If you didn’t know this post was coming, you know nothing about this site. After a rough couple of years, I’ve been waiting for something to get behind. I hoped for this on Thursday morning and I’m thrilled at this point.
Time after time we’ve all criticized the Bucks for worrying too much about right now. The constant pushes to get over the lowest bar – a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference – have grated the spirits of the most dedicated Bucks fans the past two seasons. John Hammond was chided for his asset management and Herb Kohl was cursed for his rigid win now mindset. With those two running the show, there will never be a rebuild and there will never be a superstar running up and down the court in green and red.
Those feelings are difficult to deal with and a lot to overcome. And the Bucks haven’t overcome them yet in the eyes of many. The coming free agency period is going to be a crucial one, with the futures of both Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings hanging in the balance.
For one night though, Bucks fans had reason to hope and dream of better days. Sure, the reason was pure speculation, risk and the prospect of a huge payoff despite long odds, but people love that. There’s a reason casinos make so much money. Hammond more or less took Bucks fans to the casino yesterday, pulled out a stack of bills, threw them on a hard six at the crap table and gave it a shot.
At pick 15, the risk associated with Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t really that great. The average 15th pick doesn’t really do too much in the NBA. A serviceable rotation player is to be expected and an occasional Larry Sanders will be found. But rarely do we look back on a 15th pick with glee and jubilation.
Today, we can dream of looking back on this night in five years and laugh about how fortunate the Bucks were to get the mysterious 6-foot-9 forward from Nigeria via Greek.
But I should make it clear that Antetokunnmpo likely isn’t going to glide into the Cousins Center and blow the roof off from day one. We shouldn’t expect 55 points nine games into his career. By that I literally mean he probably won’t score 55 points in his first nine games combined.
Some people aren’t going to like that. They’ll wonder why the Bucks didn’t grab someone a bit more prepared, more polished and closer to a finished project. The Bucks are going to take some hits this off season, especially in the backcourt and on the wings. There will be an opportunity for a young player to step in and play big minutes right away. There were some guys available when Milwaukee selected at 15 who could have been more ready to do that.
But isn’t that what we always get on the Bucks about? Thinking about this season, rather than the next three? We bemoaned the Tobias Harris-J.J. Redick trade because Milwaukee gave up on a potential piece of its future to secure a meaningless playoff position. Yet when Antetokounmpo was selected, I actually had someone tweet at me that this was a bad pick because only a few months ago Milwaukee traded Harris. As if a short-sighted maneuver in February meant that Milwaukee could only make short-sighted moves in June.
The draft is the great hope for a franchise like the Bucks. It might be the only hope. A free agent superstar isn’t landing in Milwaukee. To get a star, without question the most important thing in the NBA, Milwaukee has to be shrewd and lucky. The Bucks have two options for acquiring a star: Acquire as many assets as possible to position themselves favorably in the trade market or get historically lucky in the draft.
Right now, Antetokounmpo is an asset, simply because all NBA teams have to go on aside from his incredible measurements is some grainy footage, a few workouts and maybe a game or two against inferior competition. In a few years? He could be the best player to come out of a draft that seemed lacking in sure thing contributors any time soon. He could be the star the Bucks have been lacking for quite a few years.
Of course, he could flame out too. He could be too weak. He could struggle to pickup the American game. He could never make it. But for a team like the Bucks, making a selection 15th overall, where so few potential stars are available, he’s well worth that risk. If ever the Bucks were going to gamble, this is the place to do it.
So get over it if Antetokounmpo can’t contribute right away. Embrace the thought that is behind his selection. The Bucks are a win now franchise, but, for just a moment, be glad that they made a move for the future.