The Miami Heat didn’t get him, and neither did the Toronto Raptors. Like the New York Knicks-Donovan Mitchell saga that ended with the Cavaliers swooping in for the star guard, the Bucks won the Damian Lillard sweepstakes.
It was already a given that Lillard would end up in the Eastern Conference, but Milwaukee wasn’t considered a frontrunner at any point in the past three months.
However, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s comments this summer rightfully put pressure on the Bucks’ front office, so much so that the team chose to part ways with Jrue Holiday. Antetokounmpo wants to remain in a position where he can win championships, and Milwaukee didn’t hesitate to go all-in on Lillard.
What does Damian Lillard trade mean for Knicks-Giannis Antetokounmpo pursuit?
Giannis Antetokounmpo could enter free agency as soon as 2025, but that’s only if he doesn’t exercise his $51.9 million player option for 2025-26. He said in an interview with The New York Times he isn’t going to sign an extension with the Bucks before the 2023-24 season starts, so attention shifted to what he might do next offseason.
If the Bucks couldn’t capitalize on their regular season success once again, it was thought that Antetokounmpo could hit the trade market as soon as next summer. Understandably, that caught the attention of Knicks fans specifically because New York has yet to make its big move for a star.
Anything can happen in the NBA, but the Bucks’ win-now move for Damian Lillard should be more than enough to appease Antetokounmpo, at least for the next two years. Milwaukee was already one of the top teams in the East, and that rings even more true now with its new Big 3 composed of Antetokounmpo/Lillard/Middleton.
Lillard’s current contract runs through the 2025-26 season, with a $63.2 million player option for 2026-27. It’s hard to envision the Bucks not being in a position to win multiple championships led by their new Antetokounmpo-Lillard duo, so for now, at least, the Antetokounmpo rumors have ended.
If it’s any consolation, Knicks fans, the Heat screwed themselves! That’s always something worth celebrating.