Don’t be mad about the Tobias Harris trade … be mad about everything else

JJ: I just can’t see staying there past this season. Ray: Been there bro. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

I’ve been saying the whole time, it’s the wins that are the problem, not the losses. Quite a bit of Milwaukee Bucks fan outrage has bubbled to the surface since the devastating finish and flourish of Tobias Harris Wednesday night in Orlando and it’s difficult not to say that it’s justifiable. But it doesn’t seem worthwhile to just be upset about trading a prospect for a veteran. That’s a symptom of the root of the problems in Milwaukee.

It’s what led up to Wednesday night that’s been so frustrating about being a Milwaukee Bucks fan.

It’s a bummer that the Bucks traded Harris and then watched him blossom with an opportunity he didn’t have in Milwaukee. But I’m not so mad about the trade that brought J.J. Redick to Milwaukee as I am about everything else that happened that made this trade possible and maybe even necessary.

The Bucks deemed it necessary to add one more piece this season. Surely management felt like the team was close to being good rather than average and one more competent player could make this a good team. A team that could avoid the nasty playoff fate of a first round match-up with the mighty Miami Heat.

But the Bucks aren’t that team. They never were. Were it not for good fortune in close games earlier this season, John Wall missing the first part of the season or Andrew Bynum’s knee injury, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess now.

Or maybe if the Bucks had never traded for Monta Ellis. He’s played pretty well since the All-Star break, but Ellis is the kind of player that, as a centerpiece can help keep a team mediocre at best. He’s not a focal point of a team that’s very good. I understand that Andrew Bogut had little trade value, but Milwaukee would have been far better off dumping him for virtually nothing rather than dump him for a player that merely helped them keep their head above water.

Or maybe if the Bucks would have traded Ersan Ilyasova last season rather than hang onto him and eventually re-sign him, things would have worked out differently. Ilyasova has played well for the majority of this season and been a real contributor. But again, he’s kept the team average. He isn’t out there overpowering opponents with some massive talent level and winning games by himself. He’s a good player that can help out on a very good team. In Milwaukee, he’s helping keep the Bucks average.

The Sam Dalembert trade seemed like a fine idea at the time, but it was made to get the Bucks into the playoffs, not with anything else in mind. Get Dalembert for a season to help bulk up a front line that was painfully thin and bad on defense last season and maybe this team moves from ninth to eighth.

Mission accomplished.

I know a lot of people hate tanking, and that’s fine, I’m not necessarily saying it’s the only way to rebuild a franchise, but at least it’s SOME kind of plan.

What was the plan in Milwaukee? Everyone aside from Ilyasova is a free agent after this season, Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh will be due for raises next season (I only mention Udoh because the team expected him to be what Sanders is this season … I think) and if this team would have thrived, everyone would have been due to get paid at a rate that very likely will exceed their historical production. If the Bucks would have become a successful team (something that would have defied all odds and expectations), they would have owed quite a bit of money to Jennings, Ellis, Dalembert and anyone else who felt like they contributed. Milwaukee’s salary structure is very strong going forward, but it’s baffling what the plan was looking back to June.

There was lots of talk about operating without a net. Well, in about two weeks, the Bucks will have completed their fall and then we’ll see what operating without a net really looks like.

It’s the moves that kept Milwaukee close enough that they could flirt with the idea of being something more that were really damning. All these moves? These are the moves that set the scene for the Tobias Harris trade. The Bucks felt like they were close. But they weren’t. They’ve never been close, at least not close to real, sustainable success. Certainly not with a roster built around Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.

If you’re going to be mad, be mad about these moves. The ones that gave Milwaukee’s front office a false hope that something good could ever happen with this group. Be made that Milwaukee spent a season playing with fire and got burned once they added that last spray of lighter fluid on top. Like a small child, Milwaukee never should have started that fire. It was destined to get out of control right away.

Categories: Sad and Unpopular

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  1. Like a small child, Jeremy Schmidt should learn how to spell MAD.

    I get what you’re saying though, man. I just happen to think that Tobias Harris is succeeding so wildly because he’s on a team without much hope and with a future full of sucking ass to look forward to, so why not play him? He’s good, and he was great in summer league, but you can only so much fault a team for trying.

    There are good pieces here. It’s just been a disappointing season with a monumentally frustrating ending.

