Following the Bucks‘ second-round postseason loss to Miami, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo made a conscious decision to play a more vocal role in upgrading the team’s roster, according to a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Kevin Arnovitz.
During a fall lunch with Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, GM Jon Horst, and Giannis’ agent Alex Saratsis, Antetokounmpo named a number of players whom he thought would be good offseason targets for Milwaukee, including Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, per Windhorst and Arnovitz.
Beal wasn’t available, the Bucks never got close to a deal for Oladipo, and their efforts to sign-and-trade for Bogdanovic fell through. However, Milwaukee zeroed in on another player on Giannis’ list, Jrue Holiday, believing he’d be a natural fit in the team’s lineup.
According to ESPN’s duo, the Nuggets and Celtics were aggressive in attempting to acquire a top-10 pick in last month’s draft to flip for Holiday. The Hawks were also interested in moving the No. 6 pick in a deal for the Pelicans guard, but ultimately abandoned that plan due to uncertainty over whether he’d want to remain in Atlanta beyond 2021.
The Bucks didn’t have a top-10 pick in 2020 to offer for Holiday, but were willing to put plenty of future first-rounders on the table. According to Windhorst and Arnovitz, Milwaukee initially offered Eric Bledsoe, two first-round picks, and a pick swap (plus salary filler), then “reluctantly” added George Hill to the offer. The Pelicans countered by asking for one more first-rounder and one more pick swap.
Sources tell ESPN that the Bucks’ decision-makers knew that giving up two rotation players, three first-round picks, and two pick swaps was an overpay, especially since an extension for Holiday may cost in the neighborhood of $30MM per year.
However, the club badly wanted to upgrade its roster and to send a message to Antetokounmpo and decided to pull the trigger. If that deal ultimately helped convince Giannis to sign his super-max extension, the front office presumably feels the cost was worth it.
Here’s more on the Bucks and the Antetokounmpo extension:
- The report from ESPN’s Windhorst and Arnovitz is worth checking out in full, as it’s packed with interesting nuggets about the process of extending Antetokounmpo. According to the ESPN duo, when the Lakers acquired Dennis Schroder from Oklahoma City, Giannis wanted reassurance that Milwaukee had made a “valiant effort” to land Schroder.
- As a trio of writers from The Athletic reported on Tuesday, Windhorst and Arnovitz confirm that the Bucks first formally made their extension pitch to Antetokounmpo on December 5. During that meeting, team ownership and management focused on the team’s commitment to building a champion, pointing to its aggressive pursuit of Holiday and its willingness to pay future luxury tax bills, per ESPN.
- David Aldridge of The Athletic argues that the Antetokounmpo extension is good for the NBA, since it’s hard for fans in non-glamor markets to fully invest in their teams if they believe star players always have one foot out the door.
- Joe Vardon of The Athletic throws some cold water on the news of Antetokounmpo’s extension, writing that the new deal offers the Bucks a temporary reprieve, but doesn’t guarantee the superstar forward will be with the franchise for the next five years. Jobs will be “on the line” in Milwaukee if the team doesn’t make the NBA Finals and win a title within the next couple years, says Vardon.