What does the future hold for the Milwaukee Bucks? This seems to be the question everyone is asking following Giannis Antetokounmpo's ominous comments on a potential new contract with the team this offseason.
Arguably the best basketball player in the world, Giannis has spent his entire ten-year career with the Bucks. While being with one organization until he is ready to retire is something the two-time MVP has talked about previously, Antetokounmpo has shifted the focus to his immediate future in Milwaukee.
Giannis has not been afraid to voice his intentions this summer, stating that winning is all that matters and Antetokounmpo's only focus is to win more championships. As far as a possible extension with the team goes, he made it clear that if everyone within the organization is not on the same page, he will not be signing a new contract.
The Bucks remain confident that their star player is not going anywhere anytime soon, as All-Star forward Khris Middleton recently weighed in on the situation at hand. Speaking with ESPN in a phone interview, Middleton made it clear that the team needs Giannis and that Antetokounmpo's comments this offseason are just part of the business that is the NBA.
“I think it's kind of business as usual either way,” Middleton stated, via ESPN's Tim Bontemps. “It doesn't affect me personally. I don't think it affects us as a team. I think this is something he said almost every year he's come up in contract extension talks.”
Entering the 2023-24 season, Antetokounmpo is still under contract for two more seasons before having to make a decision on a $51.9 million player option for the 2025-26 season. Coming to terms on a new contract is a major part of every single offseason and with Giannis being eligible for an extension, it is not too shocking to see the team and player having different views on a potential deal.
“We always want him back for sure. Let's be for sure and let everyone know that. We want this guy to come back because he's one of the best players in the world,” Middleton continued. “He's one of the best players in franchise history. So when he says things like that, I think he just wants to challenge the team, the organization, to keep putting us in position to win championships… He's not just pointing a finger at everybody else saying, ‘You guys have to do this for me.' I think he's putting that pressure on himself to be better, to come in and be great every year.
“So there's no pressure on, there's no added pressure when he says that to us as a team, or me as a person, that I have to be better.”
The Bucks finished the 2022-23 season with a 58-24 record, the best in the NBA. However, they went on to lose in five games to the Miami Heat in the first-round of the playoffs. With frustrations mounting and both Brook Lopez and Middleton being free agents this offseason, it is clear to see why there are question marks surrounding this organization's future.
Ultimately, the team decided to bring back their two core pieces in Lopez and Middleton, but they did replace Mike Budenholzer on the sideline with first-time head coach Adrian Griffin. Giannis wants to see how everything plays out this season before locking himself in on a new deal for the foreseeable future.
Nobody, including Middleton, can really blame him for this mindset.
Milwaukee is, and has been, a top-tier organization in the Eastern Conference through the years. They know Antetokounmpo is going to make the most of his upcoming contract situation, which is why there is no sense of panic around this franchise heading into the 2023-24 season.