Giannis Antetokounmpo

Central Notes: Bulls, Giannis, Ivey, Pistons

After making only minor roster moves for a second straight summer, the middling Bulls might be best served by fully embracing a tank, opines Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Cowley writes that team president Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley need to concede that their momentous roster reconstruction in 2021 ultimately did not succeed, and the club must now pivot to offloading big veterans in exchange for future draft equity. Cowley believes Chicago’s top priority should be finding a young point guard it can build around.

With star wings DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine leading the charge, the Bulls have gone a cumulative 86-78 over the past two regular seasons, with just a single playoff game win to their credit.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Though Bucks All-NBA power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is now eligible to ink a three-year, $169MM contract extension, he has indicated he intends to wait until next summer to make a decision. At that point, he could agree to a four-year deal worth a projected $234MM (or potentially more, depending on where the NBA’s salary cap lands). He has a $51.9MM player option for the 2025/26 season. Should Antetokounmpo eventually ask for a trade, he would entice the entire league, Adrian Wojnarowski said on Friday on ESPN’s NBA Today (YouTube video link). “Listen, the possibility of a player like Giannis Antetokounmpo becoming available, it creates a frenzy around the league behind closed doors,” Woj said.
  • Second-year Pistons shooting guard Jaden Ivey is hoping to take a step up defensively in 2023/24, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. The 6’4″ guard showed improvement as a shooter and passer throughout his rookie season last year, and is now looking to develop on the other side of the ball. “Being able to just play better defense, I think that’s what I tried to lock into more [over the summer],” Sankofa opines. “Using my speed to get through ball screens and not giving up on ball screen reads. Always staying on the play, always staying involved defensively. I feel like I got better in that aspect.”
  • In a new reader mailbag, Sankofa addresses a variety of Pistons topics, including whether he thinks Detroit could try to trade for Pacers sharpshooter Buddy Hield, whether or not combo forward Isaiah Livers will earn rotation minutes amidst a deeper frontcourt, and more.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Giannis, Hart, Harden

For the first time in years, the Nets will report to training camp without a superstar on their roster, but they have plenty of assets ready for when the next one becomes available, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn is in a transition phase after shipping out Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in separate deals last February. Those trades gave the team a foundation built around Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, along with a parcel of draft assets that can match any team in the league.

The Nets have seven tradable first-round picks through 2030, along with four others that could be involved in swaps. They own unprotected firsts from the Suns in 2027 and 2029 and one from the Mavericks in 2029. Lewis points out that those picks could greatly increase in value as the core in Phoenix becomes older and especially if Irving and Luka Doncic eventually decide to leave Dallas.

Lewis doesn’t expect Brooklyn to use any of its assets to chase players who are currently on the market such as Damian Lillard, Tyler Herro or James Harden. The front office wants to be fully stocked in case a major star such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Donovan Mitchell or Doncic eventually becomes available.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks risk missing out on other opportunities if they decide to wait for the possibility of an Antetokounmpo trade, Ian Begley of states in a mailbag column. He points to Raptors forward OG Anunoby as an example of a useful talent who might be available through trade, but New York can’t make a bid for him if the front office is determined to preserve its assets for a run at Antetokounmpo. Begley also notes that Antetokounmpo could ultimately decide to stay in Milwaukee or force his way to another team.
  • The Knicks appear to have Josh Hart penciled in as their backup power forward, Begley adds. New York hasn’t signed anyone to replace Obi Toppin after trading him to Indiana, and using Hart in that role could open up playing time for free agent addition Ryan Arcidiacono.
  • The attention being focused on a potential Lillard deal is holding up any progress the Sixers could be making on a Harden trade, Derek Bodner states on the latest PHLY Sports podcast. Philadelphia talked to the Trail Blazers about a Lillard deal this summer, Kyle Neubeck adds, but he cautions that doesn’t mean the teams were ever close to a deal.

Central Notes: Mitchell, Giannis, Bucks, Cunningham

Addressing Donovan Mitchell‘s contract situation on Thursday during an NBA Today appearance, Brian Windhorst of ESPN (Twitter video link) echoed a point he made in early August, suggesting that he doesn’t expect Mitchell to sign an extension this offseason and that he doesn’t believe that will be a major cause for concern for the Cavaliers.

