The Push Of Giannis To Mavs - And Giannis On Luka

Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Dallas Mavericks has always been a DallasBasketball.com pipe-dream, but with the national media starting to speculate on the idea along with us, you can't help but wonder if the chances of it happening are greater than what most people think.
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Just a few weeks after the Dallas Mavericks acquired Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft, DallasBasketball.com was already looking ahead and dreaming of a potential Giannis Antetokounmpo-Mavs connection in the coming years.

We had our reasons, including Fish's knowledge of the Donnie Nelson/Tony Ronzone/Antetokounmpo familial relationship. But something else jumped out at us that week: The “Greek Freak's'' post-draft praise of Doncic, who had yet to even step foot on an NBA court.

"(Luka) is the most exciting player that has appeared in basketball in recent years,'' said Antetokounmpo back in the 2018 offseason. "He has shown that he is more than ready to play, that he has matured faster than the rest."

Sure enough, Doncic has lived up to that praise from Antetokounmpo and then some. Doncic won the Rookie of the Year award in a landslide after his first season, then took his game to another level in his second season by making his first All-Star Game and being selected to the All-NBA First Team alongside two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo. 

So what are Antetokounmpo's more recent thoughts on Doncic after he's achieved so much in such a small amount of time?

"(Luka's) talented, really talented. One of the most talented guys I've ever played against," said Antetokounmpo after watching Doncic torch his Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA 'Bubble', to the tune of 36 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high 19 assists in a thrilling 136-132 Mavs win in overtime. "He's making the whole team better, and he's going to keep getting better. As long as he's making his team better, they're going to be tough to beat."

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Although the idea of pairing Antetokounmpo with Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis is still considered very wishful thinking on our end, you can't help wondering if the chances of such a move happening have increased significantly in the last two years, especially considering how much more talented the Mavs' roster is and how the idea is now being accepted and circulated by the national media in multiple places. 

The national media angle is something we discussed at length recently on our Mavs Step Back Podcast with Mavs Moneyball's Editor-In-Chief, Kirk Henderson, and you can listen to that episode here (all Mavs-Giannis talk for the first 18 minutes):

"The Dallas Mavericks are going to be at the head of the line in pursuing Giannis," said ESPN's Brian Windhorst recently on an episode of The Jump. "They want to have a third star. They want to keep their books clear for 2021, I wouldn’t expect them to add any major free agents this year. They’re going to wait.”

READ MORE: Mavs 'First in Line for Giannis' - Report

The Giannis-to-Dallas talk continued the following week on ESPN's "The Lowe Post" podcast with Zach Lowe featuring Bill Simmons from The Ringer.

"If I'm Giannis, if I'm leaving Milwaukee, I'm going to Dallas,"said Simmons, while also going on to say he believes Doncic will become one of the top seven players of all time if he continues on his current pace.

"To me, that is the one that if I am one of the other 29 teams in the league, I do not want to see that happen," said Lowe of the idea of Antetokounmpo becoming a Maverick. "Because Luka and Giannis (would be) their own version of LeBron and Anthony Davis. I think that's the role where Giannis can win championships, where he's not LeBron - Luka is LeBron in the sense that he's got the keys to the offense. ... To me, that's the one where I have nightmares if I'm one of the other teams in the league."

Again, all of this is just perceived as mere speculation right now, but at what point does speculation turn into actual smoke, leading to an actual fire? 

We all know how much Mavs' general manager Nelson has coveted Antetokounmpo since the 2013 NBA Draft, when his wish to draft the Greek Freak was infamously overruled by owner Mark Cuban, as the Mavs instead opted to trade down and save some cap space to make a run at Dwight Howard - a move that was made in an attempt to possibly let Dirk Nowitzki experience title contention one more time in the twilight of his career. 

In hindsight, even Cuban realized that was a mistake, but on the flip-side, one could also argue that the Mavs wouldn't have Doncic and Porzingis right now had Dallas drafted Antetokounmpo in 2013.

Now, Cuban and Nelson might have a chance to pair all three of them together, creating a Euro-dominant 'Big 3' of which the league has never seen before. 

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To have that chance, though, Antetokounmpo must first decline the Bucks' supermax extension, and then Milwaukee will have to refrain from trading him after that decision. Right now, we're betting that both of those things happen, and that the Mavs will eventually get their shot at Antetokounmpo. For now, though, we sit and wait, raising our eyebrows higher and higher with bit of Giannis-to-Dallas speculation that gets published by the national media.