Since being drafted 15th overall in the 2013 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the NBA. Giannis entered the NBA as a scrawny kid from Athens, although the forward worked tirelessly on his game to establish himself as one of the best talents of his generation.
An All-Star since 2017, Antetokounmpo took his game to the next level last season as he was named 2019 MVP, and the 25-year-old is currently leading Milwaukee's quest to secure a first championship since 1971. Antetokounmpo is eligible to sign a five-year, $253 million contract extension with the Bucks this summer, and needless to say, the Milwaukee front office is desperate to secure his long-term future.
Nevertheless, Giannis also has the option to opt-out and become a free agent in the summer of 2021. If the forward decides to enter free agency, he will become the most heavily pursued player since LeBron James in 2010, and here we will examine the three teams that have a realistic chance of landing the Greek Freak in 2021.
#3 Golden State Warriors
Recent reports have suggested that the Golden State Warriors could pursue a trade for Giannis this summer by offering Andrew Wiggins and two lottery picks. However, it is hard to imagine any scenario that the Bucks will consider trading the superstar, and the Warriors will have to wait until the summer of 2021 to pursue a deal.
The Warriors would need to offload the final two-years of Wiggins' deal to free up sufficient cap-space, while Draymond Green could be another casualty so that the Warriors can sign Antetokounmpo and also flesh out the roster. Nevertheless, a trio of Antetokounmpo, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry would be devastating - and due to Curry's age - Giannis wouldn't have to wait long to take over as the face of the franchise.
#2 Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors remain in contention this season, although Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol are all the wrong side of 30. Understandably, the Raptors already have one eye on the future, and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski recently revealed that the front office is unwilling to sacrifice salary-cap flexibility as they want to enter the sweepstakes for Giannis.
The Raptors have long struggled to lure talent in free agency, and Kawhi Leonard opted to head back to Los Angeles last summer despite winning a championship with the franchise. However, it is important to note that the United States doesn't have the same lure to Giannis considering his upbringing in Greece, and as someone who has never sought the limelight off the court, Toronto could be a perfect match both on and off the court.
#1 Miami Heat
Due to a lack of cap space, the Miami Heat have missed on several superstars since LeBron James left for Cleveland in 2014, although the franchise is in a strong position to make a major splash in 2021. While Jimmy Butler was signed to a four-year, $141 million contract last July, the remainder of Miami's high-earners have deals that will expire within the next 18 months.
Shams Charania of The Athletic has confirmed that Giannis is among Miami's primary targets, and Antetokounmpo's determination to win titles would be a perfect match alongside the ultra-competitive Butler. Pat Riley will also be willing to build the entire roster around the Greek Freak, and the 25-year-old is likely to give serious thought to following LeBron's path and moving to South Beach.Published 28 Feb 2020, 05:06 IST