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Report: Bucks tell Giannis Antetokounmpo they’re willing to pay luxury tax

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo with Bucks co-owners Marc Lasry, Jamie Dinan, Wes Edens and Mike Fascitelli 

Sep 24, 2018; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) poses for a photo with Bucks co-owners (from left) Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan and Wes Edens and Mike Fascitelli during Milwaukee Bucks media day at the Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA T

The Bucks entered this season under IMMENSE pressure.

They were good enough and better prepared to win a championship. Giannis Antetokounmpo was approaching his super-max decision. His supporting cast was aging.

Yet, Milwaukee didn’t even pay the luxury tax to build the best possible team.

That looks especially suspect after the Bucks’ second-round flameout against the Heat.

So, in perhaps a last-ditch effort, Milwaukee is scrambling to impress Antetokounmpo. After preaching chemistry and continuity, refusing to trade players like Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks are now talking about spending more.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The Bucks are committed to building and sustaining a championship roster around Antetokounmpo and are expected to be one of the busiest teams this offseason.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe is under contract for multiple seasons and had another standout season by earning All-Defensive team honors, but he is expected to become a potential trade candidate, sources told The Athletic.

This feels like it might be too little, too late.

With Milwaukee so good and Antetokounmpo’s supporting cast older, THIS would have been the season to spend more on the roster.

And the Bucks had opportunities. They could have kept Malcolm Brogdon. Once agreeing to sign-and-trade Brogdon to the Pacers, Milwaukee probably could have generated a $10 million trade exception with only minimal disruption elsewhere on the roster. The Bucks could have flipped the picks acquired from Indiana (a 2020 first-rounder and two future second-rounders) for a current player.

Though Milwaukee made the best of it for a while, the plan backfired. A player like Brogdon could have helped.

The Bucks can say they didn’t trust Brogdon’s long-term health or that no good trade offers emerged for the Pacers’ picks. But it’s impossible to ignore the luxury-tax avoidance. Milwaukee also traded two first-round picks in recent years to dump salary.

If Antetokounmpo locks into a long-term contract, how could he trust the Bucks to spend big throughout the deal? They didn’t pay the luxury tax even amid this year’s high stakes. This pledge comes only with their backs against the wall.

Antetokounmpo has drawn attention for espousing loyalty to Milwaukee. But his views on loyalty are nuanced.

“As long as me and the Bucks are on the same page and we build an organization that’s all about winning and nothing more than that, I want to be here,” Antetokounmpo told me last year.

The Brogdon saga didn’t look like an organization all about winning and nothing more.

It’s not too late to make amends. But it will be challenging with only one year until Antetokounmpo’s contract expires. Milwaukee’s players had their trade values drop with the disappointing end to the season.

But a willingness to pay the luxury tax will at least open doors for upgrading the roster.