We recently witnessed a top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks team make an embarrassing playoff exit for the second straight season. The fifth-seeded Miami Heat seemingly outclassed them in five games, and it could’ve been a sweep if not for a few questionable calls – Giannis Antetokounmpo did injure his ankle in Game 4 and was sidelined for Game 5, but the damage was already done at that point.
It’s rough, and varying uncertainties are surrounding the team, but we all know the only thing that really matters.
Obviously, Giannis is right at the very center of it all, given that he’s the league’s 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and presumed back-to-back Most Valuable Player.
Will he sign an extension? Will he ask for a trade? What is he thinking?
I don’t think even he knows the answers to those questions – even that last one. Any elimination is hard to process, and we can only imagine how much worse it is if you’re one the wrong end of a massive upset.
Nevertheless, best believe that the Giannis Antetokounmpo Watch has begun, the anticipated ‘basketball soap opera’ that’s poised to gain steam and dominate headlines over the next year. There are tons of angles to look at in the whole story, but let’s focus on the two point-of-views about his future:
He’ll leave because there’s no upside
Last season’s 4-2, backdoor sweep from the Toronto Raptors wasn’t pretty, but there was a feeling that it was the usual bump on the road for a team that basically overachieved, and they’ll be back stronger.
While they did come back stronger, as evident with maintaining the best record in the league and also ranking first in offense and defense, the team ultimately took a step back. The 4-1 beating they got was too much, and it has piled more doubt on head coach Mike Budenholzer, the supporting cast, and most prevalently, Giannis.
Keep in mind that Budenholzer was on a similar trajectory with the Atlanta Hawks. He guided the unheralded team into a shocking 60-22 record in the 2014-15 season, but then got swept in the Eastern Conference Finals and proceeded to decline rapidly. He was fired in 2018.
Also, remember what happened the last time that the reigning MVP got prematurely eliminated in back-to-back years? Two words: The Decision.
It’s actually eerie how Giannis and the Bucks paralleled LeBron James and the 2008-09 and 2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers.
2008-09: LeBron emerges as a bona fide elite player as he guides the Cavs to a 60-win season and earned his first MVP. They then lost in the East finals. – Switch the names to “Giannis” and “Bucks,” and it’ll be accurate to what happened in 2018-19.
2009-10: LeBron was just as monstrous, Cavs win 60-plus again, and ‘Bron gets his second-straight MVP. They then get bounced in East semifinals. – Switch the names to “Giannis” and “Bucks,” and it’ll be accurate to what happened in 2019-20.
Then, on top of all that is the similarity in their play and overall makeup. Young LeBron and current Giannis are both mack trucks that just bulldoze through anyone and basically dominate using their athleticism, which then gets exposed by teams who dare them to shoot or post-up.
He won’t leave because he loves with Milwaukee and doesn’t want the backlash
No player is truly ready and willing to embrace a type of hate that LeBron and Kevin Durant got when they left their respective teams, and Giannis, is no exception. Besides, he has always expressed his affection for Milwaukee’s quiet vibe. For all intents and purposes, he also sounds like a very loyal guy.
Giannis’s potential super-max extension this offseason is estimated to be worth $254 million over five years. All that money, plus staying in a city that you love, could be an easy choice for someone like Giannis, who’s not really attracted to the limelight.
Also, listen to his postgame interview after the Game 5 elimination. He’s always quick to give the Bucks organization all the respect:
“Some have put the team over the players’ health, I love the [Bucks] organization for that, they protected me … My organization put my health over Game 5 and that’s big for me”
That’s not all too. When asked by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports about the possibility of him jumping ship soon, Giannis was pretty blunt in his answer:
“It’s not happening. That’s not happening … Some see a wall and go in [another direction]. I plow through it. We just have to get better as a team, individually and get right back at it next season.”
So… is he staying or going?
He definitely sounded adamant about staying, but you never know. The off-season is always out to surprise us. Rewind what happened in the previous off-seasons and I can bet no one could’ve predicted the crazy moves that happened.
Plus, there are teams that could tempt him. There have been rumblings all year that the Golden State Warriors might want to build a package for him, and it would be tough to say no to joining a team that won three of the last five NBA titles.
The Toronto Raptors could also make a good case to him, as the city has a good Greek population, and Antetokounmpo has a relationship with Masai Ujiri.
It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. Just like ‘The Decision’ a decade ago, we really don’t know what’s going to happen next.