Giannis Antetokounmpo entered the NBA playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, and that’s where he’s been ever since. His first NBA game was against the New York Knicks in October 2013. The Knicks, like every other team in the NBA, hopes Antetokounmpo leaves Milwaukee during the 2021 free-agency period and comes to their franchise. Theoretically, New York has as good a chance to sign Giannis as any other team should he bolt the Bucks. In reality, they probably have no chance of signing him in 2021if he becomes a free agent.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rise to NBA MVP
In 2013, Antetokounmpo was the 15th pick in the NBA draft. At only 18 years old, he was the youngest player selected that season. At the time, he said, “I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I’m not afraid. I will give everything on the court, in the gym, and I will prove to the Milwaukee Bucks that they made the right choice.”
Needless to say, Giannis Antetokounmpo has kept good on that promise. As his game improved, he became unstoppable. Within three short years, he was averaging 16.9 points and 7.7 rebounds and playing in his first NBA All-Star game. In 2016, Antetokounmpo signed a four-year, $100 million contract extension that kicked in for the 2017-18 season. He became a fan favorite, and the NBA named him the Most Improved Player of the 2016-17 season.
In 2019, he won the Most Valuable Player award. His contributions to the Milwaukee Bucks as a powerhouse forward brought the team to the Eastern Conference finals. Antetokounmpo played in 72 regular-season games in 2019, averaging 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds. He led the Bucks to their strongest NBA performance since 1973-74, with a 60-22 record. Antetokounmpo is now known as one of the best players in the league. For the 2019 All-Star game, he received more fan votes than any other player besides LeBron James.
How Antetokounmpo could leave the Bucks in 2021
Antetokounmpo is playing strong in the 2019-20 season. He is the first-ever player to average 25-10-5 (points-rebounds-assists), and he’s shooting better than 55% from the floor. Antetokounmpo is eligible for a five-year extension to his contract after the season. The lucrative deal could be the largest contract in NBA history worth $247 million. If he declines the offer, Antetokounmpo would become a free agent for the first time in his career.
Several teams, such as the Eastern Conference rival Raptors and Golden State Warriors, are anxiously awaiting his decision. They are clearing cap space in hopes of grabbing the MVP in his prime. A lot is riding on the success of the Bucks’ franchise this season. Antetokounmpo will weigh his options, based on the performance of this year’s team.
The Knicks might not have a shot at signing Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Knicks seem to have their eye on Antetokounmpo, hoping he becomes a free agent so they can swoop in and grab him. They have been rebuilding the team for several years and need a superstar like Antetokounmpo to get them back into the playoffs. But, it appears there may be some bad blood that could keep Antetokounmpo from signing with the New York team.
In 2014, the Knicks signed his brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo. The franchise jerked him around and sent him to their minor-league affiliate. At the end of the season, the minor-league coaches were fired for their poor performance in developing Thanasis.
In 2015, he didn’t make the roster for the regular season, and the Knicks later gave him a 10-day contract. He only played in two games for the Knicks and 91 games with their affiliate from 2014-16. The Bucks signed him in July 2019 to pair him with his brother. The Knicks’ poor treatment of Thanasis’ still doesn’t sit well with Giannis Antetokounmpo and may sway his decision to sign with the team if and when he becomes a free agent.
Other NBA free agents besides Giannis in 2021
The NBA is anticipating big changes in 2021. Even if Giannis Antetokounmpo sticks with the Bucks, there should be a host of first-class players that come up for free agency in July of 2021. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George of the L.A. Clippers are among the top players that could be up for grabs. Other unrestricted free agents for 2021 include:
- Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans
- Bradley Beal
- Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz
- Victor Oladipo
- DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs
- Blake Griffin of the Detroit Pistons
- Chris Paul and Steven Adams of the Thunder,
The Celtics’ Gordon Hayward, the Bulls’ Otto Porter, and the Knicks’ Julius Randle are potential free agents in 2021. Even LeBron James could become available if he turns down his $41 million option with the Lakers.