Could the Knicks be a potential landing spot for Giannis Antetokounmpo?

Could Giannis Antetounmpo be a target for the Knicks?
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reacts on the floor at the start of the first half of Game 5 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

The Knicks are just hours away from the biggest game of the season in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat. However, sports media is in a tizzy about whether the Big Apple could be the future home of one of the NBA’s best players. 

After the Heat knocked off the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the playoffs, there has been speculation about whether the team can continue to move forward in the long term with a roster built around Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

While it would be a shock to see Giannis leave Milwaukee, tensions are high after another early playoff exit. Head coach Mike Budenholzer has been fired, and Giannis gave a pointed answer at the end-of-season press conference when asked if this season was a failure.  

While Gianni’s response was candid and shone a light on the unreasonable pressure we often put on athletes and sports franchises to not be happy with anything other than a title, the discussion also highlighted some of the tension mounting in Milwaukee. 

It was enough for Brian Windhorst, who famously predicted the Jazz would tear down their team after trading Royce O’Neale to the Brooklyn Nets, to state that the biggest story in the NBA this offseason will be what’s happening in Milwaukee. Do the Bucks believe they can build a consistent contender while keeping Giannis around for the long haul or would they prefer to trade him to a big-market team like the Knicks?

Windhorst was quick to point out that he believes Milwaukee will exhaust all efforts to do so, but he also indicated that if they were unable to feel good about a long-term pairing, the Knicks could be a team to watch for Giannis. 

“Is Giannis going to extend?…league is watching…New York Knicks, for example, they’ve got 97% of their attention on the Miami Heat, 3% of their attention on Milwaukee [gestures] ‘What’s going on over there?”

Giannis recently signed a five-year, supermax contract with Milwaukee; however, can opt-out and become a free agent as soon as 2025 if he wants. The Bucks can also extend Giannis this offseason, the first time he’ll be eligible for an extension on this new deal, so there are a lot of pieces still in flux. 
However, Giannis has never mentioned a desire to play for the Knicks and has also made it clear that he would like to stay in Milwaukee. 
The star forward appeared on CBS Sunday Morning after the playoff exit and was asked about whether or not he would leave the Bucks. “I wear my heart on my sleeve and I really appreciate people that gave me an opportunity to change my life. My parents’ life, my kids’ life. I don’t take that for granted. I don’t take that lightly.” 
He went on to pretty directly say, “As long as I’m healthy and as long as they want me to be a part of the Milwaukee Bucks organization, I would love to stay there.”
Yet, the desire to remain in Milwaukee isn’t the only thing that matters. The NBA has a clear problem with building consistent contenders in small market teams. That has led to a ridiculous rate of turnover on NBA rosters over the years as only seven active NBA players have played over 10 seasons with just one team. Three of them play for the Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. 
 Giannis, Damian Lillard, and Bradley Beal are three of the players on the list who suit up for small-market teams, and both Lillard and Beal are at the heart of constant trade speculation. 
Even Giannis himself has talked about how hard it has been to compete in Milwaukee. “One challenge was to bring a championship here and we did,” he told GQ in November of 2021. “It was very hard, but we did. Very, very hard. I just love challenges. What’s the next challenge? The next challenge might not be here.”
If the Bucks feel that the challenge to keep a contender over the next few seasons remains too difficult, they might be looking for a trade partner, and the Knicks do make sense. 
Next summer, when a Giannis trade would be far more likely, the Knicks will have more money freed up, they’ll have young players like Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes coming up for new contracts, and they’ll have plenty of draft picks. They would have the pieces to make a deal fit should an opportunity present itself. 
Until then, the Knicks will continue to focus on the Miami Heat and trying to stave off their own playoff elimination at the hands of Jimmy Butler. 

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Could Giannis Antetounmpo be a target for the Knicks?
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) drives against Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half of Game 5 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Wednesday, April 26, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)