- With the Bucks expected to be aggressive in seeking roster upgrades this offseason, Eric Nehm of The Athletic assesses a series of trade ideas from his readers, determining which team would balk at each hypothetical proposal.
NBA agents are generally in agreement that the 2020 offseason will be an unusual one due to the coronavirus pandemic and its ripple effect, but they don’t all agree on what exactly the offseason will look like.
Ben Standig, Mike Vorkunov, and other writers from The Athletic conducted a survey of 20 player agents to get their thoughts on the coming offseason and state of the NBA. And while some of those agents believe financial concerns will limit player movement this fall, others believe there will still be plenty of movement — even if it doesn’t happen in free agency.
“My fear is there will be a lot of teams and ownership groups that sit out free agency,” one agent said. “… In terms of player movement, I think there will be a lot. Not just signing guys. Nobody wants to pay the tax. Everybody is going to try to clear space for 2021. I can definitely see a sizeable amount of player movement. But not a lot of dollars spent.”
One agent who spoke to The Athletic suggested that some teams will be in cost-cutting mode and, for financial reasons, may move players they wouldn’t have traded in a normal year. However, another agent believes there will still be plenty of clubs willing to spend to compete for the postseason and for a title.
“Teams want to win and they’re going to spend to win,” the agent said. “Ultimately, as we saw with Denver, there’s a lot of teams within striking distance of contention and they’re not going to be cheap. The Clippers fired a coach with two years on his deal. We’re going to be fine.”
As for how many NBA franchises will be in legitimate financial peril during the coming year, one agent is skeptical that any will actually be in trouble.
“They’re going to blow so much smoke up our a– about how bad the business model is and everything like that, but Minnesota is going to sell for $1.5 billion and it’s the worst market, as far as basketball,” the agent said. “They sold 18 years ago for $88MM and they’re going to sell for $1.5 billion? You can’t tell (me) you have a bad business.
“There’s going be revenues that are greatly reduced, but I would say to any of these teams that feel like these businesses that they can’t pour cash into to carry it through this rough spot, they should sell. Because they have opportunities. We’ll find them a buyer in a month.”
Here are a few of the other most interesting takeaways from The Athletic’s agent survey:
- Thunder point guard Chris Paul is the highest-profile player that most agents expected to be traded this offseason, while the Sixers are considered the team most in need of a major roster move. “Philly is at the point where it’s a make or break year for just about everybody,” one agent said.
- Of the 19 agents who weighed in on the subject, 18 said they expect Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo to remain in Milwaukee beyond his current contract.
- LaMelo Ball comfortably received the most votes as 2020’s most intriguing draft prospect, but he’s viewed as a somewhat risky investment. “I think he has such a high ceiling but the difference from his top to bottom is the biggest of anyone in the draft,” one agent said. Another offered the following assessment: “That could go really good or really bad.”
- One agent said he has “never heard less enthusiasm” from teams that have high picks in this year’s draft.
- One agent speculated that centers will be hit hardest by teams’ financial limitations this offseason, since clubs are focusing on players who can defend several positions. Another said that he thinks many clubs may prioritize veterans over young prospects, since cost-conscious teams may not want to use back-of-the-roster spots on guys who won’t play at all.
- Thunder GM Sam Presti easily received the most votes as the NBA’s “smartest” team executive, but Pat Riley of the Heat and Masai Ujiri of the Raptors got more votes when agents were asked which exec they’d want to hire if they were running a franchise.
Entering the final year of his contract with the Bucks, Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year, super-max extension that would make him one of the NBA’s highest-paid players for years to come. However, after Milwaukee’s disappointing playoff showings during the last two seasons, there’s no guarantee that Giannis will sign that extension as soon as he’s eligible to do so.
Despite those postseason exits, Antetokunmpo has said all the right things about his desire to remain in Milwaukee long-term. And while we’ve heard those kind of comments before from star players who eventually leave their teams, Giannis’ stance seems genuine.
Milwaukee is the only home he has known since arriving in America, the Bucks are a talented team that has led the NBA in wins over the last two years, and Antetokounmpo doesn’t sound like he’s simply reading from a generic script when he talks about wanting to break through and win a title with the Bucks.
Still, until Antetokounmpo officially puts pen to paper on a new contract, anything can happen. Specifically, there are four scenarios that could play out for Giannis and the Bucks over the next year.
- Antetokounmpo signs a five-year, super-max extension with the Bucks this offseason. It would go into effect in 2021/22 and would start at 35% of the cap for that year.
- Antetokounmpo forgoes an extension this offseason, but remains with the Bucks for another year, then signs a new deal with the team during the 2021 offseason. He could still sign the five-year super-max in ’21. Or he could opt for a shorter-term deal, especially if the league’s updated salary cap projections suggest that approach might be more financially advantageous in the long run.
- Antetokounmpo doesn’t sign an extension this offseason, then joins a new team when he reaches free agency in 2021 — either by signing outright or via sign-and-trade. His max contract would be for four years, starting at 30% of the cap.
- Antetokounmpo doesn’t sign an extension this offseason and is traded before the 2021 deadline.
