NBA

Giannis Antetokounmpo extension deadline: Things to know as Dec. 21 approaches

The clock is ticking on the Milwaukee Bucks. They entered the offseason optimistic that they would be able to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo to a five-year super-max contract extension before he ever reached free agency, but when a sign-and-trade agreement for Bogdan Bogdanovic fell through, things started looking bleaker. Each passing day lowers the likelihood that Antetokounmpo signs that extension before the season, setting up the growing possibility that he will enter free agency in July. 

We’ll have our answer on Dec. 21, the deadline for Giannis to sign that supermax deal. But what happens if he doesn’t sign it? What other options exist for him and the Bucks? Would not signing guarantee his eventual departure? No. That Dec. 21 deadline is only a single milestone on the way to Antetokounmpo’s next contract. So let’s start there and lay out what could happen afterward should Giannis decide not to re-sign with the Bucks before the season starts. 

So what happens on Dec. 21?

Most players in the final year of their contract can sign extensions throughout the season. There are two notable exceptions: players coming off of rookie contracts and designated veterans. They can only sign extensions during the offseason, which, in 2020, ends on Dec. 21, the day before opening night. Designated veteran extensions are available to those who have won an MVP in any of the previous three seasons, or earned either All-NBA or Defensive Player of the Year honors in the previous season or in two of the last three campaigns. As the reigning MVP, Giannis is eligible for such an extension. 

The benefits are two-fold. First, it allows players to earn more money than they otherwise could. Designated veterans are eligible to earn up to 35 percent of the salary cap in the first year of their deal rather than the 30 percent most players with between seven and nine years of experience can. The second is that it allows players to add five full seasons to an existing season on a contract, essentially guaranteeing themselves six years of salary.  

We don’t know where exactly the 2021-22 cap will fall, but current projections estimate that it will come in at $112,414,200, a three percent rise on the current cap. If that is the case, this is what Antetokounmpo’s contract would look like after an extension, including this season’s salary which is already set in stone. 

Year

Salary

2020-21

$27,528,088

2021-22

$39,344,970

2022-23

$42,492,567

2023-24

$45,640,164

2024-25

$48.787,761

2025-26

$51,935,358

Total

$255,728,908

The deal would guarantee him at least $228 million in new money. If the cap rises the maximum 10 percent next season, that new money guarantee would be over $243 million. The catch is that if Giannis wants this deal, he has to take this exact deal. Supermax contracts must last the full five years. He has until Dec. 21 to decide if he wants it. If he chooses not to sign, it won’t be available to him again until next offseason. 

But let’s say this isn’t the deal Giannis wants. Once Dec. 21 passes, he won’t be able to sign a supermax contract, but that doesn’t preclude him from signing any other sort of extension with the Bucks. 

Wait, Giannis can still sign an extension after Dec. 21? 

Yes, Giannis can technically still extend with the Bucks after Dec. 21. He’s just limited in how much he can make if he does so. Typical veteran extensions must follow two guidelines that would cost Giannis money: 

  • They can last no longer than five seasons, including the one in which the contract is signed. 
  • They can offer no greater than a 20 percent raise upon the player’s previous salary in the first year of the new deal. 

In terms of length, this means that extending after Dec. 21 would prevent Giannis from signing a deal that includes the 2025-26 season. It would also limit his 2021-22 salary meaningfully, as 120 percent of his current salary would not take him up to his 2021-22 max. 

  • Next offseason, the Bucks can offer Giannis up to 35 percent of the cap for the 2021-22 season. If the cap is $112,414,200, that would be $39,344,970. 
  • Other teams can offer Giannis up to 30 percent of the cap for the 2021-22 season. That would be $33,724,260.
  • Giannis is set to make $27,528,088. A 20 percent raise on that salary would take him to $33,033,705.

That 2021-22 number is especially important because the raises built into any contract are based on the salary assigned to the first season. Players can receive no more than eight percent annual raises from their own team and five percent from opposing teams, so over the course of a contract, even a minor difference in the first season’s salary can end up costing a player millions of dollars. 

So if this would be the least valuable extension Giannis can sign, why would he be at all interested in signing it? Flexibility. Unlike the supermax, a typical veteran extension does not have a minimum length. If he wants to sign a short-term deal, he can, and he’s arguably incentivized to do so. Giannis has played seven NBA seasons, and his current deal takes him through Year 8. If he tacks two more years onto his current pact, he not only gives an aging Bucks team a longer window to prove he should remain in Milwaukee, but also sets himself up for a more lucrative deal with another team. Once a player has 10 years of NBA experience, they are eligible to earn up to 35 percent of the salary cap in the first year of their new deal regardless of who they sign with. Not only does this rob the Bucks of their supermax advantage, but if the cap rises back up to expected levels in a post-pandemic world, it sets him up to make significantly higher average annual salaries on a new contract then than he could now. 

Let’s say Giannis doesn’t extend at all. What happens after the season? 

Once the 2020-21 league year ends, the Bucks can offer the supermax again. The offer would be the same as the one listed above: five years starting at 35 percent of the cap with eight percent annual raises. The deal opposing teams could offer would be significantly lower: only four years and starting at 30 percent of the cap with five percent annual raises. 

Year

Salary

2021-22

$33,724,260

2022-23

$35,410,473

2023-24

$37,096,686

2024-25

$38,782,899

Total

$145,014,318

All told, against a $112.4 million cap, signing with a new team would cost Giannis approximately $83 million in guaranteed money. He might still do it anyway. The fact that he hasn’t yet signed a supermax extension suggests that he is at least open to the idea of leaving the Bucks. But when the time comes to make a decision, leaving that much money on the table won’t be easy. Fortunately, he’ll have a number of different contractual options to consider between now and next July. 



 

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