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