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.
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.