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The Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo are at a crossroads. As the 1-seed in the Eastern Conference, the team lost in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs to the 8-seed Miami Heat. The franchise fired head coach Mike Budenholzer, and the organization has several tough decisions to make on aging free agents. This is why Giannis Antetokounmpo trade rumors are cropping up this offseason, and while trading the two-time MVP would be a tough pill to swallow, this would be the offseason to do it.

Giannis Antetokounmpo trade rumors do have some validity this offseason

Giannis Antetokounmpo trade rumors, Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The NBA rules are set up to penalize high-salary teams with the luxury tax to try and prevent teams like the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosch Heat or Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green Golden State Warriors from forming again.

Heading into the 2023-24 NBA season, the Bucks are just over $4 million shy of the luxury tax threshold with just eight players on the roster, assuming Khris Middleton opts into his $40.3 million player option next season, which he absolutely will.

That’s coming off a year when the Bucks had the fourth-highest payroll in the league at $180.7 million, and they’ve been over the luxury tax since 2020-21.

These salary cap figures are going to make it harder and harder for the Bucks to put a talented team around Giannis in the future. The superstar has two years left on his current deal, with a $51.9 player option in 2025-26 that he won’t reach before signing an extension.

Giannis has to look at the writing on the wall soon and decide whether he wants to do another max extension with the Bucks (which he can sign as soon as September 2023) or start fresh with a team that can better afford to put a talented team around him in the next few years.

On a recent Get Up! appearance, NBA soothsayer Brian Windhorst did his annual “just saying, but I’m not saying” act about Antetokounmpo’s future in Milwaukee. Windhorst suggested that Bucks former co-owner Marc Lasry, who recently sold his stake in the team, got out “because of the thundercloud that is now on the horizon that we are now hearing the first rumbling of” regarding Giannis’ future with the franchise.  

Even if the Bucks do pay the enormous tax next season and run it back one more time with more or less the same group, it will be an uphill battle. At the start of the 2023-24 season, Khris Middleton will be 32, Jrue Holiday 33, and Brook Lopez 35. That’s not a recipe for staying healthy throughout the playoffs and winning an NBA championship.

If the rest of the Bucks organization gets any indication that their star won’t re-sign, then the Giannis Antetokounmpo trade rumors should have validity. Dealing a player like Giannis with two years left on his deal will allow the team to get a maximum return. Next offseason, his value will be slightly less with one year remaining on his contract, and the worst-case scenario is Giannis walking for nothing the year following.

Several teams — the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, and New Orleans Pelicans — are flush with future draft picks this offseason.

And, of course, one of the perennial trade destination teams, the New York Knicks, has a host of picks and intriguing young players like RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and Immanuel Quickley. That’s likely why Brian Windhorst also recently revealed that they have “97 percent of their attention on the Miami Heat, three percent of their attention on Milwaukee” during the 2023 NBA Playoffs.


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