Mitchell has two guaranteed years left on his current contract, which will pay him $33.2MM in 2023/24 and $35.4MM in ’24/25, with a player option for ’25/26. He’s eligible to sign an extension now, but could lock in a longer-term deal if he waits until next summer.

Still, Windhorst is curious to hear what Mitchell has to say publicly about his contract when he’s asked about on Media Day. It would raise eyebrows around the NBA if Mitchell follows Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s playbook and makes it clear to reporters that his future in Cleveland isn’t assured, Windhorst notes, though he doesn’t expect the All-Star guard to go that route.

“My expectation is Donovan, who’s a total pro, will handle this like he did in Utah, which was pledge his undying love to the Jazz but also keep his options open,” Windhorst said.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Antetokounmpo officially became extension-eligible on Friday, but the Bucks star has, of course, already signaled that he doesn’t plan to sign a new contract before the season begins. With that in mind, ESPN provides an in-depth look at Antetokounmpo’s options, explaining why it would benefit the star forward financially to wait until at least next offseason to consider a new deal and evaluating how the new CBA might impact the situation.
  • Asked on the Behind the Play podcast (YouTube link) about the odds of Antetokounmpo remaining in Milwaukee beyond his current contract, ESPN’s Windhorst said he thinks it’s very much up in the air. “I would say right now it’s 50/50 at best, and I don’t think that’s new information to the Bucks. I think the Bucks knew that already. They knew that even before they got knocked out of the playoffs last year,” Windhorst said. “If you look at the Bucks’ roster, which is primarily in its 30s, you look at the Bucks’ asset base, which is depleted, and you look at Giannis, who’s 28 years old, they are on different tracks.”
  • Pistons guard Cade Cunningham spoke to Tomas Azarly of ClutchPoints about his experience with the U.S. Select Team this summer and what he learned last season while spending most of the year sidelined due to a leg injury. Cunningham said that staying healthy is his biggest goal in 2023/24, followed closely by a desire to help Detroit win more games. “I want to take a leap for next year and get closer to being a championship caliber team,” he said.

Trade Rumors: Future Trade Candidates, Hield, Ayton, Brogdon

As teams besides the Heat consider how aggressively to pursue Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, one factor they’re weighing is whether it makes more sense to preserve their assets in the hopes of landing an even more valuable star in the near future, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said this week during an appearance on NBA Today (YouTube link).

“There could be some massive talents available for trades next season. Maybe at the trade deadline, maybe next year,” Wojnarowski said. “So you have teams weighing the assets they might use to trade for Damian Lillard vs. who could be available to them that they don’t want to be out of the game for. Some younger, first team All-NBA type players who may be in that marketplace.”

While Wojnarowski didn’t name any specific players, his ESPN colleague Zach Lowe followed up on Woj’s point by directly mentioning Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and obliquely referencing Sixers center Joel Embiid as well.

“Look, not to put it too baldly, but Giannis’ recent comments have changed the landscape of the league, at least a little bit, and have had teams at least have the meeting of, ‘Wait a second, do we need to keep our powder dry if we think we have a one percent, two percent, five percent (chance to acquire him)?'” Lowe said.

“And by the way, the Bucks may not have to trade Giannis at all. They may win the title this year, everything’s fine, he signs an extension. But those comments, along with everything going on in Philly, have at least forced you to have the meeting of, ‘Do we need to keep our powder dry?'”

Here are a few more trade-related notes and rumors:

  • The Mavericks, Sixers, Bucks are among the teams to watch as the Pacers seek a trade partner for sharpshooter Buddy Hield, Shams Charania of The Athletic said in an appearance on The Rally (Twitter video link). “Those are the types of teams that could definitely use a shooter like Buddy Hield,” Charania said. “And I think they’ve had a level of interest in him over the last several months.”
  • With Deandre Ayton‘s name once again popping up in trade rumors, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports cites a source who says the Mavericks made an “underwhelming” offer for the Suns center over the summer. Bourguet adds that Phoenix fielded inquiries on Ayton on draft night in June, but the offers at that time weren’t compelling, with one source even describing them as “trash.”
  • While Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe acknowledges that the Malcolm Brogdon situation in Boston “feels slightly off,” he hasn’t gotten any recent indications that the Celtics are considering trading Brogdon any more than they’re considering moving any other player.

