Giannis Antetokounmpo created major news recently, news that could potentially impact the Knicks.
The Greek Freak told the New York Times he wasn’t going to sign a contract extension with the Bucks this fall, and may not do so unless he is certain Milwaukee is on board with fully committing itself to winning championships.
“Next summer it would make more sense for both parties. Even then, I don’t know,” Antetokounmpo said. “I would not be the best version of myself if I don’t know that everybody’s on the same page, everybody’s going for a championship, everybody’s going to sacrifice time away from their family like I do. And if I don’t feel that, I’m not signing.”
With two seasons left on a five-year contract, Antetokounmpo could hit the open market in the summer of 2025. The Knicks have been long reported as a suitor if that ever happens.
But a number of dominoes would have to fall before the two-time MVP and seven-time All-Star opts to leave the team that drafted and developed him.
The Bucks seem committed at the moment to doing whatever it takes to keep him, bringing back linchpins Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez this summer for a combined $150 million in contracts after their stunning opening-round playoff loss to the Heat.
But Milwaukee is aging, its window to winning another title shrinking. That could help the Knicks, who are young and on the upswing. Particularly if they keep winning over the next year or two. Then there is the matter of the Bucks’ new coach, Adrian Griffin, who has never been a head coach before and will face immense pressure in his first season.
Most importantly in this developing saga is, of course, results. While Antetokounmpo has stated that spending his entire career with one team is a goal of his, winning would trump that. He said “the best feeling” was winning a title in 2021.
If the Bucks win a championship next year, or at least get close, maybe that impacts Antetokounmpo. If they struggle, that would obviously be a factor. So much is up in the air at the moment. The Knicks will clearly be watching the situation unfold closely.
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Training camps are about a month away, so let’s answer a few questions about some issues that could shape the season ahead.
In past coaching stops, Tom Thibodeau has seemed to grate on his teams after a few seasons to the point that they tune him out. Is that a risk with this team?
No, I don’t believe it is.
One major reason: Jalen Brunson.
Brunson is the Knicks’ leader. He is their engine. He is also incredibly close with Thibodeau, who he has known since he was a kid. When a team’s best player is aligned with the coach, it prevents the fracturing of a locker room.
Another factor is the composition of the roster. The Knicks have jettisoned players who don’t fit with Thibodeau, from Obi Toppin to Cam Reddish, and Evan Fournier is expected to be moved at some point soon. They have added players, such as Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo, who have well-rounded and extra-effort skill sets that mesh with Thibodeau’s coaching style.
We’ve also seen Thibodeau adapting in terms of playing the franchise’s young players major minutes, and installing a faster tempo on occasion. Three years in, there are no signs the coach is losing this locker room, particularly after he led the Knicks to their best season in a decade.
Between the young duo of Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes, which player is more likely to develop into a star next year?
Quickley. He was one of the premier bench players in the sport, finishing second in Sixth Man of the Year voting to Malcolm Brogdon of the Celtics. He posted career-highs in points (14.9), rebounds (4.2), steals (1.0) and field-goal percentage (44.8). He led the Knicks regulars in defensive rating (108.7) and produced a plus-6.2 NET rating, meaning the Knicks outscored the opposition by 6.2 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor. Factor in that Quickley could be playing for a contract if he doesn’t come to terms with the Knicks on a rookie-scale extension, and there is ample motivation for the former Kentucky star.
There is no reason Quickley shouldn’t continue to improve after a breakout season — I could see the Knicks using him more alongside Brunson after the two produced a plus-8.5 NET rating in 973 minutes together — while Grimes could see his role limited with the addition of DiVincenzo.
What is the next step to become the kind of team that can win more than one playoff series?
The Knicks are not a realistic title contender as currently constituted, but they absolutely are capable of winning multiple rounds in the postseason.
Last year, they took the Heat to six games, and that was with a hobbled Julius Randle and Quickley missing the last three games of the series with a sprained ankle. With better health, the Knicks may win that series.
Still, there is a hole on the roster, in terms of a wing with size that can stretch the floor. That is an area of need the Knicks need to fill to take the next step. But this is a franchise that already has taken a big step, having reached the playoffs two of the last three years, and it is a young roster with upside. Not a single rotation player is 30 years of age. The oldest is Randle, who is only 28.
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