Wes Edens and Marc Lasry officially closed on their new team on May 15th. It’s been a whirlwind tour/really big party since then. They’ve gotten to know Milwaukee and Milwaukee’s gotten to know them a bit. Tonight is the first actually big AND important night for them as owners in the basketball transaction sense. A few players will be drafted, perhaps more will be added or subtracted via trade and the Bucks will finally take some steps forward in their first committed rebuild in nearly 10 years.
The estimated value of the team shot up practically moments after Lasry and Edens bought the team, thanks to Donald Sterling’s deep seeded views of the world and Steve Balmer’s deep pockets. Fans treated the new owners with the awe and idolization they usually reserve for players when they went out on the town to watch an NBA playoff game. And the Bucks have the number two pick in what’s projected to be one of the deepest drafts in many years on Thursday night.
Lasry especially seemed relaxed and loose based on his comments to the Rotary Club earlier this week. He talked about the once TOP SECRET draft process, ruling out Joel Embiid in a way that much have shook the secretive Bucks staff to its very core. But hey, he’s the owner, he can do as he pleases.
In short, life seems swell for the new Bucks owners.
And while the pressure is on to get this pick right and really launch this franchise into a new direction, these guys have enough of a grace period with fans that allows them to do what they feel is best right now. And they’ve given the feel that right now isn’t about “win now.” Without the “win now” bug bothering them, there is no need to make roster moves solely to appease fans. This is a different group with different goals and a very different timeline, according to Bucks GM John Hammond.
“But you know there is a little difference here and the difference is more of a long-term look in the new ownership’s view. It’s something we’re moving forward with.”
But Jeremy, you may say, what about the new arena? Don’t the Bucks need to fill the current arena with recognizable faces and guys who can win next season to sell the masses on the future of the Bucks?
There’s a sense that the Bucks need to pick Parker or Wiggins because they are the biggest names on the board and the safest bets to be All-Stars. By straying from the popular pick, the Bucks will be passing up a prime opportunity to court the ever important casual fans in their ongoing battle to fund a new arena in Downtown Milwaukee. But does anyone get the sense that Lasry and Edens will let popular opinion impact the way they do business? These guys are carrying on like the arena deal is a when, not an if.
“I think getting something designed, financed and ready to come out of the ground in the next 12 months is a very aggressive but a very realistic timeline, so long as there is engagement locally, which I believe there will be.”
With confidence that the team doesn’t need to assemble a roster based on public opinion, the team can feel free to assemble a roster based on what will lead to long term positive results. The goals of Lasry and Edens seem to be the usage of smart process to both assemble the roster and run the business. It certainly seems like they’ll select Jabari Parker, and Wiggins if Parker isn’t available, but it doesn’t seem like popular demand is influencing that process. Most accounts have those two as the best workouts the Bucks have seen, coming on the heels of very good college seasons and tons of hype coming out of high school.
So these guys are virtually assured of getting a highly regarded player on a bargain contract for the next five years as their very first transaction on the job. Not bad. And that may only be the start tonight. The new guys have no attachment to the current roster, so believe that Hammond isn’t feeling all that attached anymore to the players he obtained under a different regime. Larry Sanders, Brandon Knight, John Henson – after the worst season in franchise history, everyone seems available for the right price.
Hammond now has to be thinking about a much bigger picture than he used to. If he can gain an extra lottery pick on a great contract for Sanders or a late first round pick that could be a rotation player in two years for Ersan Ilyasova, he finally has the luxury of sacrificing production next year to do so.
Meanwhile, Lasry and Edens will continue to glad hand and assure everyone that they have big plans for the Bucks and Milwaukee both. They’re in their grace period and Bucks fans seem very willing to let them have it. They won’t win the casual fans over in a day and these seem like the kind of owners who understand that.
So the Bucks might end up with Jabari Parker tonight. Or they might end up with Andrew Wiggins. Or even Dante Exum, if a deal comes along that gets them better but moves them back a pick or two. But for the first time in many years, we can assume they are picking that player with no ulterior motives. This isn’t about selling tickets or patching a whole or swinging for the fences because the rest of the roster construction is going to be attempts at slapping singles. The Bucks are going to pick the guy they want because the Bucks think this is the best guy. They’ll then go on about their summer acting on a plan that doesn’t expire in 2015.
It truly is a new era in Bucks basketball.