Knicks will keep tabs on the Giannis Antetokounmpo situation, and could make moves with him in mind

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Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

If you’ve listened to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s recent interviews, you aren’t placing any futures bets on Antetokounmpo finishing his career in Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo has made it clear lately that he wants to win another NBA title – whether it’s in Milwaukee or another NBA city.

“I’m a Milwaukee Buck. But most importantly, I’m a winner. I want to win,” Antetokounmpo said earlier this month on the 48 Minutes podcast. “And I have to do whatever it takes for me to win. And if there’s a better situation for me to win the Larry O’Brien, I have to take that better situation.”

In an interview with the New York Times published late last month, Antetokounmpo addressed his 2025 free agency.

“I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do,” Antetokounmpo said of the Bucks. “And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing (as a free agent).”

Antetokounmpo has a player option for the 2025-26 season. He is eligible for an extension this season. The two-time MVP said publicly that he will not sign the extension at this time. If Antetokounmpo goes into the 2024-25 season as a pending free agent, the Bucks will be in an uncomfortable position: Do they trade Antetokounmpo or risk losing him for nothing in free agency?

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Unless they get a long-term commitment from Antetokounmpo, you’d think that Milwaukee will at least consider trading its homegrown star in 2024-25.

Teams have been keeping an eye on this situation for some time, as SNY reported in June.

Any team with eyes on Antetokounmpo now has to walk a relatively tight rope; it has to hold on to enough assets (players, draft picks) to put together a strong offer at some point before the summer of 2025. That might mean eschewing other advantageous trade opportunities over the next two seasons.

It’s clearly a risky approach.

Nov 30, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) dribbles against Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half at Madison Square Garden.
Nov 30, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) dribbles against Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, dozens of teams will make gargantuan offers to Milwaukee if Antetokounmpo is made available.

The Knicks could put together a solid trade offer for Giannis.

They own the rights to four future *first-round picks and have all of their own first-rounders moving forward. They have players signed to reasonable contracts. Can they put together the best combination of players and picks? No. Oklahoma City and Houston can easily top any New York offer.

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Milwaukee, to a degree, can control where Antetokounmpo lands via trade.

But if you’re talking about Giannis, you also have to factor in his future. You aren’t trading for him if you don’t think you have a chance to sign him. Would Giannis re-sign with Oklahoma City or Houston? What about Utah? I have no idea if he would or wouldn’t. But if I worked for a sports book and they asked me today to put together a futures bet on Giannis’ next team, Toronto, Miami and New York would be on my list. (Obviously, a Damian Lillard trade would change the calculus for the Heat.)

I also wouldn’t rule out Giannis staying in Milwaukee. The Bucks have shown in the past that they are willing to make a big move to remain in title contention (ex: Jrue Holiday trade). They can do the same thing this time around. Extending Holiday seems like a big step in that process. Milwaukee could also trade for other strong complementary pieces, giving Antetokounmpo what he wants – the best chance to win the title.

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If that doesn’t come to fruition – and Giannis is on the table – all hell will break loose in the NBA.

I assume the Knicks have a good idea of where they stand if Antetokounmpo becomes available via trade. Are they willing to hold off on any significant trades this season or in the 2024 offseason while they wait for Giannis? That approach doesn’t always end well around here. Just look at the Knicks’ 2019 offseason.

If I had to guess, I’d assume that team president Leon Rose & Co. will make moves with Giannis in mind. But I don’t think the Knicks will take a “Giannis or bust” approach over the next 18 months. Right or wrong, Rose’s Knicks have shown in the past that they aren’t married to the idea of acquiring any one player (see the Donovan Mitchell trade talks).

So I think that New York – along with 28 other teams – will keep tabs on Giannis over the next 12-to-18 months. But I think they’ll also pursue any other opportunity that comes along – even if it means weakening a potential trade offer for Antetokounmpo.

*A Giannis trade will impact the Knicks even if The Freak doesn’t land in New York. The Knicks own the rights to Milwaukee’s 2025 first-round pick if it falls outside of the draft’s top four spots. If the pick is within the top four, it goes to New Orleans.

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