How Will Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Extension Impact the Indiana Pacers?

Giannis Antetokounmpo - Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Giannis Antetokounmpo - Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Giannis Antetokounmpo announced via Twitter that he will remain in Milwaukee for the next five seasons.

With news breaking about the two-time MVP signing a $228 million, five-year super-max extension, Indiana Pacers fans should question how this will impact the Pacers, the Eastern Conference, and the NBA as a whole.

The immediate takeaway is that this should not move the needle for the Pacers. The Central Division of the NBA has always been home to superstar talents with Michael Jordan and the Bulls, LeBron James and the Cavaliers, and now Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Five more years of seeing the Bucks and Giannis will not be the end of the world.

However, this contract extension is a clear sign that Milwaukee is going all-in on this upcoming season. After falling short the past two seasons, this move, along with other trades, is a clear sign that the Bucks’ Front Office will be disappointed if they do not win a championship this season. The Pacers will need to keep this in mind during their three games against the Bucks, or they’ll risk getting schooled by a team looking to make a statement.

After acquiring Jrue Holiday on a one-year rental as part of a massive four-team trade, the Bucks have heavily leveraged themselves and their future. The Bucks all or nothing approach could play out in the Pacers’ favor if the Bucks cannot win a championship. The Pacers might simply outlast the Bucks’ window of contending if the Bucks are tied up with Antetokounmpo’s super-max money and lack draft capital.

As it stands, the Pacers will probably not have the same rivalry with Antetokounmpo as they have had against Jordan or LeBron James. Jordan and James were the Goliath standing between the Pacers and a trip to the NBA finals. Right now, the Pacers need to work on getting out of the first round before they can worry about potential Eastern Conference showdowns.

Looking at the bigger picture, Giannis’ extension has some major implications across the NBA, the biggest of which will come with this summer’s free agency. The 2021 free agency class was at one point looking to be one of the biggest of all time. Instead, we are seeing top tier talent sign extensions and staying put. While 2021 will have some big-name free agents, such as Kyle Lowry and the Pacers’ own Victor Oladipo, Giannis’ extension will shake-up plans.

One major consequence of Antetokoumpo’s extension is that suddenly there is a bit more money that could be targeted at Victor Oladipo at the end of this season. However, it is too early to tell whether this will improve his trade stock as well.

After seven years in the NBA, we have a decent sample size for Giannis and what he is capable of accomplishing. While it would be crazy to suggest that Antetokounmpo’s super-max is an overpay, Giannis has a lot to prove this season despite winning two MVP awards. For one thing, he needs to stay on the court more. Since 2016, he has consistently played fewer minutes per game year over year in the playoffs.

The bottom line is that for Pacer fans, this just raised the stakes in the Eastern Conference.

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