Central Notes: Hield, Bucks, Lillard, Bulls, Ball

The Pacers and representatives for shooting guard Buddy Hield are working together to find a potential trade for the eighth-year sharpshooter after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on an extension. Owed roughly $18.6MM on an expiring deal, Hield makes sense as a trade target for several teams across the league. Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype breaks down six trade destinations that could work.

Before coming up with hypothetical packages, Gozlan looked into what Indiana might look for in a trade. Gozlan writes that the typical framework for a deal of this nature is to bring in a player with an expiring contract and draft capital. However, Gozlan believes the Pacers should look for a player who can fit into the rotation right now rather than draft picks, given their postseason potential.

Gozlan names the Rockets, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Celtics, Nets and Sixers as the teams who would be the best fits for the former Oklahoma standout. The Rockets, who need shooting, could put together an offer using the salary of Kevin Porter Jr, given their recent attempts to trade him, alongside draft capital to entice the Pacers. However, if the Pacers are looking to add players, it’s unlikely they’d consider taking in Porter, even if it’s just for salary purposes, given his uncertain NBA future following his assault and strangulation charges.

The Mavericks, Grizzlies, Celtics and Nets are teams that would be able to provide win-now players for Indiana in a possible trade, Gozlan reasons. Tim Hardaway Jr, Luke Kennard, Malcolm Brogdon and Royce O’Neale are among the players named in the article who could appeal to the Pacers for help on the wing.

As for the Sixers, Gozlan writes that such a partnership could be contingent on a James Harden deal, specifically to the Clippers. If Philadelphia and Los Angeles struck a deal, Indiana could look to get in on the trade by sending Hield to the Sixers and bringing in Norman Powell from L.A, Gozlan says. For my money, Dallas, Boston and Brooklyn make the most sense of the named teams if Indiana wants a strong rotation piece in return.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks are another team that could make some level of sense for Hield in a trade, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm writes in his latest mailbag. However, such a trade would be risky, based on a combination of factors. For starters, it would likely take multiple rotation players being shipped out, and a better player could become available later on, leaving the Bucks without a path to acquire said player. Additionally, Hield has not played in a playoff game since making his NBA debut in 2016, which isn’t ideal for a contending team, Nehm writes.
  • The potential of Hield coming to Milwaukee is just one of many topics Nehm writes about in his mailbag. Nehm also covers the assets the Bucks have available to trade, whether Giannis Antetokounmpo is better suited for point or post play this season, rotation questions, and more. I recommend reading the article in full here.
  • With reports surfacing that the Bulls are trying to get in on the Damian Lillard sweepstakes, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago considers what such a move would look like in practice. As reported on Wednesday, Chicago is exploring the possibility of moving Zach LaVine in a multi-team deal that could send a combination of players and picks to Portland. Johnson writes that a move for Lillard would likely come with a DeMar DeRozan extension, meaning the Bulls would have to be 100% certain about a core of Lillard, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic winning together.
  • Johnson adds in his mailbag that while the Bulls could theoretically look at moving Lonzo Ball, whose career has been plagued with injury, he gets the sense that nothing happens on that front this season, with Ball working hard to return to the court.

Middleton On Giannis’ Comments: “Business As Usual”

In an interview with ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Bucks wing Khris Middleton says he wasn’t surprised to hear two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo openly discuss the possibility of leaving Milwaukee in the future if a better opportunity to win titles presents itself.

Eric Nehm of The Athletic previously wrote that the Bucks were well aware that Antetokounmpo’s foremost desire is to continue winning championships, which Middleton confirms.

I think it’s kind of business as usual either way,” Middleton told ESPN. “It doesn’t affect me personally. I don’t think it affects us as a team. I think this is something he said almost every year he’s come up in contract extension talks.

We always want him back for sure. Let’s be for sure and let everyone know that. We want this guy to come back because he’s one of the best players in the world. He’s one of the best players in franchise history. So when he says things like that, I think he just wants to challenge the team, the organization, to keep putting us in position to win championships.

But I think it’s just something that he just wants to keep putting pressure on everybody. And that’s himself also. He’s not just pointing a finger at everybody else saying, ‘You guys have to do this for me.’ I think he’s putting that pressure on himself to be better, to come in and be great every year. So there’s no pressure on, there’s no added pressure when he says that to us as a team, or me as a person, that I have to be better.”

