One of the easiest contract extension decisions to make in the next two months is in the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, who have to avoid Giannis Antetokounmpo hitting restricted free agency, which means offering him a max contract, and they have every intention of doing so.
The Bucks have until October 31 to offer Antetokounmpo, their small forward who is also the team’s main ball handler, an extension, which can be up to five years and worth $138 million. Why hasn’t it happened already? Well, Antetokounmpo is in Greece right now, serving in the Greek military. All Greek men who live permanently overseas are required to prove three months of service to the military, and he’s there with his brother Thanassis, a New York Knicks player.
The Bucks were timid about giving Antetokounmpo ball handling duties last season, and waited until they fell out of the playoff race, according to Jason Kidd: It got him in the open court, which highlights his natural abilities. One of his strengths is being able to find guys, and he did a really good job with that. Being able to see the floor the way that he does makes the game easy. It makes it exciting for his teammates because they all know they have a chance of getting the ball. Being as tall as he is, he has so many natural advantages. His skill set — to be able get into the paint and finish — puts a lot of pressure on a defense. There are still plenty of things he has to learn, and hopefully, as a point guard myself, I can help him understand game management—the importance of time and score, and just the little things it takes to be a good point guard. … He’s a competitor. He wants to win and he wants to be great. It’s just a matter of time before he’s an All-Star on a consistent basis.
Antetokounmpo averaged 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists after the All-Star break, as Michael Carter-Williams, a disappointment in so many ways, went down with a torn labrum in his left hip that required season-ending surgery. The Bucks offense improved by 2.2 points per 100 possessions with Giannis pulling the strings, and the Bucks overall looked like a much better team. Turns out, the move they weren’t quite sure if to make or not could have made their season a lot better.
Antetokounmpo himself, now done with three years in the NBA, is hoping he stays in Milwaukee for a long time, or at least he’s saying it; who knows what he’s actually thinking: That was what everyone’s been working for, for them to extend me. Hopefully, I stay here 20 years and I get my Greek Freak Day like Kobe Bryant.
Jared Dudley, who played on the Bucks during the 2014-2015 season, offers a neat little insight into the Bucks future, and how much it’s tied to Giannis’ ability, and a bit to Jabari Parker taking the next step: It’s Giannis’ team. You’re only going to go as far as him. Once Jabari takes that next step — he was a lot better second half than he was first — but as of right now, people have to know this is Giannis’ team. You fall in line to try to make people better around him. If you see Jason Kidd, he was strict on Giannis when I was there. He was on Giannis more than anybody, because he knew. And now he’s given Giannis the keys.