The Jabari Parker Draft: A weirdly unsatisfying, promising night for the Milwaukee Bucks

Jay Williams interviews a very happy Jabari Parker. (ESPN)
Jay Williams interviews a very happy Jabari Parker. (ESPN)

I rested my head on the bar. How much longer was this going to go on? I’d arrived for the draft party at Upper 90 right around 5:30. I live a short distance and the weather, while unusually cool for late June, was nice. Optimism was on my mind as I made my way down third street, past Pere Marquette Park and The Journal-Sentinel building. The Milwaukee Bucks had the second pick in the draft and plenty of other assets. Reports had them trying to trade for an additional first round pick, maybe even another lottery pick.

The Bucks hadn’t had two first round picks since 1994 and hadn’t been this engaged in a long term rebuild since about the same time. They’d tear it all down and start anew tonight. What a night it was going to be.

Four hours later I couldn’t believe how long everything was taking and how little had happened.

Were these teams really taking the full three minutes going forward, even though Adrian Wojnarowski was revealing their pick five minutes before they were even on the clock? Did we really see the only “transformative” move the Milwaukee Bucks were going to make all night when they made the second overall pick? The Bucks hadn’t traded for another pick. They hadn’t traded any players. No matter how deep into the depths of Twitter I plunged, I couldn’t find so much as a rumor about them making a trade.

Yes, the Bucks got the guy they wanted, the guy I wanted, in Jabari Parker. But why did I feel so unsatisfied? They had three second round picks to go, but I had little familiarity with any prospects left on the board and a sinking feeling that anything else they did would only impact the fringe of their roster.

The rebuild would not commence in full on Thursday night.

Thursday night was wildly successful.

NBA Draft night was a weird experience.

***

From all accounts, Jabari Parker seems like he really wants to succeed in Milwaukee.

Two things about that previous sentence:

1. Usually when I write it, I don’t write “succeed”, I write “be in” and we’re satisfied with that, because our city self esteem is pretty low. But Parker doesn’t seem like he just wants to “embrace” Milwaukee. He’s talking about being a lifetime Bucks guy and he seems like a fella that means business.

2. He was the second overall pick in a stacked draft, so he has a pedigree that makes it mean something when he talks. This is the guy the new owners wanted to build around and stake their first years in the franchise in. That all seems like a great thing.

So regardless of what happened after Parker was drafted, this was a successful draft for the Bucks. That’s always how it was going to be and that’s how it is today. Congratulations to the Bucks for reaping the rewards of a difficult 2013-14 season and preparing for a better tomorrow.

But still, it’s interesting to see how they went about the draft versus how Philadelphia went about the draft.

The Sixers are the closest team to the Bucks in terms of situation. They’ve bottomed out after years of chasing the middle. But the Sixers went into last season planning to bottom out, while the Bucks were still avoiding last and first. The Sixers had a plan in place last summer and began executing on it with ruthless efficiency. They traded their only All-Star. They stripped the team of veterans who wouldn’t be contributing in a few years. They collected second round picks with the plan to package them for other things later.

Philadelphia was as active as ever on draft night. After grabbing Joel Embiid third overall, they drafted and traded Elfrid Payton at 10 to the Magic at 12 for Dario Saric, a first round pick in 2017 and a second round pick in 2015. The Sixers got the guy many thought they wanted, but picked up a couple extra picks while they were at it.

Meanwhile, the Bucks sat quietly from pick two to pick 31. I don’t wish that the Bucks made a deal simply for the sake of making a deal, but it’s interesting to see how time and again the Sixers can be so aggressive, whether it be unloading unnecessary players like Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner at the trade deadline or swapping picks to get a couple more in the future on draft night, while the Bucks remain so passive. It’s even more baffling considering the log jam Milwaukee now has on its roster.

With the additions of Parker, and second round picks Damien Inglis and Johnny O’Bryant, the Bucks roster now features roughly nine forwards, with a healthy portion of them of the power variety. Maybe there were no options for unloading Ersan Ilyasova who seems destined to remain to on the Bucks until the end of time or any motivation to swap out the still-promising John Henson, but it’s worth raising an eyebrow how much more committed to a rebuild the Sixers seem.

Granted, Philadelphia is treat its fans with almost complete apathy. Grabbing two players who won’t be playing next season and loading up the youngest team in the league with five more rookies (at least) is a great way to ensure another lottery pick, but doesn’t necessarily seem like a sure fire way to build an environment where anyone can get better. So I’m not saying the Bucks are flawed because they aren’t acting just like the Sixers.

I’m not even saying I’m disappointed with how things turned out on Thursday night. I’m just saying it isn’t what I expected and it feels a bit unsatisfying, despite the best draft pick of my adult Bucks life.

Like I said, draft night was a weird experience.