    Still, this is a young team with room to maneuver, a burgeoning defensive powerhouse, a precocious high IQ rookie with loads of potential, and options. Better here than Charlotte, or Phoenix, or – gasp! – Orlando. This middle area is not stupendous, but it’s preferable to where they could be, and have been recently.

  2. You know what I really hate? I hate word processing programs that keep changing what I type because the program thinks that it is smarter than I am.
    They make me so MADE I could scream!

  3. The sooner this team is moved to Seattle the better off we all are. It’s pointless to have a small market NBA team just let them leave and I will convert to being a Bulls fan. We can’t get free agents, we don’t develop young talent, we can’t get a head coach with credibility, and if you go to other cities fans act like we are a D league franchise. They should stop trying to be .500 and go big or bust. Until Lebron or Durant retire the Bucks have no chance to compete for a title. I feel for you man, you honestly have to watch and write about this Bucks franchise and team without being able to honestly say what you want without getting fired. SMH. Hang in there dude maybe you could leave to Seattle if the Bucks do.

    • You don’t have to wait for the Bucks franchise to leave Milwaukee. You can be a fan of the Bulls right now, if you want.

      • Agree 100% with Patti numero uno. No one is keeping you as a Bucks fan, go cheer on the Bulls. Matter of a fact I remember some other ailing pro sports team in Milwaukee that use to play at County Stadium who’s team and attendance was abysmal. Hmm wonder where that team is now? Reasonably quick turnaround wouldn’t you think? Just saying.

  4. Jeremy, I think you do a really good job as
    the lead-author of this blog, but in a
    good-natured way I’m going to disagree with
    your latest post almost completely.

    I’m not really mad about any of the other trades
    you mentioned, but I am furious about the trade
    of Tobias!

    For example, I am a big fan of Andrew Bogut,
    but sad to say, the guy seems to be rather clumsy
    and injury-prone. So getting an exciting talent
    like Monta plus a recent lottery-pick like Ekpe
    seemed like a good swap. Whether it has turned out
    well is another story. Anyway, I’m not made about
    that or any of the other moves you referred to.

    When it comes to Tobias, you have a guy we chose
    in the first round less than two years ago, who
    is only 20 years old, who was outstanding in the
    summer league, who has skills to create his own
    offense inside and out, who seems like a really
    good guy to have on a team, who is OUR guy to
    develop and nurture as a thriving member of our
    team and community — and we trade him for a rental
    player of middling abilities!?!?!?

    I like J.J., but why not trade one of our rentals
    and/or a guy like Ersan, who as you said is a good
    player but not fantastic? Anyone but Tobias, Larry
    or John Henson!

    That makes me so mad I feel like firing Boylan and
    Hammond and Kohl — today!!! It’s sadly ironic that
    almost simultaneous with Tobias’ great game against
    the Bucks Wednesday was the report that J.J. is
    weighing his options about whether he will sign
    with the Bucks this summer.

    Also, for those who diminish what Tobias is doing
    for the Magic because of their poor record, my
    question is why wasn’t J.J. averaging 50 points
    a game when he was with such a lowly and lackluster
    team? Actually, he wasn’t even a starter. I’m even
    starting to wonder if the Magic have more upside
    than the Bucks right now with Tobias, Vucevic,
    Harkless, O’Quinn and Moore — plus a really high
    draft pick coming up to choose a great young point
    guard to go with Jameer Nelson.

    Again, Jeremy, you do a really good job. All of
    this is written in a positive spirit of earnest
    but fun debate.

    • Jeremy is right: this is a rudderless franchise with no discernible strategy.

      What are some of the measures of success of an NBA franchise. Let’s ask ourselves..

      Has John Hammond established a winning culture?
      Has John Hammond hired the best possible coaching staff?
      Has John Hammond created a unified philosophy with his coaches?
      Is the arena experience at the Bradley Center something to be excited about?
      Is the locker room a cohesive group of men, sharing a common goal and
      What is the Bucks W-L record since Hammond took over?
      How well has John Hammond drafted? Traded?
      How well has John Hammond managed a salary cap?
      How well have the Bucks developed young talent?
      How creative has John Hammond been in building a roster?
      Has John Hammond acquired a superstar to build around?

      Answer these questions and then tell me what you think of the Bucks, those of you who disagree with Jeremy.

