Written By: Spencer Fielding
The Milwaukee Bucks have a ton to do this off-season. Mainly, trying to get Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign an extension. If he does go on to play next season, and you fail to even make it to the NBA Finals, he could walk and the Bucks are left with nothing. Are the Bucks better off trading the young superstar or are they better off taking a risk if he doesn’t sign an extension?
Small Market Failures
The history is not on the Bucks side. The Cleveland Cavaliers chose to take this path with LeBron James twice, and both times were spurned by the King. The first time, LeBron left for the Miami Heat. The Cavs were able to draft Kyrie Irving and Tristian Thompson, but they were in no shape to contend. The second time, LeBron would leave for the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Cavs were again, left with nothing. They have Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, but they are again, in no shape of contending for even a playoff spot. Another notable name to point out is Shaquille O’Neal and how he ditched the Orlando Magic for the Lakers. The Magic were then irrelevant until Dwight Howard was drafted to them, many years later. The point is, small-market teams, struggle to keep big names, let alone superstars like Giannis.
Running it Back
Giannis doesn’t seem close to signing an extension. This means the Bucks can either bite the bullet and choose to run through the season and hopefully prove to Giannis that this team is good enough to become a contender every season or in the best-case scenario, a dynasty. If the Bucks choose to run it back, they’re going to need a ton of help. Khris Middleton has struggled year after year in the playoffs. As great as he’s been in the regular season, it hardly matters if you don’t show up when the lights are the brightest. Eric Bledsoe is another player the Bucks have that continues his postseason woes, year after year. So how can you turn both of them into a better player, or players?
They will need to deal either one, or both if they want to succeed in the playoffs. As good as the Bucks are in the regular season, they need a third scorer to help Giannis and Middleton. In the playoffs, the opposing defense is able to focus on Giannis and Middleton time after time. Another scorer could do wonders for them. I think choosing Bledsoe over Malcolm Brogdon was definitely a mistake. Brogdon proved to be vital to the Pacers playoff hopes and had a breakout season. The Bucks sorely missed him in the postseason. If Brogdon was with the team, they could have used his shot-making abilities down the stretch against the Miami Heat. If the Bucks are able to swing a deal for Zach LaVine, or somehow, Bradley Beal, they would put themselves in a great position to win a championship.
If Giannis refuses to sign an extension before the start of next season, I would definitely look at the trade market for a talent like Giannis. If the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to get eight first-round picks for Paul George, the Bucks should theoretically get the same amount, if not more. This would jumpstart their small rebuild. They could even try to get another star to pair with Middleton. Middleton played extremely well as soon as Giannis went down, maybe he could be the focal point going forward. But with Giannis’ patience seemingly running thin, so are the Bucks chances of resigning him. They need to explore every possibility going forward.
If I am the Bucks, I explore the trade market. Get as much as you can, like the New Orleans Pelicans when they traded Anthony Davis. You’re not going to get Giannis’ exact worth, but you can get something instead of losing him for nothing. Look at the Golden State Warriors and what they got for Kevin Durant. D’Angelo Russell was something, and they eventually turned him into two great Minnesota Timberwolves picks and Andrew Wiggins. I think they can get even more for Giannis.
All in all, the Bucks are in an extremely tough position. With the salary cap dropping, they’re in a very difficult situation since they are a small market team. They want to improve their roster, but they may not have the money to do so. So in the end, they may have to trade Giannis regardless of what they choose to do.
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