Four years ago, Giannis Antetokounmpo was barely making ends meet playing in Greece's second division, hopeful that his NBA dream would soon be realized. Now, he's a $100 million dollar man.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported this afternoon that Giannis and the team are expected to agree on the 4-year, $100 million extension. The Bucks, though not disclosing the terms of the deal, have confirmed that the deal will be finalized Tuesday afternoon. Antetokounmpo will earn just shy of $3 million this season in the last year of his rookie scale contract, and the Bucks had until October 31 to agree to an extension. Without the deal, Giannis would have hit restricted free agency next summer; assuming max allowable raises, he'll instead be in line for a $22.5 million starting salary next summer, rising to $27.5 million by the 20/21 season.
Giannis is coming off a season in which he posted career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and minutes, while also making the shift over to more of a point guard-forward-human role on the court midway through the season. That transition saw the Bucks improve offensively and allowed Giannis to make more of a comprehensive impact on the game. Last season he became the first player in franchise history to notch five triple-doubles in a season, and he's also third all-time for career triple-doubles on the franchise. So yeah, locking him up long-term was a no-brainer.
As for the deal itself, there are a few things to unpack. First, a few logistical matters, courtesy of ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
Bucks 4-year, $100 million extension with Giannis Antetokounmpo is for less than the max & there are no options, sources said.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) September 19, 2016
In contract talks Antetokounmpo expressed a willingness to take less than max to help Bucks retain talent. Took about $6M less than max.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) September 19, 2016
The lack of options is of course great news for Bucks fans, and in dollar terms there's little doubt that this deal will look like a bargain compared to other contracts signed over the next 12 months. It's worth noting that the $100 million figure is slightly under the max he could have signed with another team as a restricted free agent next summer (four years, $102 million based on current projections), and it's around $6 million less than the near-max extension C.J. McCollum recently signed with the Portland Trail Blazers, which similarly is a fixed salary rather than tied to the cap. However, the Bucks could have also locked Giannis up for a full five years by offering him a designated max extension, currently estimated to be in the range of $138 million.
So why not simply bite the bullet on the full max deal to guarantee five years? Well, while getting an additional year of a player like Giannis is always desirable, the downside for Milwaukee was the lack of certainty in the ultimate dollars involved. The $138 million figure could have gone up or down based on both a) the level of the overall cap in 17/18 (currently projected at $102 million, but potentially more) as well as b) the possibility that a new collective bargaining agreement next summer could increase the available max for players coming off rookie contracts (for instance, by making it, say, 30% rather than 25% of the overall cap). It's not clear how likely any of those scenarios are, but they likely played a role in the Bucks' willingness to take a shorter deal.
Still, while a sub-max deal will insulate the Bucks from the possibility of a CBA change dramatically increasing the amount they have might have owed Giannis under a designated player contract, the risk of sacrificing a season on the back end isn't without risk -- especially for a potential franchise talent. By not offering Giannis a designated max extension, the Bucks are settling for four years rather than five, which is really the key tradeoff involved for both parties. Extending Antetokounmpo for four years also means the Bucks could offer a five-year max to Jabari Parker next summer, though at this point it seems unlikely that Parker will command more than Giannis.
The Bucks could have also delayed a decision on Antetokounmpo until he hit restricted free agency next summer, and in the process they would have also entered free agency with more cap space due to Antetokounmpo's modest $7.5 million cap hold (instead, his full salary will count next July 1). At that point they also could have signed Antetokounmpo to a five-year deal for less than the max and without sacrificing the ability to offer Parker a designated max extension. But delaying a decision isn't without risks either, and any additional cap flexibility next summer was likely somewhat of an illusion given the need to extend Parker and the Bucks' increasingly high payroll. However, Antetokounmpo taking a slightly smaller deal now could help the Bucks convince Parker to take a similar haircut a year from now, all of which could be crucial to helping the Bucks dodge the luxury tax in 2018 and beyond.