The fourth option has always seemed like the least probable outcome to me. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN reiterated this week, the Bucks are opposed to the idea of trading Antetokounmpo before his contract expires, preferring to make another run at a title with him in 2021. I imagine the team would only seriously consider a trade if Antetokounmpo asks for one, and he has stated he has no plans to do so.
The other three options are all more realistic possibilities, though I don’t have a feel yet for which outcome is likeliest. The Bucks will be able to put their super-max offer on the table for Antetokounmpo once the 2020/21 league year begins, which figures to happen in late November or early December. We should get a better idea by that point whether he’ll accept that offer this offseason.
If he doesn’t, the Bucks don’t need to panic. They’ll be able to put that same super-max offer back in play during the 2021 offseason and it’s worth more years and more money than Antetokoumpo can get anywhere else. Plus, if the Bucks can make the roster upgrades necessary to make a run to the NBA Finals in ’21, that would go a long way toward selling Giannis on a long-term future in Milwaukee.
We want to know what you think. Which outcome is the most likely for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks? Do you envision him remaining in Milwaukee for years to come, or are his days as a Buck numbered?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your two cents!
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Warriors big man Marquese Chriss could see his role expand offensively as a passer, Anthony Slater of The Athletic speculates. Chriss showed off his versatility and vision during a recent intrasquad scrimmage. Alen Smailagić doesn’t seem ready to break into the team’s rotation and he’s destined to spend another season in the G League, Slater adds.
We have more from the Pacific Division:
- The Hawks, Bucks, Suns and Heat are among the teams that could be interested in Kings free agent swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic, in the view of James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. All but Milwaukee have the cap space to hand Bodganovic an attractive offer sheet. With the recent changes in the front office, it’s more uncertain whether Sacramento will match an offer sheet or whether it would rather pursue a sign-and-trade.
- While the Kings have a quality young point guard in De’Aaron Fox, it’s not out of the question they’ll draft another one with their lottery pick, Jason Jones of The Athletic writes. RJ Hampton, Kira Lewis and Cole Anthony are some of the point guard prospects Sacramento might consider with the No. 12 overall pick.
- Tyronn Lue has the right track record for a championship contender like the Clippers, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register opines. After winning a title in Cleveland, the new Clippers head coach has already established a track record of cultivating chemistry by holding stars accountable, maximizing role players and making smart strategic moves, Swanson adds.
Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision on a supermax extension will have a wide-ranging effect on this offseason and the summer of 2021, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Several teams that are saving cap space to make a run at the two-time MVP next year would be more likely to spend right away if he accepts an offer from the Bucks. The Raptors would be more willing to spend big to keep free agent guard Fred VanVleet, while the Heat and Mavericks might look to make significant moves right away.
Bontemps has heard from multiple sources that Milwaukee won’t panic if Antetokoumpo turns down the extension. Instead of trying to trade him before he reaches free agency, the Bucks will look for roster upgrades to give him a better chance to compete for a title before he hits the open market. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that Milwaukee’s ownership won’t mind adding payroll to improve, so the team could be actively seeking trades before the start of next season.
There’s more on potential offseason moves, all courtesy of Bontemps:
- Victor Oladipo is also eligible for an extension, but it might be tricky for him and the Pacers to arrive at a mutually acceptable figure. The team can offer a new deal that starts at around $26MM — 120% of his salary for next season. However, Oladipo could potentially make much more as an unrestricted free agent in 2021 and may use the upcoming season to show that he’s fully recovered from a torn quadriceps tendon. As a small market team, Indiana might decide to seek a deal now involving Oladipo rather than risk losing him for no return, Bontemps notes. The Pacers already have Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis under long-term deals and may be wary of giving another one to Oladipo.
- VanVleet will be the top free agent this offseason, and the Raptors are hoping to keep him without compromising any chance they have at Antetokounmpo. ESPN’s Bobby Marks reports that Toronto would like to reach a new deal that doesn’t exceed four years at $80MM. The Pistons, Knicks, and Hawks all appear to be options to maximize his value if VanVleet doesn’t mind leaving a contender for a rebuilding team.
- Atlanta goes into free agency with the most money to spend ($42MM), giving general manager Travis Schlenk an advantage as he looks to add to his core of young talent. There aren’t any franchise players on this year’s market, but Bontemps mentions Davis Bertans, Danilo Gallinari and Joe Harris as possibilities, along with VanVleet.
- In the wake of playoff disappointments and coaching changes, the Clippers and Sixers could both be looking for roster shakeups. According to Bontemps, L.A. may try to move Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Ivica Zubac or find sign-and trade deals involving Marcus Morris or Montrezl Harrell, while Philadelphia’s top priority is to unload Al Horford‘s contract.
- Though the Bucks carried a stellar defense and the best record in the league into the playoffs, the team was quickly dispensed in the second round of the 2020 playoffs by the fifth-seeded Heat. Eric Nehm of The Athletic weighs several trade and free agent options for shoring up Milwaukee’s frontcourt. Center Brook Lopez made an All-Defensive team this year, but Nehm considers flipping Lopez for a more aggressive pick-and-roll defender like Pacers big man Myles Turner, or adding someone like Danilo Gallinari, Markieff Morris, or Harry Giles in free agency.
