A college advisor of mine once told me that, when making a big change in life, there were always two things to consider. The first was to think of where this decision would leave me one year from that current moment. What would be different and how would that affect me? The other angle I was to consider was would I have more questions or more answers to my problem a year down the road? In other words, would the decision I made the year prior be the solution to my problem or just be another vexing layer to it?
A little over one year ago, the Milwaukee Bucks made a big change when they sent the oft-injured Andrew Bogut to Golden State in exchange for Monta Ellis. The move was meant to serve as a fresh start for both Ellis and Bogut, as both players had reached an impasse of sorts with their respective teams.
The move was a logical one for the Warriors. They had lacked any real interior defensive presence for quite some time, and the addition of Bogut made many begin to speculate how deep the team could go in the playoffs for years to come. The Bucks, who were heading the wrong direction in the playoff hunt, made the swap in hopes that an electric offensive player like Ellis could propel them back in the race in similar fashion to the acquisition of John Salmons in 2010. As we know, the Bucks finished that season 13-9 and fell short of the playoffs, finishing in that all too comfortable ninth seed. Good job, good effort though, right?
Everyone expected this year to be different. With the backcourt getting a little in-game seasoning and the acquisition of a “true” center in Samuel Dalembert, Milwaukee seemed poised to regain its 2010 form. Yet here we are with 13 games left in the season, and the Bucks are 34-35 and seem destined to serve as whipping boy for the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
So, what have we arrived at one year later?
The Bucks aren’t making it out of the first round of the playoffs. They don’t appear capable of moving up and out of the eighth seed, either. With the Philadelphia 76ers falling out of the playoff landscape after the loss of Andrew Bynum all year due to injury, we can’t say definitively that the Bucks have improved significantly upon last year’s standing.
There have been a few welcome surprises in the emergence of LARRY SANDERS! and the recent acquisition of JJ Redick. There has even been a flicker of hope when John Henson has performed well.
This is all fine and good, but can we consider the past year progress? Was it a success?
“Success” is a pretty subjective term when it comes to any given basketball season. Since the trade last March, success was defined as making the playoffs for the Bucks. This August, making the playoffs was still at the top of everyone’s wish list. In this article by Charles F. Gardner, Brandon Jennings stated multiple times that the goal was to just get in to the playoffs and he and his teammates would do anything to achieve that. Now, as they are comfortably in the playoff picture, does it feel like mission accomplished?
Here lies the much bigger issue. At what point does simply snagging a playoff spot not become satisfactory? When does finishing slightly above the middle of the pack become not good enough? If the act of getting to the postseason is what your franchise considers a success, then how will you ever take it the next level?
Perhaps most importantly, does simply making the playoffs do anything to answer questions that plague a roster full of soon to be free agents? This season was an important one. Coming into it, everyone was operating without a net, from General Manager John Hammond down to sixth man Mike Dunleavy. We’ve seen some casualties, namely ex-Head Coach Scott Skiles. But we haven’t really seen any player definitively answer the questions that surrounded him before the season. We’re still unsure about Brandon Jennings. We don’t know if the first half or second half Ellis is the real one.
These are all questions that need to be answered for the Bucks going forward. On some of these issues, the ones relating to players who will be free agents namely, Milwaukee is running out of time. After what is likely to be a quick exit in this year’s postseason, it will be back to the drawing board for another off-season of uncertainty. There are a lot of crucial moves to be made and things could be looking a lot different at the BMO Harris Bradley Center next season.
Let’s just hope that next year brings a lot more solutions than problems.