Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer is optimistic about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future following productive and fruitful communication during the offseason.
Antetokounmpo can become a free agent at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season, when he will be eligible for a supermax contract extension worth around $254 million.
It remains to be seen whether the two-time reigning NBA MVP will stay in Milwaukee or depart for new pastures amid links to the likes of the Heat, Raptors and Mavericks.
As the Bucks prepare for the start of the season, which tips off Dec. 22, Budenholzer told reporters: “The conversations with Giannis have been great this summer. He’s incredibly supportive of us and everything we’re trying to do to make this team the best it can be, and the same for us to support him.
“It’s a big decision. I think the communication between he and I has been really good, really productive, fruitful.
“Same with [general manager] Jon [Horst], so we feel really good about the communication with Giannis throughout the summer and offseason.”
Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season in becoming the first player to receive MVP honors in successive seasons since Warriors star Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016.
The 25-year-old led the Bucks with 30.4 minutes per game during the regular season. In NBA history, there has only been one team to win the NBA title without having a player average at least 32 minutes per game in the regular season: the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs.
“I have a lot of respect for Giannis,” Bucks teammate Khris Middleton said. “In my situation last year, he told me how he felt, and that’s all I can do in return.
“I think we’re more than friends at this point. We’ve spent eight years together. We’ve been through a lot together also, so, at the end of the day, I want him to do what’s best for him and his family.
“He knows that I deeply want him to return and sign this extension, but at the same time, I know he’s got a big decision that he’s got to work through himself and with his family at home because those are the most important people.
“Whatever he does, he knows that I’ll support him to the fullest, so I’ve talked to him. I give him my two cents and my opinion or try to convince him, but at the end of the day, I’m going to always love him and appreciate whatever he has to do.”
The Bucks — who are eyeing a first championship since 1971 — suffered disappointment in the playoffs last season, going out in a 4-1 Eastern Conference semifinals series loss to the Heat.
Milwaukee owned a league-best 56-17 record, but its form faded dramatically following the restart at Walt Disney World Resort amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bucks became the first team in NBA history to have more losses (4-9) in their final 13 regular-season games than they did in the entire campaign prior to that (52-8).
“We always embraced and feel fortunate that we feel we have the roster, we feel like we have players that are incredibly talented on both ends of the court and we’re in the mix to be the last team standing,” said Budenholzer, whose team will begin its season against the Celtics on Dec. 23.
“But there’s a process that every team’s got to go through to get there. I think the goal is real, the opportunity is real, but I think that if you’re an organization or a team that doesn’t embrace that, you’re probably maybe in the wrong business, but at the same time, to think that a season is championship-or-bust is certainly not the way we’ve approached it.
“We really embrace competition, we embrace the playoffs, we embrace the opportunity and we want to be that last team standing, but that phrase is just something that doesn’t resonate with me or, I think, our group or organizationally.”