The Clippers Won't Be Landing Giannis Antetokounmpo Any Time Soon
A story surfaced on Wednesday claiming the Los Angeles Clippers are planning on pursuing a deal for Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Let's just get this out of the way now: Antetokounmpo will not be playing for the Clippers any time soon.
That rumor began circulating after The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor dropped the following line in a column:
"The truth is that Giannis can choose from all 30 teams, because every one would move whatever salaries necessary to create the cap space for him. Or, as Jimmy Butler’s move to Miami last summer showed, a sign-and-trade can be worked out. Take the Clippers, for example: Multiple league sources have recently said the Clippers plan to pursue a deal for Giannis. One of the sources said Giannis has an “admiration” for Clippers head coach Doc Rivers."
First off, I'm fairly certain 95 percent of the league admires Doc Rivers. That said, this feels like a fever dream for the Clippers. With Paul George and Kawhi Leonard making roughly $70 million combined next season, it would be nearly impossible to fit Giannis into their plans. Additionally, the Clippers emptied their asset cupboards to land George from Oklahoma City last summer, so they don't have a wealth of young players or picks to offer in exchange. The Bucks have absolutely no reason to do a deal with LA.
If the Clippers are aiming at 2021 when Antetokounmpo will be a free agent, that could make some sense, but only if Leonard and George opt out and leave money on the table. George holds a player option for the 2021-22 season for $37.895 million that he will almost certainly pick up. Meanwhile, Leonard will be due $36 million with his own player option, and he could opt out to score a long-term deal. But if Leonard opts out, the Clippers would either lose him or have an exceptionally difficult time giving a max contract to Antetokounmpo and Leonard while also having to pay George nearly $38 million.
Let's be real here, George isn't going anywhere because no one will give him the kind of money the Clippers are obligated to right now. And if LA loses Leonard to pick up Giannis, what was the point? The two guys the Clippers would want sharing the court are Kawhi and Giannis, not George and one of the other two.
The main issue here is that the Clippers went all-in to win now by trading for George. They gave up five first-round picks and the rights to swap two other first-rounders, plus Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, their only real attractive young talent. Ivica Zubac is 23 and decent, but no one is surrendering an All-Star caliber-player for him. Landry Shamet is in the same realm of good to pretty good, but not nearly good enough to be a centerpiece in a trade for an MVP.
I get that Rivers and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer want to be aggressive in pursuing the league's top stars. They've already shown their willingness to do so. But the timing just doesn't work out with Antetokounmpo. They're likely stuck with the George-Leonard pairing for a while.