Here are a few more highlights from Bontemps’ interview with Middleton, which is worth reading in full:

  • A three-time All-Star, Middleton re-signed with the Bucks this offseason on a three-year deal that could be worth up to $102MM, though the base value is $93MM. He admits he wasn’t sure if he would return after the East’s No. 1 seed lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2022/23. “I didn’t have a feel of what was going to happen,” Middleton said. “I was a free agent also, (and a player) that was coming off two injuries. I didn’t know if I was going to be the one that, you know, was going to move on, or a coach or another player. I think this time it just happened to be (former head coach Mike Budenholzer), which kind of caught us by surprise a little bit. But I think we kind of knew something was going to happen. Something was going to have to change for us to get to that next level as a team, as an organization.” The Bucks hired first-time head coach Adrian Griffin to replace Budenholzer.
  • Bontemps brought up the team’s aging core, with Middleton (32), Jrue Holiday (33) and Brook Lopez (35) all well into their 30s. Like Middleton, Lopez re-signed with Milwaukee in free agency, inking a two-year, $48MM deal. Holiday, meanwhile, could be a free agent next summer if he declines his player option for ’24/25. Despite their advancing ages, Middleton thinks the team still has a runway to contend for titles. “I know Jrue’s a guy that he still has a lot left in the tank no matter his age. … I hope he’s excited to come back, to sign an extension and be with us for a couple more years. … I think we have a good amount of years left where we could play at a high level and be a contender. And that doesn’t happen unless we have Jrue back also.”
  • After being limited to just 33 regular season games last season, Middleton said he’s glad to be healthy entering ’23/24. As Bontemps outlines, Middleton had wrist surgery in the 2022 offseason and dealt with a knee injury throughout ’22/23, which eventually required surgery. “This summer’s just been kind of about getting myself back together into being back to my old, natural self, as healthy as I can be, which I think I’m headed in that direction,” Middleton said.

Eastern Notes: Collins, Thompson, Antetokounmpo, Love

John Collins, who was dealt to the Jazz this summer, posted a farewell message on Instagram to the city of Atlanta, Hawks fans, teammates, and the organization. His message to the franchise included mixed feelings, thanking it on one hand while also saying his growth was being “stunted.”

“Thank you for sticking with me, even at my lowest,” Collins wrote. “Thank you for allowing me a place to grow. But as I see, it is this hawk’s time to fly away from the nest. As my growth here is being stunted.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Ausar Thompson, the Pistons’ lottery pick, could be anything from a starter to out of the rotation in his rookie campaign, Keith Langlois of writes. His 3-point shot is the main concern but he has enough attributes to complement the starting backcourt of Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey by employing his defense on the opposition’s top perimeter play-maker. Thompson could also be a force on the second unit with a number of proven perimeter shooters around him, Langlois notes.
  • Bucks fans don’t want to think about it, but what if Giannis Antetokounmpo eventually demands a trade? HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan looks at potential landing spots for the two-time MVP, with the Knicks, Thunder and Pelicans topping his list due to their surplus of assets.
  • Kevin Love could take over the role of sage veteran on the Heat‘s bench, which Udonis Haslem filled in recent seasons, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel opines. Like Haslem, Love is a player with championship pedigree and he’s already served as a mentor inside the Heat locker room. Love could especially be helpful in the development of young forward Nikola Jovic, Winderman adds.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Middleton, Roster, Griffin, Beasley

Over the past couple months, Bucks superstar and franchise legend Giannis Antetokounmpo has dropped hints that he might leave Milwaukee if a better winning situation presented itself. In a recent mailbag, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm tackled that topic. Nehm writes that he believes Antetokounmpo’s comments aren’t news to the organization, and that it’s something they expected when he signed a super-max contract in 2020.

The Bucks know Antetokounmpo’s No. 1 priority is winning, Nehm writes, and they’ll continue to try building a contender around him. It makes sense that Giannis would be noncommittal about signing an extension with the Bucks because it would add just two years to his deal, limiting his ability to put pressure on the organization to win now.

If Antetokounmpo signs such an extension, he wouldn’t have the ability to threaten to hit free agency, and he wouldn’t make more money in the long run, as opposed to continuing to sign super-max extensions.

Additionally, Nehm doesn’t think Antetokounmpo was taking shots at his teammates when he said he wanted to make sure “everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. Nehm says that his comments seemed to just be an explanation of his approach to the game rather than a shot at anyone in the organization.

According to Nehm, two years without a championship (the Bucks won in 2021) is two years too long for their superstar.