      • 1. No
        2. Please hire Jerry Sloan
        3. No
        4. Bucks games are fun. Buffalo Chicken Tenders from the Bradley Center, just do it once in your life please, please.
        5. No
        6. Under .500
        7. John Hammond drafts well. Larry Sanders, BJ3, Henson, Lamb, Harris, Leuer, Meeks. Pretty well for where he has to draft every year. I know some of those names don’t scream amazing, but drafting a player in the Second Round and actually have them play in NBA games is quite a feat if you look at the history of the second round.
        8. No clue.
        9. Sanders, Ersan, Jennings, Henson still developing
        10. Not creative
        11. No sir, not even close.

        How did I do?

        • The question is not “How did I do?”

          The questions is “What did I win?”

          I think that the very least you should get a coupon for free Buffalo Chicken Tenders.

          • I like your thinking here Patti#1,
            even though James is the one who would
            get the Buffalo Chicken Tenders.

  5. OK I have a plan for this summer.. Not based on actual figures though
    First trade BJen to Dallas for their first round pick

    Draft(assuming that Burke will be gone): Isaiah Austin, Glenn Robinson Jr. Jr., and Ray McCallum

    Free Agency: Jarrett Jack, Redick, and pursue Iguodala

    Notes: I don’t know if Redick wants to re-sign with us, especially at a reduced rate.. this instantly makes us a much better defensive team and let’s young talent develop

    Finally amnesty Gooden, use his cap money to help fill out the roster and extend Sanders

    just some ideas.. I dunno

    • It’s a start, Justin!

      What the Bucks need first and foremost is to fire John Hammond and start afresh with a new management team.

      But that seems unlikely if not impossible given his recent contract extension. So he’s here to stay.

      The next big decision is about the Head Coach. But here we go again with Hammond: what is his philosophy and what type of coach will fit it? We must ask ourselves why the Skiles relationship went so badly. How did Hammond fail so miserably to pick a head coach, someone to be his confidant and partner to lead the franchise? What kind of Coach wants to work for John Hammond, who has a misfit roster of role players, no extra draft picks, no stars and depleted youth after the Harris-Lamb giveaway? It’s probably going to be a young, unproven coach willing to take a risk and get his feet wet.

      THEN we can talk about Jennings, Redick, Ellis, Gooden and the rest of the roster decisions.

  6. considering the bucks are the smallest market in the NBA, it’s extremely impressive they aren’t one of the worst teams. to make the playoffs as the smallest market team in a huge market’s league is something to be proud of.

  7. At some point, NBA fans will come to understand this, I hope. The NBA ownership & the media caused the plight of small market teams, & it’s only going to get worse. Players salaries are set in stone. So when you’re a free agent, you already know how much you can make. Now the question is just, where do you want to play? The NBA owners created a college recruitment atmosphere, trying to protect themselves from themselves. So players are picking locations, instead of teams. A small market team with cold weather??? Good luck.

    If you’re a star, & you have a choice of Milwaukee, Minneapolis, or NYC? As a 22-25 year old… Which are you going to pick? Of course you’re going to choose NYC. It’s not even close. Even cities like Chicago lose out, because of cold weather. The NBA caused this. Before the changes in 2000, teams could pay a player whatever they wanted & deal with the salary cap on their own (And they could go over the cap to resign their own players). So Milwaukee could afford to pay Big Dog way more money than anyone else could, & they kept him & Ray Allen long enough to compete for eastern conference titles. They never won one, but they were always competitive & entertaining. That’s all you can really ask for as a fan.

    As for not being able to compete, blame that on the media. All these guys grew up listening to the media lament the careers of guys like Barkley, Ewing, Marino, & Barry Sanders. All time greats who never won a title. The media holds them accountable for never winning, even thou these are team games. The best team wins. Not the best player. But to make headlines & capture eyes, sports writers go for the easy target. Then get mad when those players decide… Ok. Since winning a title means EVERYTHING, we are going for a title. Everything else be damned.

    The owners can’t have it both ways. You want to control player salaries? Then players will choose where they want to play, so you better have a very attractive destination to get the best players.

    The media can’t have it both ways. You want players to be loyal? Stop blaming individual stars when their team loses to a better team. Otherwise, those stars will continue to team up & laugh at the same media members crying about them teaming up.