So far, most signs point to Giannis Antetokounmpo staying with the Milwaukee Bucks, even after he becomes eligible for free agency in 2021. However, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reportedly said at a recent event that he’s heard rumors that the “Greek Freak” could be on his way out of Milwaukee if the team doesn’t make it to the NBA Finals.
As reported on Friday by Bleacher Report‘s Howard Beck on Twitter, the above comments were made at the 2020 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, where Smith’s ESPN colleague, Jackie MacMullan, asked whether superstar players want to keep playing for small-market teams, naming Antetokounmpo as the “litmus test.”
“I’m told if he doesn’t get to the Finals, he’s leaving. I don’t know if that’s true or not,” Smith responded, as quoted by Beck.
For the most part, Antetokounmpo has chosen to remain silent about his future plans, which have frequently been speculated on despite the fact he is still in the third season of a four-year contract. According to Bleacher Report, the 2018-19 NBA MVP said in December that he feels it is “disrespectful” toward his teammates to comment on his upcoming free agency, adding that he will only do so when the “time is right.”
Last month, Antetokounmpo’s agent, Alex Saratsis, stressed that despite the looming possibility his client may want to play elsewhere in the future, staying in Milwaukee is “absolutely a viable option.” This was soon followed by a report citing several unnamed NBA executives, who all predicted that the four-time All-Star will choose to remain with the Bucks during the 2021 free agency period. However, Smith’s speculation about Antetokounmpo seems to back up a May 2019 report from ESPN’s Malika Andrews that offered a similar assessment of the situation.
Giannis Antetokounmpo in his BAG ????
41 PTS | 20 REB | 6 AST pic.twitter.com/PNLbmz1DF4
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 1, 2020
Per quotes published by Bleacher Report, Andrews wrote that making this year’s Finals could “tip the scales” when it comes to the superstar forward’s odds of staying in Milwaukee and possibly signing a “supermax” contract extension, which he becomes eligible for on July 1.
Despite a 113-103 loss to the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, the Bucks remain comfortably on top of the Eastern Conference, with their 53-10 record putting them 8.5 games ahead of the second-seeded Toronto Raptors. And much of this is thanks to Antetokounmpo, who is once again posting MVP-caliber numbers for the team. Per Basketball-Reference, the 6-foot-11-inch forward is averaging a team-leading 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game, while also shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from three-point range.