The expectation heading into the 2020 offseason is that the Heat will prefer to wait on a new deal for Bam Adebayo, since signing him to a maximum-salary extension would cut into the team’s available cap room for 2021. Miami could maximize that space by keeping Adebayo’s more modest RFA cap hold on the books for 2021, then eventually going over the cap to re-sign him.
Adebayo could get the same max contract whether he signs it this offseason or waits until 2021, but if he’d rather lock it in sooner rather than later, it might become an awkward situation for the Heat, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. In Jackson’s view, Miami actually may have had more leverage to ask Adebayo to wait when there was a perception that the team needed another star to become championship contenders. After this year’s Finals appearance, that argument is more tenuous.
The Heat’s plan is to go “all-in” for Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021 if the Bucks star reaches free agency, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. If Antetokounmpo agrees to an extension with Milwaukee before then, the Heat may not feel as compelled to hold onto their ’21 cap room, which would lessen the need to wait on Adebayo’s next contract.
Here’s more on the Heat:
- Unrestricted free agent wing Derrick Jones is expected to receive interest from the Cavaliers, Hornets, and Hawks, among others, sources tell Charania. At just 23 years old, Jones is an unusually young UFA and still has room to develop, which explains why several rebuilding teams will likely kick the tires.
- There’s mutual interest in a new deal between Goran Dragic and the Heat, according to Charania, who says the veteran point guard will have multiple suitors.
- If the Heat are only willing to offer one-year contracts this offseason, Dragic and Jae Crowder may have to decide whether they prefer to remain in Miami or seek longer-term security, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “I’m going to obviously give it thought on both sides — having security and my comfort with this organization,” Crowder told Winderman. “So, hopefully, it all comes together from both sides. And that’s what I really want to do.”
- Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald examines how the Heat could theoretically re-sign Dragic and Crowder to lucrative one-year contracts while also adding a quality player with the mid-level exception — and staying out of tax territory.
The Bucks will be on the lookout this offseason for additional play-making and shooting and are expected to be a “strong suitor” for Kings restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Bogdanovic enjoyed arguably the best season of his three-year NBA career in 2019/20, averaging 15.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.4 APG on .440/.372/.741 shooting in 61 contests (29.0 MPG). He earned a promotion to the starting lineup in January, displacing Buddy Hield, and helped lead the Kings to a 16-12 record during his 28 games as a starter.
There’s an expectation that re-signing Bogdanovic will be a priority for the Kings. The team jettisoned Dewayne Dedmon‘s pricey multiyear contract at February’s trade deadline in order to create more future cap flexibility to accommodate a new deal for Bogdanovic. Sacramento also has the right of first refusal on the 28-year-old, which means the club can match any offer sheet he signs.
The Bucks, on the other hand, aren’t expected to have any cap room available this offseason, and the mid-level exception (worth between $9-10MM) won’t be nearly enough to sign Bogdanovic to an offer that the Kings wouldn’t match.
Still, if there’s strong mutual interest between the Bucks and Bogdanovic, it’s possible something can be worked out. Six restricted free agents were involved in sign-and-trade deals during the 2019 offseason. If Milwaukee is willing to offer a trade package that appeals to Sacramento, perhaps that could be an option, though the Bucks would become hard-capped at around $139MM in that scenario.
With the Bucks looking to do all they can to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to commit to a long-term future in Milwaukee, I’d expect the front office to get creative as it pursues potential upgrades this fall. Going after Bogdanovic will likely be one of many options that general manager Jon Horst and his group consider.
Forwards Joe Harris and Jae Crowder are free agents the Bucks might pursue with their mid-level exception, Eric Nehm of The Athletic speculates. Harris would provide another offensive threat, while Crowder is a defensive stalwart. If the Bucks pursue cheaper options, Josh Jackson, Wesley Iwundu, Gary Clark and Glenn Robinson are considerations with their biannual exception or minimum deals.
During a segment on “The Jump,” Windhorst said Dallas will keep a low profile this offseason in order to maximize cap space and make a spirited run at the Bucks’ superstar. Milwaukee intends to put a five-year, super-max extension on the table for their franchise player this fall but Antetokounmpo has not tipped his hand on what he’ll do.
“They want to keep their books clean for 2021 when they’re going to chase Giannis,” Windhorst said of the Mavs. “They’ve got to worry about Tim Hardaway because he’s got a ($19MM) player option but I wouldn’t expect them to add any major free agents (this offseason). They’re going to wait.”
Windhorst was careful to point out that Mavs aren’t considered frontrunners for Antetokoumpo’s services — only that they’ll go all out to land him. Dallas’ interest has been noted recently by other media members, so it’s not surprising that the club will make every effort to create another super-team.
Hardaway will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021 if he exercises his option this year. Dallas should have enough wiggle room to offer Antetokounmpo a max deal and can clear more space by moving some contracts.
The idea, naturally, is to have him join forces with two other stars, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. However, Porzingis injury issues are a concern. He underwent another knee surgery, this time on his right knee, last week.
“They want to have a third star,” Windhorst said. “Porzingis has to prove he can be healthy to be that third star.”