Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo could earn a super-max extension

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 22: Giannis Antetokounmpo
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 22: Giannis Antetokounmpo /

While many already talk about the prospect of Giannis Antetokounmpo hitting free agency in 2021, top-level play could mean he’d sign an extension with the Milwaukee Bucks before that date arrives.

James Harden has made headlines around the NBA by extending his current deal with the Houston Rockets and signing the richest contract the NBA has ever seen. While Harden’s $228 million over the next six years is currently unprecedented, it’s something that will become common place for some of the league’s very best in the coming years.

On Thursday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was speaking about Gordon Hayward’s free agency decision when he referred to another small market superstar in a way which sent a chill down every Milwaukee Bucks fan’s back.

"“Milwaukee’s going to go through this with the Greek Freak. That day’s coming, right? Where he’s going to look and say, ‘Where is this organization? What are they doing here?’ Like, you don’t think Giannis has been watching what went on there for the last several months? Of what they allowed to go on with the front office? He’s watching it. And the clock has started. Everybody in the league is trying to figure out how they are going to get him out of there. That has started.”"

Wojnarowski went a step further, noting the Utah Jazz got it all right and Hayward still left. So how on earth will Milwaukee, with all the ownership and front office drama of recent months, be able to go one step further and re-sign their superstar?

Giannis may have cooled things down in the time since situation with an All-Star caliber tweet, but things can change over time, and as such the question still stands.

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What do the Bucks need to do differently to Utah? Well, quite simply, there is one key difference between the two situations which heavily favours Milwaukee. That is the veteran Designated Player Exception (DPE) that was introduced in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement..

So what exactly is the DPE? Well in the latest CBA, the NBA introduced a new player contract which is set to revolutionize how the league’s very best players get paid on their third contracts, while also helping smaller markets to retain their stars.

David Aldridge of explained the conditions of eligibility for the veteran DPE or super-max:

"“The veteran DPE can be used either to give a player an extension or to re-sign him as a free agent. Players have to have been drafted by their current teams to be eligible for the extension or for the team to use the DPE to re-sign them as free agents.The criteria for a veteran DPE are similar to those for players on their rookie deals — the player has to have been league MVP (or, in the veterans’ case, Defensive Player of the Year) or made one of the three All-NBA teams the previous season, or been All-NBA/DPOY in two of the previous three seasons, or league MVP once in the previous three seasons.”"

This means that a team can sign their superstar to a DPE and pay him 35 percent of the Salary Cap over five years, as opposed to the 30 percent over four years that other teams can offer.

The GSW became the first team in the NBA to use this option this offseason, signing their two time MVP Steph Curry to a five-year $201M deal. Using this years’ cap as an example, the most an opposing team could have signed him to would have been a four-year $130M deal. That right there is a significant difference in financial security and one which Curry took advantage of.

Harden has now followed suit, and it has been widely rumored that Russell Westbrook could be next to follow that lead.

Fast forward to the offseason of 2020 and Giannis will be eligible for an extension. By that stage, it would be a disappointment if Giannis is not in MVP contention. Having already made his way into the All-NBA team last season, the chances of repeat performances in the coming seasons would seem incredibly likely. As an elite defender, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Giannis could someday be named Defensive Player of the Year either.

In other words, Antetokounmpo has plenty of avenues for how he could be eligible to receive the DPE, therefore allowing the Bucks the chance to lock him up for a further five seasons.

If Giannis remains a Buck heading into his third NBA contract, he can not only continue to build his case of becoming the greatest Milwaukee player of all time, but he will also be signing the absolute richest and longest deal available to him. Considering he took a discount on his second contract and may be looking to make up for it in the future, that isn’t an insignificant detail.

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Perhaps Giannis’ loyalty means Bucks fans will look back on this in time and say his future with the team should never have been a concern, but even for those with genuine worries over his next deal, remember that the Bucks will be able to make a Godfather offer regardless of dysfunctions off the court.