Giannis Antetokounmpo is the reigning NBA MVP and his Milwaukee Bucks were on pace to earn the league’s best record for the second consecutive season before COVID-19 shut sports down. Just the 15th pick in the 2013 draft, Antetokounmpo has molded his body and his game to become one the most dominant players in the game today and brought a small-market team to the top of the standings.
He’s only 25 and appears to have his best basketball still ahead of him, but what has eluded him thus far in his career is a championship. The Bucks had a shot to reach the Finals last season and held a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals before losing four straight games to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors, and it looks like with Kawhi Leonard in the West this year, Milwaukee has an opportunity to reach the NBA’s premier stage.
If Antetokounmpo loses again, though, he may look to move on from Milwaukee and test free agency in the summer of 2021. While fans may not want any of these scenarios to happen for fear of forming another Warriors-esque super team, here are six teams Antetokounmpo could join to give him the best chance at winning several titles.
Dallas has a good amount of money already committed to its players for the 2021-2022 season, according to hispanosnba.com, so it would have to make a trade to acquire Antetokounmpo. They could do so realistically since they have several attractive assets in players like Dwight Powell, Seth Curry, Delon Wright, Maxi Kleber and Jalen Brunson on expiring contracts for that year. All of them aren’t too expensive and are good in their respective roles.
A big-three of Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis could dominate with almost any supporting cast. All three would be in the prime of their careers and have complementary skill sets, and Doncic would still be on a team-friendly deal for the first two years if this happened. Antetokounmpo and Porzingis are both elite rim protectors and can run the floor, Doncic is one of the league’s best passers and ball-handlers, and they all can play together without clogging the paint. Antetokounmpo has already found success with a similar stretch-five to Porzingis in Brook Lopez, and relinquishing play-initiating duties to Doncic would allow Antetokounmpo to flourish off-ball and waste less energy. Coach Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks front office have proven before that they can build a championship team, so this dream big-three would surely win at least a pair of titles.
Los Angeles Lakers
Getting Antetokounmpo to the Lakers in free agency would likely require some savvy salary cap moves, but if it somehow worked, Los Angeles would have arguably the three most physically dominant players in the league.
Antetokounmpo would be playing with an old LeBron James and a player in Anthony Davis who plays the same position and has said in the past that he doesn’t like playing center, issues that make this move a less seamless fit than it would be in Dallas. What would make it work is James’ ability to play point guard and Davis’ developing perimeter game. Antetokounmpo would thrive with James creating open looks for him in the halfcourt and Davis forcing the opposing team’s big man to play him outside the paint and allow Antetokounmpo to go to work inside. When Davis wants to play down low, Antetokounmpo is capable of hitting a spot-up jumper and would find easy cutting lanes if opponents doubled Davis.
It’d likely take some time to gel and the finances would be tricky, but this big-three would surely take the league by storm and possibly be unfair against most teams.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have more money committed in 2021-2022 than they do now, so acquiring Antetokounmpo would come via trade. Assets like Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green, while expensive, hold solid trade value since Wiggins still appears to have untapped potential and Green’s championship experience and extreme versatility are what teams value these days, so a realistic trade could be made if maybe some picks were thrown in.
Antetokounmpo would fit perfectly alongside the “Splash Brothers” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Although both Golden State stars are already in their 30s, what they may lose in athleticism once Antetokounmpo arrives will be masked by their supreme shooting and Antetokounmpo’s unique physicality. Antetokounmpo would have the entire floor to operate with the Warriors spacing and opponents would be afraid to double him with the NBA’s two best shooters spotting-up. Steve Kerr has already proven he can integrate another superstar in the team’s culture, and Golden State’s management is near the top in the league, making the destination all that more desirable to the current Bucks star.
Antetokounmpo could take the reins from Curry and lead Golden State into another dynasty until whenever Curry decides to retire.
The Heat have a significant amount of cap space for the 2021-2022 season with young stars like Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson all locked-up on team-friendly deals. Bam Adebayo might want a contract extension by then, but the organization should still have space to sign Antetokounmpo and become the league’s championship favorite.
Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have already shown that the team’s current roster can compete at a high level without a true superstar, so adding a transcendent talent like Antetokounmpo should fit nicely into their balanced squad. Adebayo might need to improve his jumper to help space the floor for Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler, already 30, could show signs of decline by the time Antetokounmpo suits up for Miami, but they both have previously shown that they’re capable of adapting to their teammates. Miami has an abundance of shooters and defenders, as well as an uber-competitive player in Butler, assets that should only improve Antetokounmpo’s production. The team’s defense would also improve greatly with an All-Defensive team player like Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo would be in a similar situation in Miami to what he already has in Milwaukee. He’s proven a roster of that construction around him can compete for a championship, so an upgraded version on the Heat should be that much better.
Toronto has plenty of cap flexibility for the 2021-2022 season, so signing Antetokounmpo and pairing him with Pascal Siakam is easily doable. The trickier part would be retaining the championship pieces currently in place. Kyle Lowry, 34, won’t be worth in two years the $30-plus million contract he currently has, and veterans role players like Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol are free agents after this season. Other upper-tier role players like Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell will also likely be looking for extensions, so retaining Toronto’s strong foundation will be tricky.
If executed, however, Antetokounmpo provides the Raptors with another superstar to lead them to another title. The combo of Antetokounmpo and Siakam would arguably be better than Leonard’s time there, if nothing else because Siakam will be a better player, so surrounding those two with experienced teammates should form a fearsome team in the East. Coach Nick Nurse and the organization’s front office have proven themselves to be among the league’s best and committed to winning, factors like Antetokounmpo will likely be looking for if he were to change teams.
Toronto’s younger players will have to continue to grow and replace the championship veterans for this to work, but they’ve already shown an ability to succeed without a superstar. Adding one should take them right back to being a top team.
(Re-sign) Milwaukee Bucks
Antetokounmpo’s free agency is over a year away and fans and the media still want to project him leaving the organization that drafted and developed him. Antetokounmpo has stated repeatedly that he loves playing for the Bucks and doesn’t have any intentions to leave as of now, but if he comes up short of a title two more times might change his mind. They still have a prime chance to win a championship this season or next, though, and doing so could be deemed more impressive since Antetokounmpohe didn’t team-up with other players to win titles like so many others have tried to do recently.
The Bucks have shown that they can surround Antetokounmpo with complementary talent and mold players to fit his needs. They’ve done almost everything they can to give Antetokounmpo a chance to assert himself as the league’s best player and it might just pay off soon. The team’s supporting cast does have some age concerns with Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Wesley Matthews, Ersan Ilyasova and the Lopez brothers all being over 30, so Antetokounmpo might walk for that reason. Still, Milwaukee is his home, and if he’s comfortable there and confident in the front office to surround him with the right pieces, his best chance for a ring might be right where he is.