Giannis Antetokounmpo will contractually be at a crossroads after next season but it may be in Milwaukee's best interest to expedite the breakup sooner if it feels inevitable. The Greek Freak could help the franchise get a significant haul as opposed to nothing for the current MVP if he decides his long-term future isn't on shores of Lake Michigan and is honest about it. That is to say: the big, NBA-bending event may not take place for months but that doesn't mean there aren't precipitating events happening furiously right now that will dictate what the ultimate shape of his career looks like.
So travel with me a bit down a hypothetical road in which tonight could serve as the defining moment in Antetokounmpo's future home. Down 3-0 to the Miami Heat, Giannis' teammates were able to grit their teeth in Game 4 to stave off elimination with Antetokounmpo out with an injury. His prospects for Game 5 are similarly uncertain and he is currently expected to be a game-time decision. Absent significant improvement from a few days ago, he won't look like a reasonable facsimile of himself.
Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, George Hill, Eric Bledsoe and any combination of Bucks role players will be tasked with cooling off the red-hot Heat yet again. A tall task, to be sure. Lose and the Giannis rumors get hotter, Coach Bud's seat perhaps un-sittable, and the Wisconsin gloom even thicker. Win and, don't look know, but all the momentum shifts back to the No. 1 seed. If Giannis is healthy enough to make it back for Game 6 and Game 7, do you really feel comfortable betting against him?
Winning this series would be a monumental achievement. It would also keep championship hopes alive as Toronto and Boston seem to have their own flaws and Milwaukee did have the best record this year. Reaching the finals would surely go a long way into proving the Bucks are a few ancillary pieces away from where they want to be.
I know, I know. It is overwhelmingly likely that Miami finishes things off. Either tonight or in the next two opportunities. And avoiding a gentleman's sweep does not in itself make for a strong case in wooing a generational in-house talent looking for rings. By that thinking, though, you could say tonight will not doom Milwaukee in its endeavors to keep Giannis long-term. But it could help the team immensely by opening up the door for the future.
The franchise's hopes and dreams rest immediately on what will probably be a Giannis-free roster. A crucial 48 minute audition in desperate hopes of getting future callbacks. One on hand, it's extremely not ideal. On the other, what an opportunity to rewrite unwritten history.