For quite a long time, the future of Giannis Antetokounmpo was one of the driving storylines of the NBA. But a long-term extension paired with an NBA title over the last year entirely muted that conversation, and forced talking heads covering the league to begin talking about Zion Williamson’s
weight inevitable departure from the Pelicans instead.
The only one who could conceivably restart that fire over the next two or three years would be Antetokounmpo himself, with his free agency so far off into the distance. That makes his decision to walk into an interview with Zach Baron of GQ with a (proverbial) gas can and lighters all the more interesting.
In discussing his future, Antetokounmpo raised a whole lot of questions about his future in Milwaukee for seemingly no reason!
In the end Giannis decided to stay in Milwaukee because it was difficult. And then, improbably, the Bucks won. “One challenge was to bring a championship here and we did,” he told me. “It was very hard, but we did. Very, very hard. I just love challenges. What’s the next challenge? The next challenge might not be here.” It’s not that he doesn’t love Milwaukee, he said. But he was always wary of things becoming too easy. “Me and my family chose to stay in this city that we all love and has taken care of us—for now,” Giannis said. “In two years, that might change. I’m being totally honest with you. I’m always honest. I love this city. I love this community. I want to help as much as possible.”
Now, we should note that Giannis’ agent told Baron that his comments don’t necessarily mean that Giannis is thinking of leaving the Bucks, but that’s exactly the type of damage control agents are paid to do (and, as an aside, between this and Dennis Schröder’s free agency saga, Alex Saratsis has had to do a lot of that for his clients lately).
But all that aside, the two-year timeline Giannis gave is AWFULLY interesting for a couple of reasons.
For example, if Giannis did change his mind in two years, it’d be during the 2023-24 season. Say he begrudgingly finished that season and headed into the summer looking for a trade. It’d come with just one guaranteed year left on his contract with a player option tacked onto the end as well.
Quite conveniently, that would also be a pretty favorable time for the Lakers to enter the discussion. You know whose contracts wrap up heading into the summer of 2024? LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. In fact, the only Lakers under contract right now for the 2024-25 season are Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker, but only if the latter picks up his player option in his final year.
Even if he does, that’s only $51.6 million in contracts on the books. Theoretically, it would be enough space to acquire Antetokounmpo even under the current salary cap and not accounting for a rise. There will be cap holds to account for, but at a basic level, it’s achievable.
Which brings up all the same storylines again of Antetokounmpo’s ties to the Lakers that existed before. Like how his wife is from Fresno and grew up a Lakers fan. Or how the winters in Los Angeles aren’t “cold as s---” as he described them in the GQ article with another little nugget.
“It’s human. I will say I want to play with the best players; I wish K.D. was on my team, not against me. I wish LeBron was on my team, not against me. Steph, on my team.” And the winters in Milwaukee were cold—“cold as shit,” he specified. This would be an opportunity to never see another Milwaukee winter again. To raise his sons in a place where they might see the sun from time to time.
There’s an awful lot of coincidences popping up once again that would point to the Lakers as one of the favorites to land Antetokounmpo, all of it stemming from his decision to bring up his future and it not being in Milwaukee out of the blue.
Antetokounmpo clearly valued winning as the Batman and unquestioned leader in Milwaukee, and if that same desire is still present, is there a more appealing place to take over a franchise and lead them to greatness than the open-books Lakers in sunny Southern California?
It’ll lead to an interesting next couple of years but if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that the star-chasing Lakers are always going to be right in the middle of rumors when it comes to superstars like Antetokounmpo.