The Milwaukee Bucks were the best regular season team in the NBA during the 2018-19 campaign, but that success did not turn into a Finals appearance. Milwaukee fell to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games, an unfortunate and abrupt end to what was an otherwise excellent season.
The Bucks had legitimate championship aspirations, partly because they boast the favorite to win the league MVP award when it’s announced next month, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 24-year-old superstar looked like both a 24 year old and a superstar during the conference finals, producing moments of magic just as frequently as he reminded everyone that he’s still a bit green behind the ears.
But despite his young age, Antetokounmpo is coming up on a major crossroad in his basketball career. He’s eligible for the largest supermax deal in league history next summer, one that would pay him a projected $247 million. The catch is that he can only receive that deal from the Bucks, which presents a potential conundrum.
Malika Andrews of ESPN wrote a piece following the loss that put Antetokounmpo’s future in the spotlight. While the Greek Freak loves Milwaukee, his ultimate goal is to win a championship, and barring an appearance in the Finals next year, it’s possible those two things could clash with one another.
Antetokounmpo has consistently made public proclamations of his love for Milwaukee, as he grew up and became acclimated to American culture in Cream City after moving from Greece. Antetokounmpo adores the Bucks medical staff. His mother moved to Milwaukee. But he is all about winning. In more concrete terms, a source close to Antetokounmpo said that getting to the NBA Finals is not just an ambition, it could tip the scales as he weighs his contractual future.
And if they can reach the NBA Finals next season, the Bucks can improve their chances of signing Antetokounmpo to the supermax in the summer of 2020.
Now, turning down nearly a quarter of a billion dollars would be awfully hard for anyone to do, and trying to figure out if Giannis would pull an Anthony Davis when there’s still another year of basketball to be played is a bit premature. But it’s alarming that this report comes immediately after the Bucks’ departure from the postseason, and it sets up an uncertain future immediately following what still should be considered an impressive season.