In the next couple of weeks, Giannis Antetokounmpo holds the future of the next decade in the NBA in his hands. By signing the super-max contract that Milwaukee will inevitably offer the two-time MVP, it could save the structure of the NBA as we know it.
What him signing the super-max would mean
- It’s a win for small markets
For a group of teams that have gotten very used to losing their star guys, keeping Giannis in a small market would rebuild some faith in the current NBA system. Fans of smaller teams like Minnesota with Karl-Anthony Towns or Utah with Donovan Mitchell would feel more at peace for their futures.
The league’s current structure is built around these small markets believing they have a chance to compete for titles so a guy like Giannis staying in one helps to rebuild the faith that that’s possible. As guys like Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant have bailed on smaller teams, fans and owners have become concerned if their business or competitiveness is even viable.
Giannis staying would do a massive service in changing those feelings.
- It’s a win for the NBA
It would be an overall win for the NBA for a bunch of reasons. Firstly as I said above, it would appease the growing concerns of small-market fans and owners. The more they feel at ease over the viability of their franchises going forward, the better for Adam Silver.
It would also help to maintain parity in the league which is a good thing going forward. After the years of the Miami and Golden State super teams, the NBA being built around star duos and great teams like it was when it was at its popularity peak in the ’90s is nothing but a good thing.
The only real potential downside for the league is one of its faces would be in a small market which isn’t great for national tv ratings. However, it also stops Milwaukee from being a black hole TV team and, helps to restore so much faith in smaller markets in other places, it may bring back fans who left when the super team era began.
It’s hard to imagine Adam Silver wants any outcome other than Giannis staying in Milwaukee.
- It’s a massive win for Milwaukee
Speaking of Milwaukee, my goodness is it ever a massive win for them.
After dumping their entire future for Jrue Holiday, literally, all their eggs are in the basket of Giannis staying. Him leaving would cast a cloud that Kareem similarly put over the franchise that took literally 40 years to recover from.
By him re-upping though, it would ensure the franchise remains a contender for the foreseeable future. In a league like this one that’s so star dependent, Milwaukee keeping theirs is obviously invaluable.
There’s a reason Bucks fans get so defensive when the idea of Giannis leaving is brought up. He’s their entire franchise.
Him staying would be the most important thing to happen to them since Kareem brought them a title in 1971.
- The balance of power in the league remains intact
It’s also worth pointing out Giannis staying would assure the league’s balance of power remains relatively intact.
For the better part of the last 30 years, the East has been significantly weaker than the West. As teams like Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Miami and Milwaukee have built contenders to go with Toronto and Boston’s though, the conference has really grown in terms of its competitiveness.
It obviously doesn’t have the depth of the West but compared to even five years ago, the talent and teams in it are truly unrecognizable to the 2010’s East.
If Giannis were to say leave for a team in the West like Dallas or Golden State, obviously the tone of that really changes. Similarly, if he were to stay in the conference but build a super team in Miami or Toronto, we’ve seen with the Heatles and KD Warriors that really isn’t good for the league either.
What is, is him staying in Milwaukee and keeping the competitive balance in the league fairer.
What him not signing the super-max would mean
- The league has a big problem with keeping players
If Giannis decides to move on from Milwaukee, there’s officially a problem with keeping star players at home in the NBA. With him out of Milwaukee, that would leave only Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard on the All-NBA teams and playing in small markets, non-free agent destination situations.
In a league whereby my count there’s 15 non-free agent destinations (I was generous and didn’t include Toronto, Boston, Washington, Atlanta or Phoenix as well), that’s a pretty big problem. It’s difficult to sell to owners of those teams and fans in those markets that this is a sustainable model.
If this were to happen, it’s hard to imagine those teams not having some serious bones to pick in the next CBA negotiation, something that in similar situations has led to two lockouts.
- May be the final straw for owners with player empowerment
Beyond just the small market, non-free agent destination teams, other owners will likely agree enough is enough in the player empowerment era.
After everything Milwaukee has done to keep him there and with owners already not being fans of player empowerment, I would expect them to come for the necks of the NBAPA in the next CBA negotiation. There’s very little evidence that stars moving is good for business even when they leave unsustainable teams so when a player of Giannis’ calibre were to leave a good situation it’s officially a problem.
Outside of whoever signs him, it’s hard to see a world owners are anything less than livid if Giannis moves on from Milwaukee.
- The chase for him next summer is officially on
In a more positive note, if Giannis remains unsigned by the start of the season, the chase for him is officially on.
We haven’t seen a player of Giannis’ reputation hit the open market since Durant in 2016 and we saw how that changed the league. Toronto, Dallas, Miami, Golden State and others would officially begin building their cases for him to come.
Though it doesn’t mean he is for sure out on Milwaukee, it’s hard to see a situation barring them winning a title where he comes back after not signing in the next couple of weeks. The money won’t change and the roster won’t much either so it’s really in a lot of ways now or never for the Bucks.
If not, free agency 2021 officially begins on December 23rd.
- Welcome the Bucks to 2010 Cavs and 2016 Thunder territory
With a generational player on the cusp of potentially leaving, only the 2010 Cavaliers and 2016 Thunder really know what that’s like. Every media availability you’re getting asked about free agency, all everyone in the organization can think about is free agency and all the fans care about is knowing what will happen.
Then, despite all those constant distractions, you have to try and win an NBA title. Good luck!
Winning a title is hard enough as is, adding constant distraction like this for a team that’s already choked time and again without it feels like a destined playoff meltdown. The only team I can think of that managed to win a title in this spot is the 2019 Raptors and they were rewarded with their star leaving.
I guess what I’m saying is I wish the Bucks the best of luck but I’m doubtful of their chances without a locked up Giannis.
What I hope he does
I hope he signs it. If you can’t tell by the majority of this piece, it’s better for the sport and league if he does.
If you’re a diehard fan of a team who could get him I get it but, this is a heck of a lot bigger than those teams in my opinion. There’s too much risk for the health of the league if he moves on from Milwaukee.
What I think he’ll do
For a couple reasons I think he signs the deal. Firstly, I struggle to think the team does the Holiday trade without his blessing, there’s just too much at stake to not consult him.
Second, Giannis is by all accounts one of the most loyal people in NBA history and one of the most competitive.
He doesn’t workout with other stars, he’s determined as any to ever to win a title. So with that information, I struggle to see him going to Miami or Toronto when they beat him.
Golden State and Dallas are maybes I guess but I think his loyalty to the city and organization he’s currently in and what it means to his family will push him over the top in signing it.