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.