Categories: Draft Talk

I watch the Milwaukee Bucks often and write about what I see…

18 Comments

  1. All the Bucks writers, here and at SB Nation and wherever else, need to take a deep breath and leave Twitter and their blogs alone for a couple weeks. Do something else, get away from the team for a while. Go to a concert. Go on a trip. Hell, just take a long drive. Think about something other than the Bucks, and basketball in Milwaukee, and whether or not this worked out exactly as perfectly as it theoretically should have in the utopian universe that this one so obviously is not.

    They made a great pick. He’s going to be awesome. That’s enough. It really, truly is. You said yourself that they got the guy you wanted. He even shouted out Lake Michigan.

    Let it roll, baby. Those good times, I mean. Go have some fun. You’ve earned it. It’s been a long season. Thank you for your service, but we all need a break every once in a while.

    • Haha. I’m just trying to relay my experience. I think the draft itself has become a less satisfying experience overall too, and that played in probably. Seeing all the picks on Twitter so far before they happen and then have to wait and wait for them was … not pleasurable, I suppose it the phrase.

      And with all the rumors that now come out, it just seemed like something huge would happen, and then nothing happened after the first 10 minutes. It was like seeing the great ending to a terrible movie, but seeing that ending and then watching the rest of the movie after. Doesn’t make it a bad movie. But doesn’t make it a very fun night, either.

      • I feel you, man. I’ve been pretty aggressive in following this draft since it became clear how bad the Bucks were gonna be last year, and then once they took Parker, making the sane, rational, completely reasonable decision, it was sort of like, “Okay then. There went six months of my life, and now they have Jabari Parker.”

        The 24/7 aspects of the draft kind of bummed everyone out this year, I think, and I’m really hoping my favorite writers and blogs take some time away now to get perspective. It might seem anti-climactic to get a Jordan Brand-affiliated baller of the highest magnitude in Milwaukee that actually wants to be here, but my point is, it should not. This is a moment calling for the greatest excitement. After all the awful stuff that happened to our team last year, this part of it worked out for the best.

        This was perfect. Exactly perfect. And that’s so awesome, for once. Time haunts us all, but that doesn’t mean there was anything else the Bucks should have done. In five months, the fun truly begins. They’ll be much better because of this, and that’s the entire point of the enterprise.

  2. I agree I am mildly unsatisfied as well. I hoped for a bigger spark in the draft, but I have to admit a little of it was me just wanting change. In reality I don’t think we would’ve gotten good value for our guys. Imo Henson Knight and sanders all have just as good or better value than anyone that was drafted behind Vonleh. So, the trades that could have happened in reality may not have amounted to a positive in my mind. If we couldn’t get into the top 9 it wasn’t worth it.

    • Sanders
      Parker
      Giannis
      Middleton
      Knight

      There’s nothing wrong with that starting lineup, and none of them are older than 25. Then there’s Henson as the 6th man. Wolters and Mayo backing up the guards. Lineup flexibility. Length. Delfino and Zaza as the old man tutors. They deal Ers for something, and then all the sudden this is an insanely fun team to watch. In the East, they can do some business, while keeping an eye on long-term player development.

      Play the young guys. Have a fun brand of ball. All good things.

  3. Guaranteed there are trades to come. Say your last goodbyes to Ilyasova and probably Udoh.

    Interesting comparison between 76ers and Bucks. Now the Bucks have 3 19 year olds on the team with a lot of promise. 76ers have guys who a young with a lot of promise that are already banged up. (I’m sure Noel and Embiid will be fine, but still)

    Here’s what I propose for next year.
    Sessions
    Knight
    Giannis
    Parker
    Sanders

    Let OJ enter the abyss of being a 6th man, and actually he could be a very good one if he embraces the role of playing 20 minutes, putting up 10 shots, and roughly consuming 4 hot dogs a game.

    Regardless, next year should be fun. Hell I’m even excited for summer league.

    • Andrew! You had me laughing at work, causing a commotion. OJ eating hot dogs on the bench, what a scene that would be. I can not be more elated with the Jabari pick, given how ready he is now and his potential for the future. I would like to see if we can trade some of our wing players for a distributing point guard, and let Knight flourish in a scoring SG role with Giannis and Parker.

      Lets offload some veterans, get a PG, cross our fingers (or pray if you’re religious) and see what happens! I am excited for the future. These boys could turn the boring old Mil’ into a new “Thrillwaukee” brand of basketball!

