Giannis Antetokounmpo is good as gone and the Milwaukee Bucks just don’t know it yet.
The team from Cream City tried to surround The Greek Freak with a championship-contending roster by executing a couple of trades the past several days. One went through and the other fell through, horribly.
Milwaukee fans cheered when the Bucks acquired former all-star and two-way stud Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans for point guards Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, three first round picks, and pick swaps.
The two-time NBA All-Defensive Team member (2018 and 2019) and one-time NBA All-Star (2013) is a huge upgrade over Bledsoe, who bombed in the playoffs last year, and Hill, who had moments in the postseason last year from a leadership standpoint but is getting longer in the tooth. A career 15.9 points per game scorer in the regular season, the 6’6” combo-guard from UCLA was even better in the playoffs by norming 17 points in 30 total playoff games with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Pelicans.
Milwaukee appeared headed toward convincing Antetokounmpo to stay by signing the super max when they followed up the Holiday trade by seemingly getting shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic via sign-and-trade with the Sacramento Kings. Bogdanovic and throw-in Justin James were supposed to go out East in exchange for the Bucks’ youth and depth (Donte DiVincenzo, D.J. Wilson, and Ersan Ilyasova).
Bogdanovic would’ve been the 3-point sharpshooter (career 37% from the land of plenty) the Bucks badly needed last postseason when the Miami Heat zoned the Bucks and Antetokounmpo to death by packing the shaded lane. The 28-year-old may only be entering his fourth season in the Association, but the 6’6” shooting guard/small forward has been a pro in Europe since 2010 when he was just 18 years old.
Milwaukee’s trade for Bogdanovic, however, reportedly fell through when no one from the bungling Kings management actually checked on the sweet-shooting Serbian if he was amenable to the sign-and-trade in the first place. He wasn’t so the Bucks are back to square one, which doesn’t bode well if you were supposed to pull out all the stops to retain your franchise cornerstone. Now, Bogdanovic is about to enter free agency with the freedom to choose the team he wants to play for.
Honestly, even if the trade for Bogi (as opposed to Boogie for former Kings all-star DeMarcus Cousins) went through I would still have doubts if Milwaukee would’ve had enough to seriously contend in the suddenly souped-up Eastern Conference with the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and, of course, the New Jersey Nets with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (and even perhaps James Harden) coming back from injuries atop the totem pole.
Milwaukee indeed would’ve arguably have the NBA’s best starting five with Brook Lopez starting at center, Antetokounmpo and Kris Middleton at forwards, and Bogdanovic and Holiday in the guard sports. However, the talent would’ve a dramatic drop off outside that “death lineup” (nobody really expects Antetokounmpo and company to play 48 minutes per game this coming season).
Not only did the trades for Holiday and Bogdanovic deprived the Bucks of their previously heralded depth, tying first round picks and pick swaps in the Holiday trade basically mortgaged Milwaukee’s future. Antetokounmpo would be dumb to sign the super max extension now after Milwaukee’s botched moves to upgrade the roster. It’s still too early, but who else is left and getting a superstar like Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards or even a disgruntled Harden from the Houston Rockets would mean dealing Middleton and multiple drafts picks resulting in the aforementioned bare cupboard.
As days turn into weeks into the Giannis sweepstakes I’m only reminded more of LeBron James’ last season in his first go-around in Cleveland, one where the Cavaliers’ starting five consisted of the hollowed shells of former all-stars Shaquille O’Neal, Antawn Jamison, and Mo Williams. After the 2010 season that ended in playoff defeat against the Celtics’ Big 3, The King left for South Beach. Here’s hoping that Antetokounmpo would follow LeBron’s footsteps and land in Miami. By the way, Giannis and Miami breakout star Bam Adebayo share agents (wink, wink).