Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks will endure a massively-important season in 2021. Despite Antetokounmpo winning back-to-back MVPs in 2019 and 2020, he and the team have come up short in the playoffs in consecutive seasons, leading many to wonder if the 25-year-old superstar will leave the organization once his contract expires after next year.
There are several teams favored to land Antetokounmpo if he leaves, including the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat, but one of the more controversial spots Antetokounmpo could go to would be Golden State, a franchise that won three titles and went to five Finals in the 2010s.
Antetokounmpo could demand a sign-and-trade following this season since the Bucks can offer him the super-max, but he could simply decide, like Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016, to join the Warriors as a free agent. From a roster perspective, this would give Golden State more cap flexibility and likely make the team even better than it’d already be with a core of Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
A move of this magnitude would send shockwaves throughout the NBA landscape. Antetokounmpo alongside a former back-to-back MVP and one of the great 3-and-D players of all time would surely vault Golden State to the top of the league’s power rankings, while simultaneously making the Greek-born feel-good story one of the most hated players in the league.
Antetokounmpo wouldn’t be wrong to leave Milwaukee, depending on how the team performs in the coming season, but following in the footsteps of Durant would enrage fans and competing NBA teams, as well as the organization that helped develop Antetokounmpo into the player he is today.
Antetokounmpo saw how people reacted to LeBron James’ “decision” and Durant’s move to the team that he blew a 3-1 lead to in the Western Conference Finals the year before, so Antetokounmpo would be foolish to think creating another superteam in Golden State wouldn’t hurt his image, especially if didn’t allow Milwaukee an opportunity to trade him and get some pieces back. It wouldn’t look as bad as Durant’s move since he never played the Warriors in the playoffs, however, but it’d anger many nonetheless.
This scenario is unlikely to happen as of now, and it appears that Antetokounmpo has a good enough relationship with his current team that he wouldn’t abandon them as Durant did, yet it’s a real possibility if the Bucks continue down their current path. Milwaukee hasn’t constructed a roster with enough shooting or perimeter playmaking to allow Antetokounmpo to flourish at the end of playoff games, and although Antetokounmpo deserves a large portion of the blame, another disappointing postseason from the team would only further diminish his legacy.
Antetokounmpo, like Durant, would fit seamlessly into the Warriors system. He’d draw significant attention from defenders with his ferocious drives to the basket, allowing Curry and Thompson to get more open 3-pointers than they’ve been accustomed to. And if teams play the two shooters tight on the perimeter, Antetokounmpo would have little trouble dunking on the couple remaining defenders he’d face.
He’d also allow the Warriors to play the most dangerous small-ball lineup ever with Antetokounmpo at the center position. Antetokounmpo is more than capable of rebounding, protecting the rim and rim-running to serve as the team’s center for stretches, and his speed in transition would overwhelm almost every opponent. Especially if Antetokounmpo continues to improve his long-range shot, there’s no telling how potent the Warriors’ offense could be with this big-three.
Antetokounmpo going to the Warriors would also reflect poorly on his all-time status. Durant is commonly regarded as at least a top-20 player ever, yet people don’t respect him in a historical context because of the ease in which he won his two championships in Golden State. Durant, like Antetokounmpo, was an MVP and perennial All-NBA member before changing teams, but even he made the Finals once and the Conference Finals four times on the Thunder. Antetokounmpo has been to just one Conference Finals and blew a 2-0 lead.
It’d be a real shame to see potentially the greatest player of his generation, once again, join the Warriors in search of easy rings. Most people wouldn’t blame Antetokounmpo for leaving since the Bucks have some roster issues to sort out, but going to such an established organization would seem like a cop-out, especially if the Warriors return to their pre-Durant form next season.
Hopefully these rumors don’t persist. The balance of the league is at stake in Antetokounmpo’s free agency. He may not care about how he’s perceived by the public, but if he does, he should look at Durant’s career as a lesson.