NBA

NBA GMs Think Giannis Antetokounmpo Is Going to Join Larry Bird and Bill Russell This Season

NBA general managers face an interesting position this season. With the Warriors lacking contention for two seasons now, the finals are no longer guaranteed. The Heat weren’t high on many lists to make it far, even if the Lakers were. The Bucks, meanwhile, seriously underperformed last year. That was, in large part, because MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was injured during crucial playoff games.

Now, he’s back in action with a historically massive contract as the wind beneath his wings. But Antetokounmpo will have to contend with teams like Kevin Durant’s much-hyped Brooklyn Nets. So where do NBA GMs think this season is headed?

NBA GMs think the future looks a lot like the recent past

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The NBA recently released their anonymous survey of NBA GMs for the 2020-21 season. Many of the notable answers are familiar, signaling that last year’s biggest threat will continue to terrorize the rest of the league. The pairing of LeBron James and Anthony Davis is still the duo to beat. 81% of GMs think the Lakers will win the Finals this year. 37% of GMs also think the Lakers had the best offseason.

The next highest result was LA’s other team, the Clippers, with 11%. That’s notable given 46% thought the Clippers would take it all last season. Another notable Clippers-related shift: 82% of GMs thought they had the best offseason last year. This time they missed the list entirely.

Steph Curry is still seen as the best point guard in the league, with 30% of the vote. That may have just been backed up — despite the Warriors’ low odds for success this year — by Curry’s recent late-game explosion against the Bulls. Even with his best teammates injured, Curry looks incredible. But he’s not the player who keeps most GMs up at night.

NBA GMs think Giannis Antetokounmpo is still the top player

Antetokounmpo is easily the player most GMs wish they had and would prefer not to face. CBS Sports reports that more GMs think the Bucks superstar will net his third MVP award than any other player having a chance. They also think he’ll be the biggest defensive threat in the league, just as he was last season.

The Bucks as a whole, however, are notably absent from most of the list. They’re expected by 64% of GMs to take the Eastern Conference, sure. But they didn’t come up on the radar for actually winning the Finals at all. According to Clutchpoints, betting markets currently pin Milwaukee as the team with the fourth-best shot at taking it all, mirroring those expectations. 

Antetokounmpo will enter an elite club if he wins MVP again

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
(L-R) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the 2019 ESPYs | Rich Fury/Getty Images

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GMs expect Antetokounmpo to continue his ascent in the NBA history books. His third consecutive MVP would put him in the company of the elite-of-the-elite. Even if the Bucks aren’t the next Warriors or Jordan-era Bulls, the “Greek Freak” could be one of those players talked about in hushed tones long after he retires.

Consider the names he would match up with if he takes three MVP titles in a row: Larry Bird and Bill Russell. Bird was one of the most naturally talented players of his era, noted for backing up every big statement he made with action on the court. And Russell, of course, was the driving force behind the potentially unbeatable record of Finals dominance. Antetokounmpo could be the next player of this caliber playing out before our eyes.