Could Antetokounmpo’s contract situation become an issue for the Bucks?
The Greek forward has made it clear that he will not sign an extension with the Bucks if the project does not advance towards another NBA title.
The NBA turns towards the World Cup (in which it will have more players than ever: 55) but in the meantime, a sense of calm while waiting for the start of the training camps, which signals the start of the preseason. With it, at least two cases will will return to the fore - Damian Lillard’s situation in the Portland Trail Blazers and his desire to play for the Heat who, for now, don’t know how to raise enough capital to make a formal offer; and that of James Harden, who has muddied his relationship with the Sixers with the aim of leaving for the LA Clippers. It looks like history will repeat itself, and there will be trouble...
Meanwhile, some are taking stock of who will be the next big star to jeopardize their team, make demands or publicly announce they are considering a change of scenery. Many are closely following the situation of the Dallas Mavericks, a team that experienced a disappointing and turbulent past season, to gauge what the future holds for Luka Doncic, who signed a supermax extension until 2027, effective from 2022/23.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo set to miss the World Cup with Greece due to fitness issues, there have never been many doubts. When there were (before the start of the 2020-21 season), he settled them by penning a five-year extension for $228 million - at that time, the biggest contract in NBA history. The following season, the Bucks won the title, an idyllic situation that has been followed by two seasons in which the team was one of the great favorites for the title but has not even been able to return to the Eastern final. First a tough loss in seven games against the Celtics and last year, a disastrous first round defeat to the Miami Heat. A slip-up that cost Mike Budenholzer his job.
Giannis has a contract until 2026. He will earn $45.6 million this coming season and $48.7 the following one. In 2025-26 he will have a player option of $51.9 million. But even before all of that, he can sign an extension this fall. The window opens on 22 September and closes on 23 October. That would be ideal for the Bucks, who would insure their franchise player, but it does not seem like a very real option right now if you read what the player told New York Times journalist Tania Ganguli: “The real question’s not going to be this year - numbers-wise it doesn’t make sense. But next year, next summer it would make more sense for both parties. Even then, I don’t know [what I’ll do]. I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that 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. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing [the extension]”.
With the evolution of salaries in the NBA, Giannis will be the eighth highest paid-player in the league next season - nowhere near in line with his status. If he signs the extension now, and after ten seasons in the competition, he will be entitled to the maximum, 35% of the Bucks’ salary cap. You have to consider this data and promotions of 8% per year, in addition to the two options that will be on the table: a two-year extension when your player option passes (as of the 2026-27 season) or three canceling that player option (as of 2025-26). If the cap rises at a rate of 5%, its extensions would be $113.9 million for two years or $169.4m for three. If the rise is 10% (the maximum allowed by the new agreement) they will go to $131.8m for two or $187m for three.
But Giannis insists. He would like to be a one-club man, reach 20 years with the Bucks and be for the franchise what Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki were for the Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks respectively. But not at any price: “At the end of the day, being a winner, it’s over that goal. Winning a championship comes first. I don’t want to be 20 years on the same team and not win another championship”.
Giannis: “I bleed green”
And he recognizes that the change of coach, with the departure of Budenholzer and the arrival of Adrian Griffin (Toronto Raptors assistant) is a factor that he has to evaluate in the immediate future of his team, before deciding what he wants to do. “You’ve got to see the dynamics. How the coach is going to be, how we’re going to be together. At the end of the day, I feel like all my teammates know and the organization knows that I want to win a championship. As long as we’re on the same page with that and you show me and we go together to win a championship, I’m all for it,” he explained. “There will never be hard feelings with the Milwaukee Bucks. I believe that we’ve had 10 unbelievable years, and there’s no doubt I gave everything for the city of Milwaukee. Everything. Every single night, even when I’m hurt. I am a Milwaukee Buck. I bleed green. I know this. This is my team, and it’s going to forever be my team. I don’t forget people that were there for me and allowed me to be great and to showcase who I am to the world and gave me the platform. But we have to win another one”.
The Bucks ensured the continuity of Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez this summer and they have a margin of at least two seasons with the spine of the team: Giannis, Middleton and Lopez, Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton… It seems that a thorough reconstruction would be off limits for the franchise - especially if they want to retain an Antetokounmpo who admits that he felt empty after signing his last extension, to the point that he even thought about quitting basketball: “In 2020, I was ready to walk away from the game. I had that conversation with the front office. If something doesn’t make me happy, I don’t do it. I don’t want to do it. I’m just going to stay home, stay with my kids, stay with my family and try to be happy,” he said of that time..
He tried a specialist in sports psychology that the Bucks recommended, he regained his joy and they were, that year, NBA champions: “It’s the best I’ve ever felt playing basketball.”
In the article, he also acknowledges that in the last three years he has greatly developed his business facet together with his brothers, and that this has made him understand his ambitions and objectives in a different way: “From 2020 to 2023, people think I’ve taken a large jump on the basketball court, but I think I’ve taken 10X jump off the court,” he concluded.