be overly concerned about that scenario playing out for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report writes in an in-depth figure on the Milwaukee forward.
As Beck outlines, Antetokounmpo didn’t grow up playing on the AAU circuit and isn’t part of the Team USA program, so he’s less accustomed to the superstar model of team-building than many of his American contemporaries. One rival executive suggests to Beck that it could give the Bucks a big advantage down the road that Giannis “is not around All-Stars all summer.”
Antetokounmpo has also shown little interest in working out with fellow star players, according to Beck, who suggests that Giannis has turned down those invitations and “sees no point in sharing anything with his rivals.” Jason Terry, Antetokounmpo’s teammate for two seasons in Milwaukee, tells Beck that he could “never in a million years” imagine the All-NBA forward seeking out a super-team and joining forces with other stars.
“Giannis, his DNA, his makeup is, he has the ability to carry a team to the championship level himself,” Terry says. “I think he’s still enjoying the challenge of trying to take on the world’s best, like LeBron [James], head to head. Trying to take on guys like [Kevin Durant] head-to-head. And he’s really enjoying that matchup and embracing it. I mean, he wants to be the best player in the NBA. I’ve heard him say that on multiple occasions.”
Antetokounmpo reiterated that sentiment to Beck, telling him that his goal is to become “one of the best players to ever play the game.” Giannis also stressed that his number one goal is winning and contending for championships, something he believes the Bucks are capable of even without going out and acquiring another star.
“You don’t have to have a lot of [stars],” Antetokounmpo told Beck. “I definitely think that, because I think we have great pieces in this team, and every guy in this team knows what his role is and is having fun and is enjoying his role. And that comes from the coach. You know, if the coach gives you confidence, gives you the green light and tells you what your role is and you accept it as a player, and you’re happy with it, that’s big for every team. I don’t think anybody on this team wants to do more, wants to do less.”
Here’s more out of Milwaukee:
- Although there may be speculation about Antetokounmpo’s future in Milwaukee from rival executives, Bucks GM Jon Horst isn’t preoccupied by thoughts of Giannis’ next contract, writes Beck. “The truth is, it really isn’t the biggest thing on our mind,” Horst said. “The biggest thing on our mind is how do we take a step from last year to this year and continue to improve? And if we do all the right things along the way, and we take the appropriate steps … it will take care of itself.”
- Here’s more from Horst on the Bucks’ long-term outlook, via Beck: “We want to build something sustainable. We want to compete for multiple championships over a long period of time. … I think if we just take all those kind of intentional, organic steps along the way, I think we can position ourselves to have long-term success. And Giannis is the key ingredient to that. You gotta have one of those. We have one.”
- The Bucks took a step toward retaining their core by moving Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson for George Hill earlier this month, creating additional cap flexibility for 2019. According to Beck, the Bucks believe they’ll be in good financial shape going forward even if they re-sign Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Brook Lopez, their four key free agents next summer.
- Speaking of Middleton, a Bucks official tells Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports that the club plans to do “everything we can” to retain the standout swingman when he reaches free agency in 2019.