Giannis Antetokounmpo the superstar of the Milwaukee Bucks has been on an absolute tear the last few years. Winning an MVP in 2019 and making it to the Eastern Conference Finals was the highlight of his last season. Giannis will be looking to get over the hump and make it to the Finals this season, while most likely repeating as MVP. But let’s say the Bucks fall short, and Giannis becomes disgruntled. He is probably going to want to win a championship at some point in his career.
Now, I’m not saying that is going to happen. Giannis is still the league MVP and is one of the favorites to get out of the Eastern Conference this season. However, if he does to decide to leave the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 Free Agency, then here are the reasons why he should pick the Toronto Raptors as his destination.
1. Masai Ujiri And The Raptors Front Office
Every organization starts with someone at the top. As much as Jerry Krause gets villainized, he did put the structure in place for Michael Jordan to be the best. Drafting Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc comes to mind. Same thing for LeBron and the Heat: Without Chris Bosh also coming to Miami, along with some other names like Shane Battier and Ray Allen (out of his prime), LeBron doesn’t win with two championships with the Heat. Essentially, every winning culture needs someone at the top who can make the right moves to complement the team’s best players.
If Giannis comes to Toronto, then he will have a championship-caliber front office. Masai Ujiri has proven that he can make moves for his team to compete. The obvious trade that comes to mind is trading DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a first-round pick for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. That is the trade that everyone will point too, but the lesser-known trade was trading Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick for Marc Gasol. That is the trade that cemented the championship roster. When Giannis decides where to go, a front office that can make the right decisions will be one of his key demands. Thus, the Raptors will be more than well-positioned to make their case.
2. A Great Core
When Kawhi Leonard left after the Championship, some people expected the Raptors to fall out of playoff contention, similarly to when LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers (both times). However, that has not been the case. The Raptors have cruised to the 2nd seed in the East with Pascal Siakam as their first option, with a supporting cast that includes rising young players Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell. Add that to a group of seasoned veterans in Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol and you got yourself a championship-caliber core (literally).
Even if the veterans on the roster decide to seek lucrative deals elsewhere, the young core of Powell, VanVleet, and Siakam will still be present. Masai also has a history of finding gems in the rough like Matt Thomas, Terence Davis, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to fill out the roster, so the construction of the roster shouldn’t be a problem. Essentially if the Milwaukee Bucks don’t win, there is a great core waiting in Toronto just waiting for another championship. Seems like an easy decision.
3. The East vs. The West
There are rumors of Giannis going to the Warriors. Okay, I get it. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are very good and if you add in Eric Paschall and Draymond Green, then you have yourself a very good team. But if I’m Giannis, I am asking myself the important questions: do I want to go against half the superstars in the league, if I’m in the West? LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and James Harden are in the league’s better conference. So are guys like Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and Luka Doncic. That’s a fair amount of the league’s best players. Besides, I’m sure that Giannis wants to win with his own team, rather than tag onto a dynasty like the Steph Curry Warriors.
Giannis might peak to stay in the East, a la LeBron James before the Lakers. The new king in the East. He won’t get ridiculed when he joins the Raptors, even though they are the team that beat him in 2019. Kawhi Leonard has left, and the credit for 2019 is largely given to him, even though it was a team effort. Kevin Durant got ridiculed because he joined a team that went 73-9. Giannis is joining a team that lost its best player in 2019. If he wants to leave the Bucks and stay in the East, there is no better place for him than the Raptors.
4. International Pull
The Toronto Raptors are an international franchise. While they are located in Canada, that won’t be an issue for Giannis. The issue with a lot of American superstars is that living in a foreign country is different, and people miss home. That was seen in Kawhi Leonard’s decision to go home to L.A, despite being surrounded by a great team that won the championship. I get it, people miss home.
But Giannis is an international player, so the same rules may not apply. He is used to moving around, from Nigeria to Greece, and afterward to Milwaukee. He is no stranger to travel and for international players, it is easier to adapt to a new climate. Beyond that, Toronto is still a larger market than Milwaukee. It is a metropolitan city, and for a superstar like Giannis that could be the exposure he needs. What is as significant as the MVP of the league moving to the team in Canada, and putting Toronto on the map once again? That move would make every headline in the sports columns, guaranteed. Giannis with the current Raptors team would be an instant contender and there is no denying that. What better way to build an international following than be on the most international team of them all?
5. Less Pressure
In Milwaukee, Giannis is the center of the team. All eyes are on him, and there is an insurmountable amount of pressure that comes with that. What happens if he falls short again? The media will eventually blame him for the Bucks’ shortcomings and that can be very hard to take. Now, Giannis seems like he can handle all the criticism and grow from it, as shown by his willingness to take 3s this year, and space the floor. That development came after the criticism that he couldn’t shoot while struggling inside when being double-teamed on the inside in the ECF. If he wants to go to a team where there is no pressure, there is no better team than the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors have already won a championship recently. The fans crave another one, but it is not necessary as they have already got one. In Toronto, Giannis can play his game and not be as subject to the criticism of the American media. Toronto has already had its glorious first championship. If there’s no pressure, it will be easier for Giannis to work towards getting his first championship himself, while being part of a club with an already present winning culture. He would be the clear first option: but there would be no pressure on him since he would have championship-caliber players who can pick up the slack. If Giannis wants a smooth-sailing ride to the championship or at least the Finals, then there is no better team than the one in Toronto.
Giannis going to the Toronto Raptors would be contingent on a few factors. Those include how well the Bucks do in the playoffs and how much cap Toronto will have after re-signing its players. If the Bucks underperform, and Toronto has the cap space then we might see the day where a league MVP dons the uniform of the Toronto Raptors, dinosaurs, and all.