Just when you thought the Warriors dynasty might be trending downward, even knowing that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson could return, an extremely intriguing possibility has surfaced. What does the greatest shooting duo in NBA history need to extend their reign of dominance?
The most physically imposing threat that the game has ever seen, of course.
According to Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Warriors have been "preparing for years" to land Giannis Antetokounmpo (h/t Tim Daniels of Bleacher Report). As well established as the Greek Freak may seem to be in Milwaukee, the fact of the matter is that a small-market team often struggles to hold on to their stars. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis... are these names ringing any bells?
But what does the NBA lockdown have to do with Antetokounmpo's potential to leave Milwaukee? Letorneau explained that the belief is the star and likely 2020 MVP's biggest desire is to win a championship, and if missing out on the 2020 NBA Playoffs means that the Bucks' best chance has gone down the drain, it might affect where he'll ultimately want to play. Of course, how the team performs next season will also play a part in his decision.
The Bucks' core outside of Antetokounmpo is Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez, all of whom are under contract until 2023. Thus, it's kind of hard to imagine that Giannis thinks his chances will be dwindling so long as that unit remains intact. Additionally, the West is filled with super teams such as the Lakers (LeBron James and Anthony Davis), the Clippers (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George), the Rockets (James Harden and Russell Westbrook), the Jazz (Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert) and the Mavericks (Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis), not to mention the extremely talented rosters in Denver and Oklahoma City.
The East seems to offer less competition, as the Raptors lack superstar power outside of Pascal Siakam, the Celtics are a growing threat but feature a lot of moving parts, the Heat couldn't stay consistent, the Sixers are a confused group, and so on. In my humble opinion, I don't think Giannis should be desperate to skip town for an opportunity to play with the West, as the Bucks' 53-12 record isn't too shabby.
However, if the financial burden that would be required to retain their star becomes an issue for Milwaukee's future, they may not be able to resist an intriguing trade offer. As for how Antetokounmpo would view the possibility of a transaction, the Warriors are an enticing team to land on. As good as the Bucks are right now, Giannis and the rest of the NBA universe are aware that a union of Steph, Klay, Draymond and Giannis might be too good for even LeBron and AD's partnership to overtake.
In order for the Bucks to trade Antetokounmpo, even if it becomes increasingly likely that he'll look elsewhere as a free agent, they'll need a major haul in return. The Warriors look destined to select at or near the top of the draft, regardless of whether the season continues, after an abysmal 2019-20 campaign. This pick, combined with the return of their injured stars, means that Golden State may not be a bad team next year. This would hurt their chances of putting together a package for a star like Antetokounmpo, as their 2021 draft pick could be one in the middle or toward the end of the first round.
The pick that Golden State received in return for D'Angelo Russell will be the real "gold mine," as Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus calls it, in sweetening a deal. It's only top-three protected, and though the T-Wolves may not be a great team, you'd have to think they will be outside the top three given the core of Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. Would the Bucks accept a deal involving two or more first-round picks, a scorer like Andrew Wiggins, and perhaps more if they have to face the reality that Giannis may seek success over financial stability as a free agent?
The thought of the Greek Freak and the Splash Bros teaming up is certainly an intriguing one. But the resumption of the 2020 NBA season, Giannis' confidence in his Bucks, and several other factors keep the rumor as just that -- a rumor -- until anything else bubbles up to the surface.