“No matter what your role or relationship is with Giannis, he makes us all better,” Milwaukee General Manager Jon Horst said.
The Bucks are on a 71-win pace, with Antetokounmpo piling up ridiculous numbers that shouldn’t be humanly possible in just 30.9 minutes a game. Yet you never hear him complain about the lack of respect for his team despite its wide lead at the top of the standings in the race for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
The only 70-win teams in N.B.A. history, mind you, had an established championship aura before completing their 82-game slates with 10 or fewer losses: Chicago in 1995-96 and Golden State in 2015-16. The Bucks will have an even stronger roster after Williams joins them, but Antetokounmpo hasn’t wasted any energy protesting the notion that the sort of mystique they seek tends to come only from winning championships — that a true fear factor is not something teams can acquire via trade.
That’s especially true after the Bucks, as last season’s only 60-win team, lost four consecutive games in the Eastern Conference finals to the Kawhi Leonard-led Toronto Raptors after taking a 2-0 series lead.
But a boost for Antetokounmpo and Co., besides the looming signing of Williams, is the knowledge that the 12 trades that did go down in last week’s frenzy appear unlikely to cause them any issues. In the East, especially, only Miami realistically closed the gap.
The Raptors happily watched James L. Dolan, the owner of the Knicks, quickly lose the stomach for a protracted attempt to lure Masai Ujiri south of the border after Steve Mills left his role as president on Tuesday. Dolan instead is close to hiring the veteran player agent Leon Rose as his new team president. Toronto’s lone deadline move, though, was hanging on to the highly regarded Ujiri, who, without a contract extension, will become a free agent like Antetokounmpo after the 2020-21 season.
The Boston Celtics were also quiet. Galling as it must have been to see Detroit surrender the former All-Star center Andre Drummond to Cleveland for such a minuscule return, given how badly the Celtics could use some size, Boston simply couldn’t have come close to matching Drummond’s $27.1 million salary in a trade without breaking up its core.
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