Never mind that the Milwaukee Bucks are trading away draft picks in a plea for Giannis Antetokounmpo to stay, they’re also applying pressure to the rest of the Eastern Conference.
A sleepless Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported three trades overnight, two of which were sizable acquisitions for the Bucks, landing former All-Star Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans, and noted sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings. (Robert Covington was also traded to the Portland Trail Blazers for Trevor Ariza and two first-round draft picks. Two!!)
Though the Bucks have stripped away most of their bench, it’s clear that after a season of doing away with ‘Big 3s’, select NBA clubs have returned their focus to three-star led units. This is amid Woj’s other report that James Harden’s eyes are solely on the Brooklyn Nets, so much so that he scoffed at becoming the first $50 million a year player in NBA history. And, of course, it’s also in light of Holiday joining Giannis and fellow All-Star Khris Middleton.
Furthermore, it just so happens that December 21 is the final day that Giannis can sign his super-max extension, which ESPN’s Bobby Marks says will range between $228 and $244 million.
But beyond that, it signals to the rest of the Eastern Conference what Jordan Belfort belted out in his famous Wolf of Wall Street speech: The. Bucks. Are. Not. Fucking. Leaving.
So this offseason, it’s your move Boston, Miami, Toronto, and Philadelphia. And yes, you, too, Brooklyn. Getting a lockdown defender in Holiday was, at least partially, Milwaukee telling Brooklyn that they could care less about 30-foot step-backs and quadruple crossovers. It isn’t like Giannis and Harden are best friends anyway, which, between them and Jimmy Butler, is the Eastern Conference theater we didn’t know we needed.
Looking around the conference, the Celtics and Heat were two of the teams also interested in Holiday’s services, whose contract entitles him to $25.4 million this season, with a player-option of $26.3 million next year — hopefully the first COVID free NBA campaign, too.
In losing the Holiday sweepstakes, every other conference contender will be scouring the NBA landscape to find a player that puts itself over the top. Fresh off an Eastern Conference championship loss, the Celtics still have a $34 million Gordon Hayward expiring contract to dangle, along with some young pieces and draft picks to pair with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart — assuming none of them are moved.
The defending Eastern Conference champion Heat have been linked to a who’s who of possible All-Star or All-Star adjacent athletes, including LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal and Danillo Gallinari, according to Ethan Skolnick of 5 Reasons Sports in Miami. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry is another name that has circulated about the Heat, though dealing him may be dependent on Fred VanVleet’s forthcoming new contract.
VanVleet is expected to be one of the winners of the 2020 offseason and has already been gracious enough to notify us that it’s time for him to get paid. This also means that Lowry could be moved elsewhere, and the Heat’s obvious trade package of Kendrick Nunn, Canadian big man Kelly Olynyk, and (insert draft capital here) is a logical starting point for discussion. The Raptors may also want Duncan Robinson, seeing as how teams are falling all over themselves league-wide to obtain who they want. (Again: Two firsts, for Covington!?!?)
That leaves the Philadelphia 76ers, and between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons still being teammates, Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers coming on board, and nearly $150 million owed to Tobias Harris, where do you begin?
Based on last season, they’re probably better downgraded from contender to wild-card, but they’re also one move away from having us collectively respond with intrigued eyeball emojis. Now, that move could come at the cost of Simmons or Embiid, but even so, the theory all along has been that committing to one over the other is actually better for team building.
So the ball is in the court of everyone else in the East now that Milwaukee has shot first. And sorry Brooklyn, unfortunately for your anticipated next transaction, you only get one ball, too.