The Milwaukee Bucks absolutely blew an opportunity at home against the Toronto Raptors in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday night.
Playing in front of a home crowd that has seen Milwaukee lose just nine times all season, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. came up small when it counted the most.
Now down 3-2 in the series heading to Toronto for Game 6, the Bucks are in the midst of a franchise-altering moment.
Winning changes everything: Bucks have an opportunity here.
- If Milwaukee is able to win consecutive games for a trip to the NBA Finals, it changes the entire dynamic moving forward.
- Losing four consecutive or four out of five to close the season would leave a sour taste in the mouth of the franchise.
- In turn, that could have wide-ranging ramifications on the roster make up moving forward.
The free agents: This is no small thing.
- Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, George Hill, Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic are all slated to become free agents this summer.
- These are core pieces behind Giannis Antetokounmpo on the Bucks’ depth chart.
- Changes are going to occur naturally from this season’s roster. But a frustrating end to the Bucks’ run could expedite things.
The Giannis factor: This one is obvious.
- Antetokounmpo is now eligible to receive the largest contract in NBA history (about $50 million per season) now that he earned All-NBA team honors.
- The game’s most-freakish player also has two more years remaining on his current four-year, $100 million contract.
- The toast of Milwaukee, an exit in the manner we might see this weekend could impact Giannis’ stance about the city long term.
Already an uphill climb: Is Milwaukee too small for the Greek Freak?
- By hiring Jason Kidd as an assistant, the Los Angeles Lakers are already showing their hand as it relates to a potential Antetokounmpo sweepstakes years down the road.
- Earning a trip to the NBA Finals could change Giannis’ mindset about the smallish city.
- Even then, there has to be concern in Milwaukee that Los Angeles and New York City might be too hard to pass up on.
Money is one thing when it comes to NBA stars. But that’s not limited to contracts. Antetokounmpo’s earning potential in larger markets could far supersede what he receives from the Bucks.
That’s the backdrop as Milwaukee attempts to overcome a 3-2 series deficit and earn a trip to the NBA Finals.
If it happens, the entire landscape of this organization changes moving forward. If not, the Bucks will enter a franchise-altering offseason with a sour taste in their mouth. They’ll do so with six core free agents and without knowing how it all went wrong.
It starts Game 6 on Saturday in Toronto. And for the Bucks’ sake, we hope it continues to Game 7 at home on Memorial Day.