Woah. Did you feel that? Of course, you did because that was the earthquake that hit the NBA offseason. The Bucks shocked the world by acquiring Damian Lillard in a three-team trade, giving them a future Hall of Famer to pair with megastar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
This trade is even more surprising than when the Cleveland Cavaliers leapfrogged the New York Knicks by trading for Donovan Mitchell.
Speaking of the Knicks, many fans, and reportedly even the front office, have had their eyes on the Giannis situation recently. Antetokounmpo said he needed to be able to win if he were to stay in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. It is a foregone conclusion that he can continue to do so now that Lillard is there.
So, does that mean that the Knicks won’t be able to get Giannis at some point in the next few years? Some may say that this trade hurts the team’s championship hopes for the future. In my opinion, no.
In fact, I am here to argue that New York’s chances may have even improved. The Damian Lillard trade could have just set up the exact situation that the Knicks already would’ve benefitted most from, and that’s Giannis hitting free agency.
Will Giannis Antetokounmpo become a free agent in 2025 and join the Knicks?
By many measures, NBA free agency is dead. Or, at least, it is when it comes to All-Star players. We have seen it time and time again over the last several years where a star asks out because they aren’t interested in waiting for their contract to end to switch teams. Lillard just succeeded in asking out, and Giannis sounded like he was on the verge of attempting that himself.
But now that he has Lillard, you can bet Giannis won’t be asking for a trade and that the Bucks won’t be looking to deal him. Neither scenario will happen for at least another year, and it would take this experiment to go extremely poorly fast for that to be possible. So, there is reason to believe Giannis will play out his contract while trying to win a ring for the next two seasons.
Antetokounmpo can hit free agency at the end of the 2024-25 season, and Lillard can at the end of 2025-26. Lillard has a player option for 2026-27, but at almost 36 years old, I doubt he’ll turn down the $63.3 million he’d be owed by opting in. This means his deal will expire as long as he isn’t extended beyond then.
The same goes for Giannis, as I think he won’t opt into his 2025-26 player option since his next long-term contract will probably be his last chance to lock himself into max money.
Since Giannis will be 30 years old in the 2025 offseason, it will be more critical than ever in his career to make a wise decision about who he will spend the second half of his prime playing with and for.
Even if he and Lillard bring a title to Milwaukee, will Giannis be willing to bet on Lillard to compete at a championship level with him? Would he commit contractually to staying long-term or join a different franchise?
Many teams will be in the promising situation of winning a championship by adding The Greek Freak. The Knicks are currently on such a trajectory. Giannis and Dame can have their fun over the next two years, but let’s not lose hope that beyond that, we won’t see the two-time MVP bring his talents to New York.
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