I thought we were going to win a championship, and it was going to be like a fairy tale and it’s done and we’re all going to be enjoying it,” Antetokounmpo told The Athletic, per Nehm. “We’re going to be partying for 15 years straight, but you win one and you’re like, ‘What’s next?’

We have more from the Bucks:

  • Bucks wing Khris Middleton has been a massive part of Milwaukee’s success since joining the team in 2013/14. Appearing on an episode of J.J. Redick‘s Old Man and The Three podcast (YouTube link), Middleton discussed the dynamics of the Bucks roster as an All-Star caliber player starting next to Antetokounmpo. “There’s never been a struggle about who is one and who is two [on the roster] between us,” Middleton said.
  • Addressing more questions in his mailbag, Nehm takes a look at the Bucks’ roster situation, focusing on an apparent lack of depth at the point guard spot. The Bucks have utilized their two-way contracts to address the position, with Lindell Wigginton and TyTy Washington Jr. among options to take on some rotational minutes. However, Milwaukee could look to simply have Antetokounmpo or Middleton bring the ball up the court, or even Andre Jackson Jr, according to Nehm. The Bucks would be in a bad position if starting point guard Jrue Holiday went down, though, and a trade to bring in a more reliable backup could be on the horizon.
  • While new head coach Adrian Griffin was with the Raptors, Toronto forced turnovers on 17.2% of their opponent’s offensive possessions, according to Nehm, which is an important factor to consider when looking to Milwaukee’s defense this year. This may affect Brook Lopez, the backbone of Milwaukee’s defense, with the Bucks potentially shifting to a more perimeter-oriented defensive style while Lopez acts as more of a traditional rim-protecting center.
  • Malik Beasley is going to be on his fifth team heading into his eighth NBA season. According to Nehm, while Beasley’s shooting and scoring numbers look great on paper, teams generally have concerns about his defense, leading to his current journeyman status.

Central Notes: Giannis, Turner, Sword, Bulls

Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t directly threatening to leave the Bucks, but he hinted at that option this week during an appearance on the 48 Minutes podcast (YouTube video link). The two-time MVP said he enjoys playing in Milwaukee, but his priority is winning another championship and he’s willing to go elsewhere if he decides it’s necessary.

“I’m a Milwaukee Buck, but most importantly I’m a winner,” Antetokounmpo said. “… If there is a better situation for me to win the Larry O’Brien (trophy), I have to take that better situation.”

Antetokounmpo made similar comments last month, saying he would like to play 20 years with the same team, but “being a winner” is more important to him.

Antetokounmpo will become eligible for a five-year extension next summer that could be worth up to $334MM, which would be the largest contract in NBA history. He also holds a $51.9MM player option for 2025/26, so he’ll have the equivalent of an expiring contract for the following season if he doesn’t accept the extension.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Appearing on Tidal League’s “Run Your Race” podcast with Theo Pinson, Myles Turner expressed regret that he wasn’t ready to assume the role of team leader after the Pacers traded Paul George in 2017 (hat tip to FanSided). “The beginning of that year, I got hurt. I got a concussion,” Turner recalled. “I was out for like two and a half weeks. So I missed the first two and a half weeks of the season, (and) Vic (Victor Oladipo) was going crazy. Hitting game-winners. Averaging like 20 a game. Domas (Domantas Sabonis) was like 20 and 10.” Turner added that he’s grateful to get another chance to be a leader with the current version of the team.
  • The Pacers‘ G League affiliate has acquired returning player rights for guard Craig Sword. The Fort Wayne Mad Ants announced a deal with Capital City to land the rights to Sword, who played for the Warriors during Summer League.
  • Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic are considered stars under the NBA’s new Player Participation Policy, but the guidelines shouldn’t affect the Bulls very much, observes Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune. She notes that the team doesn’t rely much on load management, with Vucevic and Patrick Williams both appearing in all 82 games last season, while LaVine played in 70 of the last 71 after working his way back from offseason knee surgery.

Central Notes: Thompson, Theis, Pistons, Giannis

Tristan Thompson‘s new contract with the Cavaliers is a one-year, minimum-salary deal that is guaranteed for just $200K, Hoops Rumors has learned. Thompson will earn his full $3.2MM salary if he remains under contract through at least January 7, though Cleveland’s cap hit for the season would be just $2.02MM, with the NBA covering the difference.

Here’s more