For the second year in a row, the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Defensive Player of the Year and likely MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, posted the NBA’s best regular-season record. And for the second straight year, Milwaukee is in danger of going home early.
Trailing fifth-seeded Miami 2-0 in their best-of-seven series, reality is setting in for the Bucks and it’s not pretty. With the Celtics and Heat not going anywhere and Brooklyn expected to be a threat next year with recovering superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both on the mend, Milwaukee’s championship window may be closing quickly, particularly with Antetokounmpo headed for free agency in 2021. Whether the Greek Freak would be amenable to signing a new max deal with Milwaukee, the city that transformed him from a little-known international player to one of the league’s brightest young stars, remains to be seen.
Should he reach the market next year, Antetokounmpo will instantly become one of the most coveted free agents in recent memory. However, some basketball minds, including Richard Jefferson (a former Milwaukee Buck himself), aren’t convinced the 6’11” Antetokounmpo has what it takes to be a franchise centerpiece on a championship team.
“Giannis might be a Pippen,” Jefferson tweeted Wednesday, alluding to Bulls legend Scottie Pippen, considered by many to be the greatest sidekick in NBA history. “He needs his Jordan.”
Pippen wasn’t so quick to dismiss Antetokounmpo, defending the Bucks superstar in his retort while questioning Jefferson’s own qualifications.
Jefferson's comments come two days after Radio.com Sports insider Brian Scalabrine said the Mavericks have a shot at getting Antetokounmpo if he were to leave Milwaukee after next season.
"Of all the guys, I think he would do it (come to Dallas). To leave a team, that's a hard thing to do, especially if you're a guy like him. Just think about Dirk Nowitzki, he was Dallas all the way, (and) it seems like Gianiss is all the way (with Milwaukee). Except that if they lose to Miami .... this is an interesting offseason ... they offer him a Super-Max (5-year max extension) ... he turns it down, it does open up the possibility. I'm not thinking there's no chance, I know a lot of people would say that. I think there is a chance that he could end up (in Dallas)."
A pairing of Luka Doncic with the Greek Freak and Kristaps Porzingis in tow? Yes, please!
No, we're not going to compare Luka Doncic to the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. Nor are we going to say that Doncic is better than Antetokounmpo right now (he might very well be). But the two of them together? It's a match made in heaven.
Dallas can't count on Porzingis' health at this point after he missed the final three games of their playoff series vs the Clippers with a meniscus tear in one knee and when he tore the ACL in his other knee over two years ago.
Now, if you can have a healthy Porzingis in the playoffs with the other two young stars, it's just an added bonus.
Back to Luka ... the 21-year-old Slovenian star has already proven he can hang with one of the best in the league in Kawhi Leonard. Doncic performed at a high level without "his Pippen," while Leonard had Paul George and company by his side.
In his first action on the big stage, Doncic averaged a spectacular 31 points, 9.7 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game against a Clippers team that was supposed to be among the elite defensive units in the NBA.
So why can't Luka be "the Jordan" to Antetokounmpo's 'Pippen?' Who cares? Call them the opposite and say Giannis is 'Jordan' and Luka's 'Pippen.' The two together would bring a dynasty to Dallas.
Maybe the Bucks will wake up, win the Eastern Conference and all of this will be a moot point. But if Milwaukee goes quietly in Orlando, the cloud of uncertainty surrounding Giannis’ tenuous Bucks future will only grow larger. And Luka Doncic and the Mavericks will be right there at the front of the line.