Toronto Raptors: How realistic is the Giannis Antetokounmpo trade talk?

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks versus the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks versus the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

There has been recent speculation that the Toronto Raptors will attempt to trade for Giannis Antetokounmpo whenever the 2019-20 season is completed, but how likely is it to come to fruition?

More than Vince Carter and definitely more than Chris Bosh, Kawhi Leonard helped the Toronto Raptors understand what it was like to have a genuine, game-changing superstar on your roster. After Leonard helped them win their first ever NBA Championship and then left, the team would love to have another similar player on board.

As much as Pascal Siakam appears to be the real deal, it is still unclear if his career trajectory will see him ascend to become a consistently dominant alpha dog. As such, the Raptors are continually considering ways to find another superstar to join the team.

The question is, could this quest see Toronto make an admittedly ambitious attempt to entice Giannis Antetokounmpo to join them in Southern Ontario? One person who thinks it’s at least possible, is Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix:

"‘Outlandish prediction: Giannis Antetokounmpo rejects a contract extension from Milwaukee this summer, is traded to Toronto and the Raptors—backstopped by Giannis and Pascal Siakam—win the 2021 NBA championship. Masai Ujiri strikes again.’"

Understandably, a lot of people will point to the fact Mannix himself wrote that this was an outlandish prediction. However, this relates to such a move coming to fruition, rather than any actual attempt to trade for Antetokounmpo.

Certainly, you could understand why the Raptors would want the 2019 NBA MVP on their team. He continues to improve and was actually playing ever better than last season, prior to the 2019-20 campaign being suspended.

The Raptors have been extremely impressive since winning the first NBA Championship in franchise history, especially when you consider the never-ending stream of injuries they’ve had to endure. Regardless, they could still stand to further improve their roster, which is where Antetokounmpo would come in.

This leads us to ask how Toronto would actually go about persuading the four-time All-Star to join them? After all, the Milwaukee Bucks will not willingly trade their franchise player unless their hand is forced.

In this respect, it is worth noting Antetokounmpo has two years left on his contract whenever the 2019-20 season is completed. However, the Bucks won’t be waiting until towards the end of his current deal to start negotiating an extension.

As per a report from ESPN‘s Tim Bontemps prior to the season, the Bucks intended to offer the 25-year-old a supermax extension on June 30, 2020. Even allowing for the date being pushed back to allow the current campaign to completed, you imagine Milwaukee’s intent will remain the same.

We know that nobody else will be able to offer as much as the Bucks. So what would cause Antetokounmpo to reject such a deal?

The main reason would be if the 2013 15th overall draft pick doesn’t truly believe Milwaukee presents the best chance for him to win a championship. As much as they are currently the best regular season team in the NBA, will this success be replicated in the playoffs?

Even if Antetokounmpo does decide he is better off elsewhere, can the Raptors then put together a package which the Bucks will be prepared to accept? In addition, Ujiri and company would have to balance this with not giving up too much; no matter how good the player is who they would be getting, you still have to put a strong team around him.

The overall strength of the roster is actually another factor the Toronto Raptors have to consider in all of this. While they should be in a position to offer the maximum allowed by other teams, part of the reason for this is their own payroll situation.

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Whenever the currently suspended campaign concludes, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be unrestricted free agents. All have done their part in helping the Raptors enjoy an impressive encore following their championship win last season.

However, it stands to reason that Toronto will not be able to offer them all deals which they will accept. For example, Gasol’s and Ibaka’s salaries for this season are just under $25.6 million and $23.3 million respectively.

The team can’t afford to be too generous with their offers, if they are to have enough payroll left over for Antetokounmpo. Even talk of MLSE being able to afford to go into luxury tax territory may not be feasible, depending on how much of a hit they have taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Again, the Raptors have to perform a delicate balancing act between offering the Athens, Greece native the money he wants, deciding what package they can offer to the Bucks and having a good enough roster around him. Along these lines, you also have to consider that Kyle Lowry could leave once his current contract concludes at the end of next season.

Ultimately, we don’t believe that Antetokounmpo is likely to end up being traded to the Toronto Raptors. For what it’s worth though, a lot of people thought exactly the same when speculation first emerged about the team contacting the San Antonio Spurs about Leonard…

Next. What is the Raptors' playoff ceiling without Kawhi?. dark

What do you make of the prediction by Sports Illustrated? How realistic is it to expect, Antetokounmpo to be traded to the Toronto Raptors? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.