The perception of failure surrounding the Milwaukee Bucks trade deadline activity and inactivity
“We’ve got to turn it right from the very beginning. We’re not Oklahoma City or Miami or someone like that. We’ve got to play hard for 48 minutes. I played guys a lot of minutes tonight but I just needed a group out there that was playing with some energy. I need more guys out there playing with energy.”
- Jim Boylan after Milwaukee’s overtime loss in Brooklyn Tuesday night
Energy deficient has been a popular way to justify some of the lows for the Milwaukee Bucks recently. They’ve had a proper amount of energy for spurts during games of late, but not enough for entire games to play to their potential. Boylan a number of times lately, has harped on his team’s lack of 48 minutes of energy.
His point about Oklahoma City and Miami not needing the full 48 minutes is one I thought about quite a bit as the Bucks headed into the trade deadline. The meaning inside that message seems pretty clear: The Bucks are not a team with an elite level of talent, so they have to have something to make up for it. To compete with better teams, Milwaukee has to push the pace, defend crisply, attack the glass as a team and move bodies and the ball constantly on offense for 48 minutes.
That’s a lot to ask. It’s easy to forget how exhausting a game basketball is, especially when played at such a fierce pace. That’s why it’s really nice to have a few super talented players. The whole team doesn’t have to push quite as hard all game. It gives everyone a little more left in the tank late in games or late in the season. Having to get by on energy is like working hard rather than working smart.
The Bucks pursuit of Josh Smith was an attempt to work smart. Not because Smith’s a traditionally smart player, but because he’s quite talented. Inserting Josh Smith into Luc Mbah a Moute’s small forward spot would have made the Bucks a much more talented team. With Smith and Larry Sanders, the Bucks would have been able to cover quite a bit of ground on defense while gaining a ton on offense in the upgrade from Mbah a Moute to Smith.
But it was all for naught. Milwaukee’s pursuit of Smith died minutes before the trade deadline apparently when Atlanta reportedly pulled out of a deal the Bucks thought was a go.
So the Bucks will have to continue to work hard, rather than smart the rest of this season. And that’s what has Bucks fans feeling like this trade deadline was a failure. Even though the Bucks probably got the best player traded in the league on Thursday, they didn’t really get that much better. Even with J.J. Redick’s efficient brand of basketball, it feels like Milwaukee is scraping its head on the ceiling of this season already. A couple games over .500 would be a feat at this point and maybe Redick can make that difference.
But Smith could have made this team a threat in the first round. And the addition of Smith and Redick paired with the subtraction of Monta Ellis would have really been interesting. Think of the lineup possibilities and the redistribution of shots. It might be that Milwaukee’s biggest failure this deadline, aside from not getting Smith obviously, was allowing so much information to leak out over the past week or two.
Hopes were high in Milwaukee that not only were the Bucks going to get rid of Ellis, who has been turned on as quickly as I’ve ever seen this city turn on a player, but acquire a enticing talent like Smith. The expectations were high and the Bucks didn’t deliver. Had none of that come out and the Bucks acquired Redick, the perception of this deadline would be very different.
But a town hungry for talent heard some might be coming and now is left wondering.
If not now, then when?