Over the last decade as a Milwaukee Bucks fan, there has not been very much to be excited about. An array of different personnel have come and gone, but the goal and result for each year’s team has been the same: mediocrity.
No Bucks team has won neither a playoff series, nor 50 games in a regular season, since 2001.
With no willingness to make bold moves or ever truly overhaul the roster, this comes as no surprise. Last season was rock bottom. In the offseason beforehand, the Bucks acquired veterans like O.J. Mayo, Caron Butler, Zaza Pachulia, Carlos Delfino and Gary Neal, and it was the expectation that they would probably make the playoffs, but were not destined to truly be a contender.
I held this expectation as well, but everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and they finished with a franchise worst record 15-67. Management finally got their wakeup call in the midst of last season and began overhauling the roster, departing with Butler and Neal before the trade deadline.
In April, investment bankers Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, who made it clear that they were focused on long-term success for the franchise rather than taking things year by year bought the team. Due to the terrible 2013-14 campaign, they had a head start, owning the second pick in the 2014 draft. They selected the consensus pick; forward Jabari Parker, Duke alumni and Chicago native. Just days later, in a shocking move, the Bucks fired their head coach, Larry Drew, and hired Jason Kidd after trading away two second round picks for his rights. It was a move that I very much questioned at the time, but the one thing that it definitely was was immediately obvious – bold.
For the first time in about seven years, which was the first time I understood not to get excited about the Bucks, I was excited about this year’s team. I didn’t have great expectations – I was hoping we would approach 40 wins, but thought we would more realistically win closer to 30. I was excited about a new coach, a new direction, and a pair of 19-year-old Bucks forwards, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Fast forward to this year’s February trade deadline, it was tough to stay modest in terms of short-term goals. Even after an abundance of injuries including Jabari Parker’s torn ACL and Larry Sanders leaving the team in order to sort out his mental health issues, the Bucks were a completely improbable 30-23.
I still had my sights set on the future, but there was also a feeling that there was something special about this season. The Bucks were a team that was talked about a lot at the trade deadline, but most expected them to simply shed some salary cap if they were going to do anything at all. Absolutely out of nowhere, Brandon Knight, the Bucks leading scorer, starting point guard, and an All-Star snub, was dealt to the Phoenix Suns in a three-team trade with Philadelphia. Milwaukee received the reigning Rookie of the Year, point guard Michael Carter-Williams, third year center Miles Plumlee, and rookie point guard Tyler Ennis. As much as can be said about whether or not the Bucks acquired the right players or not, it didn’t really matter to me.
The Bucks management put me back into check as a fan, reassuring their intention of building a team that can win a championship. I’m of the opinion that they simply decided they weren’t willing to pay the price this offseason for Brandon Knight, who will become a free agent, and got something for him while they had the chance. What they got is certainly nothing to scoff at, either. It was an extremely bold move, and one that has received a lot of criticism as the Bucks have predictably struggled since making it. For me, it was a confirmation that the franchise is heading in the right direction. Finally.
by Evan Froiland