Although it appears that Giannis Antetokounmpo is intent on staying with the Milwaukee Bucks once he becomes eligible to enter free agency in the summer of 2021, a number of teams are expected to make a move for the 2019 NBA MVP by that time. The defending champion Toronto Raptors might be among those suitors, and, as a new report suggests, they may already be planning for the potential acquisition.
On ESPN’s recent Woj & Lowe: Trade Season Special, co-host Adrian Wojnarowski hinted that the Raptors are among the teams that are expected to show interest in signing Antetokounmpo as a free agent in 2021. As quoted by RealGM, this could mean avoiding any moves that would substantially eat into their salary-cap space.
“I think for Toronto, they look at this season and then they look at the summer of 2021, when like a lot of teams, they want to be in the sweepstakes for Giannis Antetokounmpo. You’re not going to see them do anything here that’s going to compromise their salary cap flexibility for the following year.”
At the moment, Toronto has a number of key veterans who would become eligible for free agency within the next two years who would free up cap space for Antetokounmpo if they aren’t re-signed. These include big men Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka — whose contracts will be up in the summer of 2020 — and point guard Kyle Lowry, who is expected to be part of the free-agent class of 2021 due to the one-year contract extension he signed earlier this year. The Raptors, however, are reportedly expected to re-sign up-and-coming young guard Fred VanVleet during the 2020 offseason.
Giannis Antetokounmpo now has 14 games of at least 30 PTS and 10 REB in 25 games played. In the past 45 seasons, the only other player with that many 30-point, 10-rebound games in his first 25 games of a season was Moses Malone, with 14 in 1980-81. @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/tQEZi3VN9a
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) December 14, 2019
This isn’t the first time the Raptors have been mentioned as a team that could pursue Antetokounmpo during the 2021 free agency period. In October, The Athletic‘s John Hollinger said that Toronto could be among the “chief pursuers” of the athletic, 6-foot-11-inch forward if he chooses to test the free-agent market two years from now. Like Wojnarowski, Hollinger was also cited as saying that the team would most probably avoid making any moves that would prevent them from affording a maximum-contract player like the “Greek Freak.”
Aside from the Raptors, a few other organizations have been brought up as possible destinations for Antetokounmpo in the event he chooses to leave Milwaukee. Before the start of the 2019-20 season, a report from Forbes speculated that the 25-year-old Bucks superstar could be the Los Angeles Lakers’ most ideal target in the summer of 2021, especially if LeBron James chooses not to re-sign with the team once his contract is up.