Holding On For Deer Life
Talk about laying it all on the line for your superstar.
The Milwaukee Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA in each of the past two seasons, but their playoff failures have overshadowed their regular season successes, considering they bowed out before the NBA Finals near the conclusion of both seasons.
And with that, much of the chatter revolving around the franchise is if it would be able to re-sign back-to-back NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo – an unrestricted free agent next summer – to a long-term contract without bolstering the roster to a level where it can be a championship favorite heading into 2021.
On Monday, the Bucks made their early pitch to Giannis.
Milwaukee pulled off two separate trades on day one of the NBA offseason, landing New Orleans Pelicans star guard Jrue Holiday and Sacramento Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who will assumably fill out the Bucks' starting lineup along with Antetokounmpo, All-Star forward Khris Middleton, and big man Brook Lopez.
Holiday was an All-Star in 2013, but he's best known for his defensive prowess, having been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2018 and the Second Team in 2019. He was also named NBA Teammate of the Year in 2020, and he averaged 19.1 points, 6.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds for New Orleans last season.
Bogdanovic spent three seasons in Sacramento, and this past season, he averaged 15.1 points and shot 37.2 percent from three-point land for the Kings.
However, on Tuesday, while reaction to Milwaukee's Monday efforts was mostly positive, there was still hesitation to call the Bucks the Finals favorites.
Chris Broussard said while the moves certainly improve Milwaukee's roster, he still has some questions about head coach Mike Budenholzer.
"Here's a question mark: Mike Budenholzer. I like [him] as a coach and I voted for him as Coach of the Year before. However, he's been the No. 1 seed three times and yet never been to the Finals."
As Atlanta's head coach in 2014-15, Budenholzer led the Hawks to 60 wins and the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, before being swept in the East Finals by LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers.
In Nick Wright's estimation, while the trades certainly give Milwaukee two strong starting pieces, the onus will still be on its superstar to carry the team to a title.
Unlike Broussard and Wright, Shannon Sharpe was all-in on the deal, saying the Bucks did exactly what they needed to do to get Giannis to stay before becoming an unrestricted free agent after this season.
But for Stephen A. Smith, the trades don't do much unless they guarantee a title, and he believes that Milwaukee should consider trading Giannis this season, rather than potentially watching him leave in free agency.
"I could be wrong but I just don't see him staying in Milwaukee unless they win the title ... I'm not knocking the moves that they made. What I'm saying is in the end, it still does not prevent you from considering moving the Greek Freak before the trade deadline in the event you don't think he's going to stay."
As mixed as the reactions might have been, there are no mixed signals coming from the Milwaukee franchise. The Bucks must keep Antetokounmpo, and they are willing to gamble everything they have in order to do it.
We'll see in a little over a month how the gamble pays off.