  4. To be honest, when Gordon went 4th and the Jazz picked Exum, I really thought the Bucks and Jazz were going to finalize a trade that would have sent Exum, the 23rd pick and Derick Favors to the Bucks, for Parker and Larry Sanders. The Rodney Hood selection at 23 was a perfect fit for the Bucks, who needed to add talent in the back court and a shooter in this draft. I think that’s why we were all left so unsatisfied at the end of the draft. Even if this “trade” was a pipedream, it at least would have added young, high ceiling guys to that could be built around, with guys on the current roster. All the Bucks did in this draft was create an even bigger “logjam” in their front court and appear blind to the holes on their roster that needed to be addressed.

        • ditto canada and kd —

          I like that you’re thinking JJ, but I think those who are somehow “unsatisfied” with Parker are not thinking, but over-thinking. Rodney Hood will be a nice role player. Parker will be an All Star (he led Duke in scoring, and the ACC in rebounding, as a frosh). We already have athletes, but we don’t have scorers. Keep your Exum and Favors. I’ll take the cornerstone of the franchise. Parker, the Freak, and BK. What could prove to be quite a set of triplets. Add Sanders (who has a lot to prove after this past year) and you have a helluva foundation for the future.

          I get the whole underwhelming feeling of last night. It got me too. When Embid became a medical red flag, it all got very predictable. Thank heaven, Hammond didn’t over-think things.

          Parker, who most likely will be a stud for years to come, WANTS to play in Milwaukee.

          It was a great night, I don’t need any surprises.

  5. after this draft I was a little surprised we didn’t grab a PG in the 2nd round but it’s ok. Right now a rotation of Wolters-Knight-Giannis-Parker-Sanders with Henson as the 6th man and Middleton and Inglis as role players doesn’t sound the worst and if Sanders keeps his head above water and we aren’t injury prone like last year we could crack 30-35 wins in the upcoming season.

    But how hyped up would Buck fans be if with our 2 later second round picks we went with Glen Robinson III and Thanasis Atetokoumpo. Granted not being drafted by the Bucks is good for them because now they don’t get all the comparisons to father and brother respectively…but if that had happened Bucks fans would have been bouncing off the walls.

  6. What’s often lost in the recent NBA groupthink that abhors being good — as if tanking or titleist are the only sensible positions — is that the draft is a total crap shoot in which top picks routinely flame out and some of the very best picks come outside the top 5 (sometimes even outside the top 15). Check out Bill Simmons’ recent piece to hammer that point home.

    The Parker addition undoubtedly improves the Bucks this year. If that means 10-15 more wins, I won’t despair nor envy the Philly fans watching another 60+ loss horror show. I have confidence that Hammonds can nail another low lottery pick in 2015, these guys can gel over the next couple years (might require a different coach down the line) and turn into a consistent playoff team in an East that appears to only be getting weaker. And if one or more of Giannis, Knight, Sanders, and Parker can simultaneously reach their ceilings — well, we might just have a real conference contender on our hands.

    Meanwhile, I’ll leave Philly fans to their grind of blowout losses, pie-in-the-sky dreams, and worrying about rehab schedules while ignoring that their best player might just be a point guard (MCW) whose ceiling seems closer to a healthy Shaun Livingston than Penny Hardaway.

    • You got it, man. Poor Sixers fans. There’s literally nothing for them to look forward to now, for like two full seasons, at least. I’m ecstatic our guys were able to avoid that same fate. Even if they’re not title material any time soon, they will be fun and young and maybe even good, and that’s enough.

  7. I think the amount of implausible and pipe-dream trade scenarios started getting to everyone’s heads. We all know rumored trades rarely happen, and the likelyhood that anyone moves up into a lottery spot is minimal. Everyone got so consumed with the hype and buildup to the draft that they actually started expecting a second top-10 pick, whether subconsciously or logically. I was just baffled at people throwing out trades like ‘Knight and Sanders’ for the Lakers pick, or the Celtics trading down. Most of these weren’t even rumors. They were just bloggers/pundits tossing around names that ended up being mislabeled as ‘rumors’. With a big free market coming up, nobody is going to give up a top prospect in a deep draft for a couple of guys with big salaries coming off injuries/character problems.

    The picks themselves have such a higher value than the players they will eventually become. Giannis will cost us less money over the next 4 years than Mayo will in just this next year. Teams would rather take their chance on a pick than throw money at veterans when they’re trying to save cap-space for the big name guys. I just thought these trade ideas were extremely unlikely and implausible, but they eventually became so regurgitated that it lead Bucks fans to resenting a great draft where we got what we wanted from day 1 of the season.

  8. Pingback: The Bucks bought low on Damien Inglis : Bucksketball – A Better Milwaukee Bucks Blog

  9. I think this draft and the 9 forwards in the lineup is going to be very interesting in the coming years. The traditional lineup of the NBA is changing, you have guys like Jabari and Giannis that can handle the ball at 6’8″ 6’9″ which creates a lot of matchup problems and flexes the floor. It’s a new breed of basketball that will be incredibly exciting to watch!