Let me get this out of the way, first: I remain very optimistic about Giannis Antetokounmpo re-signing another massive contract with the Bucks when his current deal runs out. It won’t be simple, but the passing of time should unlock assets that can allow the front office flexibility to build something Giannis can squint at and believe to be competitive. When forced to choose between a Milwaukee team doing its best to keep the ship afloat with massive tax bills and chancing the legacy hit that could come with demanding a trade and then playing on a team just as hamstrung as the Bucks because they sold the farm to get him/have to build from scratch out of cap space, I think Giannis’ sense of loyalty and desire to “prove himself” will win out.
The quotes he gave to a New York Times reporter recently do bring to a head the awkward truth that it’s hard as hell to be a roster with legit title aspirations for a decade-plus. Not impossible (see, San Antonio), but very tough. There are only a few viable routes to be in the hunt for the entirety of a single player’s whole career:
- Hope the core of players around the star are good enough for long enough to do the job themselves
- Happen upon a young player or two with real competitive potential who can pick up the slack for older core veterans
- Jettison older players when they still have some value and accept that the return (in players or picks) likely will not be as immediately impactful on winning—but hope it comes good in time
As time goes on, the first two options are harder to figure for the current Bucks. Khris Middleton (32), Jrue Holiday (33), and Brook Lopez (36) all have time on their deals and a good amount of gas left in the tank. It isn’t unreasonable to think they could win it all again this year or next. It becomes unreasonable to think there will be much left to give after that—if they’re unable to get it done the next two years, the room for maneuver is nil. When it comes to young players, I don't need to tell you about how they’re doing on that front. MarJon may be The Chosen One, but it’s TBD if he’s good enough to pick up the slack for the above four over time.
Our third option has some appeal, but massive downside risk. Astute commenters like brewman0732 noted on the piece BH ran last week about Giannis’s comments that while option #3 is realistic, it will take a hard sell to Giannis to ensure he doesn’t view it as a true “rebuild”. Can GM Jon Horst spin it forward as a “reload” rather than a teardown? I think he can and frankly, it’s all he can do barring a miracle from the young guys.
The upside is that the quotes do constitute a reminder to the org what the expectation is, even if a little unrealistic right now. If it comes down to shipping out a player perceived as being part and parcel to the organization and its identity, well... Giannis has loved teammates before and seen them sent out the door. Winning, or the opportunity to win, might cost some tears. A small price to pay if it keeps the window open a little longer, no?
Giannis Antetokounmpo Wants It All. Even if It’s Not in Milwaukee. (New York Times)
The piece that caused the above waves. You have to hand it to the NYT’s headline writers; killer stuff.
My only ask of Giannis: Give BH the exclusive next time you want the media to float a teaser that you may/may not stay/go.
And through the darkness, a single light shone. A single light in the form of... Pat Connaughton? Yes, everyone’s favorite local area real estate developer isn’t worried about Giannis leaving Milwaukee. Primarily because his mere presence means the Bucks will be a title contender (on paper) for years to come and also because Milwaukee is about as far from any sort of spotlight a professional athlete can get. There were some quotes about wanting to shield his family from prying eyes (understandably) in the NYT piece too, so Milwaukee’s backwater status works strongly in its favor on that count.
One Offseason Wish for Every NBA Team (The Ringer)
Danny Chau went for the low-hanging fruit of “we hope Giannis just chills out this offseason” and on that front, the Bucks will be delighted Giannis is skipping the World Cup. Unfortunately for the team/Danny, I’m sure this week Giannis will post a video of him driving a Harley out of a cargo plane and doing flips on it while falling toward the Earth like he’s a Fortnite character made real.
5 takeaways from Team USA’s win over New Zealand in FIBA World Cup opener (NBA.com) & Greece Leave It Late To Shake Off Jordanian Headache (FIBA)
Bobby Portis played the fewest minutes of any player not named Walker Kessler For Team USA in their 99-72 win over New Zealand. We can assume his role will be pretty small in Steve Kerr’s plans barring injury or a serious slump in play from others.
Greece was able to nab its opening win over Jordan, 92-71, and I strongly suggest you watch the highlights to refresh your spirit with long stretches of Thanasis playing basketball. Thanasis got the start for Greece and contributed 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and only a single turnover. These early games where effort and mania can cover for inefficiencies are where Thanasis thrives.
Three Candidates To Be Promoted From Two-Way Contracts (Hoops Rumors) & Drew Timme signs NBA contract with Milwaukee Bucks (The Gonzaga Bulletin)
We’ll wrap up official links this week with a few pieces for the backend of the roster. The first is on Lindell Wigginton and the possibility of his being upgraded to a regular contract at some point—perhaps even next summer since the team will have matching rights. The second is on Drew Timme who, according to his agency’s Instagram, apparently has “signed an NBA contract” with the Bucks. He reportedly agreed to an Exhibit 10 deal in June, so I have no clue why his agency and Gonzaga’s student paper are reporting it now while hinting that it’s something more than a training camp deal. According to the NBA’s official transaction page, however, Timme has yet to sign anything.
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If you wanted 20 minutes of Bucks “behind the scenes” footage from the Draft and Summer League, the team has you covered
Instagram posts aren’t loading properly on here again. The short roundup: Bobby posted about Team USA and Lauri Markkanen was the top reply, MarJon produced more Chosen One propaganda, and Pat sat down for an interview alongside Will Ferrell.
The US and Greece will play each other in FIBA competition later this morning (about 7:40 AM Central). After that, the USA will play Jordan on Wednesday and Greece will face New Zealand the same day. Each group’s top two teams advance to the second bracket of groups to determine who makes it to the final bracket in over a week’s time. Onwards!