Did the Warriors' free-agent pipe dream inch slightly closer to reality?
The Milwaukee Bucks reportedly fear that's the case.
The Bucks worry that their botched sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has since joined the Atlanta Hawks, will inhibit their ability to prevent two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo from leaving in free agency, Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported in a lengthy feature story published earlier this week.
"[There] has since been a categorical step back in the Bucks' confidence in getting a long-term commitment from their superstar, even if Antetokounmpo ultimately accepts the franchise's offer of a five-year, $228 million super-max extension," Fischer reported.
Antetokounmpo has until Dec. 21, a day before the regular season, to sign a contract extension with the Bucks. He otherwise can become a free agent next summer, and the Warriors are expected to be among his suitors. There will be no shortage, of course, considering Antetokounmpo's unquestioned status among -- at worst -- the top three players in the NBA.
The Warriors will need to clear significant salary-cap space in order to acquire Antetokounmpo, whether through a sign-and-trade or signing him outright as a free agent next summer. Golden State couldn't exceed the luxury tax apron if the former route is pursued, and the Warriors, as it stands right now, wouldn't have enough salary-cap space to sign him if choosing the latter. The Warriors already have over $156 million committed against the cap, according to Spotrac.
The summer of 2021 will not be the summer of 2016. There won't be a salary-cap spike, and Steph Curry isn't signed below market value. The Warriors can't follow the same blueprint they laid out in landing Kevin Durant, and acquiring Antetokounmpo will acquire significantly more maneuvering.
Players like Antetokounmpo don't become available often, and teams will do whatever they can in order to retain and acquire such superstars. That's why the Bucks tried to trade for Bogdanovic as well as why they moved heaven and earth to get Jrue Holiday, and their failure is what could enable a team like the Warriors to pitch why they're the best fit for Antetokounmpo.
But a lot must still happen before Golden State's dream can truly become a possibility, much less a reality.