What do Raptors do if Giannis Antetokounmpo is unavailable in 2021?


Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts after dunking. (Aaron Gash/AP Photo)

If you find yourself bored and in need of some quick amusement, do yourself a favour and open up Twitter and search for “giannis raptors”.

What you’ll find there is a treasure trove of endless memes and discussion relating to the possibility of Milwaukee Bucks forward and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokoummpo coming to the Toronto Raptors when he hits free agency in the summer of 2021.

The “propaganda,” as many like to call it, has been mostly fuelled by the Raptors’ insatiable fanbase and blogosphere still riding high after a championship run last year.

Additionally, the notion of Antetokounmpo coming to Toronto aligns well with a couple of convenient factoids – such as Toronto’s vibrant Greek community and the connection between Antetokounmpo and Raptors president Masai Ujiri.

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With “evidence” like this, in addition to all the fun Raptors Twitter appears to have with the idea, it’s hard not to spin yourself into a tizzy and actually convince yourself Antetokounmpo is Toronto-bound next summer.

But here’s a question to consider: What if he isn’t even a free agent next summer?

According to reports from ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and longtime NBA scribe Sean Deveney, Antetokounmpo is far more likely to stay in Milwaukee than test the free-agency waters.

According to what one NBA general manager told Deveney, “it’s hard to imagine [Anteotokounmpo] leaving the situation he is in. It’s a longshot he leaves. They’ve been very confident all along that he will want to stay in Milwaukee. They’ve never acted like a team that was panicking to make things happen.”

To this point, the Bucks are poised to earn the best record in the league for the second straight year with Antetokounmpo likely to repeat as MVP. The team has a realistic goal of 70 wins in their sights, as good a chance as any team to win a title this spring, and a window that seems to extend for many years to come.

This is why there appears to be so much confidence from Milwaukee that Antetokounmpo isn’t going anywhere. There’s even an expectation he could sign a five-year, $250-million super-max extension sometime in the forthcoming off-season, meaning he won’t reach free agency at all.

Which then brings us back to the initial question: What do the Raptors do if Antetokounmpo isn’t available in the free-agent market come 2021?

With almost assuredly one or two max slots open on their books that summer — a lot, actually.

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Here’s a quick look at the potential 2021 free-agent class, sans Antetokounmpo:

LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo, Jrue Holiday, Rudy Gobert, CJ McCollum, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin.

Keep in mind: These are just the players who are either set to become unrestricted free agents in 2021 or have a player option for 2021–22, and doesn’t include guys who are restricted free agents, such as Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum. Neither does this list include guys who have player options for next season – such as DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond.

Like, for example, would any Toronto supporter feel bad with a backcourt combo of Fred VanVleet and Beal or Oladipo or Holiday? Or what about a defensively decimating front-court duo of Pascal Siakam and Gobert?

No matter how you slice it, that’s still a fair amount of talent that could be available on the open market, even with the reigning MVP’s name removed from the list.

Granted, the same can be said of all of these names that can be said of Antetokounmpo: There’s absolutely no guarantee that any of them will a) leave their current situations, or b) sign with Toronto.

But, if you’re a Raptors fan, that’s not nearly as much fun to think about.

Unfortunately for fans – and the “propaganda” as a whole – fun theories often don’t match reality.

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