Fork In The Road For Giannis
The Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Anteokounmpo enjoyed another fruitful regular season that resulted in the NBA's best record for the second consecutive season.
In addition, Antetokounmpo won the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year award, a year after winning the 2019 NBA MVP award.
However, while the regular season success was replicated for the Bucks, so was the postseason disappointment, with Milwaukee once again failing to reach the NBA Finals.
Now, the Bucks are back to the drawing board, with the clock ticking towards the eventual 2021 free agency of their superstar player in Antetokounmpo.
This week, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that a 3-hour lunch meeting occurred between Giannis and Bucks brass about the team's future.
Let's analyze the main takeaways from the Milwaukee meeting:
1. The Bucks plan to spend into the luxury tax
In the meeting between both parties, the Bucks co-owner and and governor Marc Lasry made it clear to Antetokoumpo that the franchise is willing to go into the luxury tax in order to surround him with an adequate supporting cast and deliver a championship to Cream City.
The Bucks' 2020 payroll will come close to the proposed $132.7 million salary cap number, and their willingness to spend big is a good sign for Antetokounmpo and Bucks fans.
Over the last five seasons, the NBA Finals has featured at least one team that has gone into the luxury tax, with three of the last five champions all paying the steep price to win.
The 2019 Toronto Raptors paid $21.4 million in the tax, the 2018 Golden State Warriors paid $32.3 million, and the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers paid $54 million.
2. Mike Budenholzer will be retained
Despite failing to reach the Finals after claiming the best record in the league the past two seasons, the Bucks plan on bringing back head coach Mike Budenholzer.
The Bucks have won 116 games over the last two seasons, more than anybody else in the NBA, with Budenholzer claiming the 2019 NBA Coach of the Year award.
But after taking a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, Milwaukee fell in six games to the Raptors, and this year, the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs a round earlier, losing in five games to the fifth-seeded Miami Heat after falling behind 3-0.
3. Biggest contract ever?
The Bucks are on the clock to deliver a championship roster around Antetokounmpo before he potentially skips town in the summer of 2021.
But there is one thing the Bucks can offer that other franchises can't, and it's the largest contract in NBA history.
The deal would be for five years and worth between $220-250 million, depending on what the salary cap is heading into the 2021 season.
The deal would take up 35% of the Bucks' cap and put him in rare air with Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and John Wall as the only players currently signed to a super-max deal.
The Warriors have seen the return on investment with Curry, winning the 2018 NBA Finals and returning to the Finals in 2019.
While the Rockets haven't made it to the NBA Finals in the Harden era, they have have made it to at least the Western Conference semifinals in the three years since he inked his $228 million contract with the franchise, advancing as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2018 before falling to the Warriors.
He was also named the 2018 NBA MVP.
Westbrook signed his $205 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder after winning the 2017 MVP award, but fell in the first round of the playoffs in 2018 and 2019 before being traded to Houston to join Harden.
For Wall, it has been tough sledding since the Washington Wizards inked him to a 4-year, $170 million deal in 2017.
The Wizards finished eighth in the Eastern Conference in 2018 before falling in the first round to the Toronto Raptors, and then Wall tore his achilles in 2018 and hasn't seen the court in nearly two full seasons.
Antetokounmpo will have his fair share of suitors if he does reach the free agent market in 2021, but the Bucks have to feel confident about their chances at retaining him with the ace of a super-max contract in their hand.