The Toronto Raptors may be down 2-0 to the Boston Celtics, but at least Raptors fans can find solace knowing the Milwaukee Bucks and superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo are in the same predicament.
The Bucks entered the playoffs the NBA's top team in the regular season and were expected to be serious title contenders this year, but through seven playoff games they've looked anything but scary. Instead, they're 4-3 in what was perceived to be a crucial playoffs for the Bucks who will try to lock up Antetokounmpo to a max contract extension this offseason before he can hit free agency after next season.
If the Bucks make an early exit, it's believed that Antetokounmpo might begin to look elsewhere to play in 2021 and the Raptors are expected to be one of those possible destinations.
"It’s no wonder many in league circles believe Miami and Toronto are the frontrunners in the Antetokounmpo sweepstakes, with one observer telling Yahoo Sports “it’s an open secret” within the Orlando bubble," Yahoo's Vincent Goodwill wrote Thursday morning.
The Raptors have long been tied to Antetokounmpo who can reach free agency at the culmination of the 2021 season. Raptors president Masai Ujiri reportedly wanted to draft Antetokounmpo in 2013, but couldn't get a deal done with the Oklahoma City Thunder to move up in front of the Bucks. Years before that Ujiri reportedly helped Antetokounmpo's family emigrate from Nigeria into Greece.
Salary cap wise, the Raptors are perfectly set up to make a run at Antetokounmpo in 2021. Right now Pascal Siakam and potentially Norman Powell, who has a player option that year, are the only players under contract in 2021. It's likely the team will make a few moves this summer to eat into that cap space as they try to retain Fred VanVleet and potentially lock up OG Anunoby on a longer deal, but Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster are unlikely to do anything that would inhibit the team's ability to sign Antetokounmpo if he hits the open market.