Bucks Already Making Moves to Keep Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee

The Bucks reportedly have a window to figure things out.

With a former NBA GM and several agents reportedly saying All-Star F Giannis Antetokounmpo will not stay in Milwaukee for his next contract, the organization will now have to focus most of its attention on creating the right environment for the star.

For what it’s worth, Antetokounmpo told the New York Times last year that he’s “a low-profile guy” and he doesn’t like “flashy cities like L.A. or Miami.” He currently has a maximum contract and the Bucks will certainly offer the supermax extension when his deal is up in 2021. Antetokounmpo appears to have nothing to worry about in Milwaukee. He’s grown into a star after struggling in his first two seasons and the city seems to be responding well to “The Greek Freak”: the Bucks ranked seventh in attendance last season after ranking 27th in Antetokounmpo’s rookie season.

At the same time, we saw Kawhi Leonard ask out of a steady San Antonio organization and now Jimmy Butler is trying to cut loose from his former coach in Minnesota. LeBron James dumped Cleveland in the offseason for Los Angeles in free agency despite his lifelong bond with the city. The Bucks must do everything they can to successfully surround Antetokounmpo with a realistic path to title contention. Luckily, Milwaukee already started that path this offseason.

The Bucks swapped Jason Kidd for Mike Budenholzer at head coach, which should help the team tremendously on the defensive side of the ball.

In Jason Kidd’s three years at the helm, the Bucks’ defense dropped from top-five to one of the worst in the league.

Year

PPG Allowed PPG Allowed Rank Defensive Rating Defensive Rating Rank

2014-15

97.4

8

103

4

2015-16

103.2

17

109

24

2016-17 103.8 9 110

20

 

Kidd was let go halfway through last season due to Milwaukee’s defensive struggles. Here are Budenholzer’s numbers with the Hawks over the same span.

Year

PPG Allowed PPG Allowed Rank Defensive Rating Defensive Rating Rank

2014-15

97.1

5

104

6

2015-16

99.2

6

102

2

2016-17 104.0 10 106

4

 

Even with increased scoring across the league, Budenholzer managed to maintain a top-tier defensive unit. Budenholzer certainly had individual defensive talent at all levels with his Hawks teams, but that won’t be lacking in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon should help Budenholzer turn the Bucks into a league-average defensive unit at worst. Thon Maker’s rim protection ability won’t hurt either.

With LeBron in L.A., Antetokounmpo should be the best player in the Eastern Conference. His assist numbers should continue to improve due to the wide array of shooters surrounding him. The question will be whether the Bucks have enough offensive firepower to surround Antetokounmpo with a winning formula.

Middleton and Brogdon have developed into consistent shooters and have the ability to make major strides this season. Middleton is a 39 percent three-point shooter for his career and Brogdon connects on 39.5 percent of his attempts. Both players provide a strong perimeter unit should Budenholzer move Antetokounmpo around on the court.

Antetokounmpo isn’t a great perimeter scorer himself, so Milwaukee continued to add outside scoring threats. First-round pick Donte DiVincenzo shot 40 percent from behind the arc in his junior season and should be able to showcase that ability in the NBA. The Bucks even brought in Brook Lopez to allow Budenholzer to potentially play a lineup with Antetokounmpo and four shooters. Lopez isn’t a lights-out three-point shooter, but he’s managed to connect on 34.5 percent of his 712 attempts over the last two seasons. Lopez had only attempted 31 three-pointers over eight previous seasons prior to developing his range. He’s a solid floor-spacing big man.

Milwaukee has yet to win a playoff series in Antetokounmpo’s five seasons with the team, which will be a factor in the star’s next contract decision. Antetokounmpo is under contract through 2020-21, giving Milwaukee and Budenholzer enough time to chase postseason success. The Bucks will challenge for home-court advantage in the first round, something they’ve never held in Antetokounmpo’s time.

This will be the best supporting cast Antetokounmpo has had in his career, including the coach. The Bucks now need it to translate into results in the postseason to help keep Giannis in Milwaukee.