The Milwaukee Bucks have been trending in the right direction over the past few seasons. They went from missing the playoffs entirely after the 2015-16 season to making it into the first round in consecutive seasons to pushing all the way to the Eastern Conference finals last season.
Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has obviously played a major role in Milwaukee's rapid rise, and he wants to see the organization continue to build on its recent success. As long as the Bucks are able to do that, the decision that Antetokounmpo will face when he hits unrestricted free agency in 2021 will be an easy one: He'll remain in Milwaukee. However, if things go the other way, and the team's play plateaus, he says the decision will become much harder.
"I want the Bucks to build a winning culture," Antetokounmpo said earlier this year in an interview with Anita Elberse, a Harvard Business School professor, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "So far, we have been doing great, and, if this lasts, there's no other place I want to be. But if we're underperforming in the NBA next year, deciding whether to sign becomes a lot more difficult."
Antetokounmpo has previously expressed a desire to remain with the Bucks for the entirety of his career as long as both sides remain focused on winning titles.
"My goal is going to stay the same: It's get better, take it day by day, step by step, and the ultimate goal is to win a championship,". "As long as that we are all on the same page and we are all focused on that goal, why not play for the Bucks 20 years? Why not play 25 years? Why not, after playing, be a member of the coaching staff or a member of the front office? But we got to have the same goal. We got to have the same principles. ... We got to focus on winning a championship.
"I want to be a part of a winning team. As long as we have the same mindset and same approach to the game, there's no reason for me to move and not be like Steph [Curry], not be like Dirk [Nowitzki] or Kobe [Bryant] or Tim Duncan."
As one of the best players in the league, Antetokounmpo is well aware of the power that he wields in today's NBA, and he is obviously unafraid to use it when it comes to bettering his chances of winning a championship.
"It's insane," Antetokounmpo said of the movement of star players in the league. "Like people ask for a trade and a trade happens. Players ask for a trade, 'I want to get traded there,' and players go there. It's insane. A lot of star players have a lot of power right now. This is the league we live in. I think it's good to control your own destiny and your own career."
The honeymoon phase is over, as the Bucks are clearly on the clock when it comes to convincing Antetokounmpo that he should remain in Milwaukee long-term. In consecutive summers, the Eastern Conference lost LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, which left an opening at the top of the conference. Thus, the Bucks have an excellent opportunity to capitalize and make their first Finals appearance since 1974. If they are unable to do so this season or next, Antetokounmpo could be looking for a new NBA home in 2021.