Bucks in unenviable position
It's official. Despite the Bucks 92-86 win over the Toronto Raptors Monday night, playoff hopes were dashed after the Philadelphia 76ers blew out the New Jersey Nets.
That means another off-season where the Bucks will hope to strike it rich in the draft lottery, but more likely will draft somewhere in the teens. What does that mean for the 2012-2013 season? More of the same. They will probably look to add a big-bodied banger who can play some defense, but he won't be a true impact player, and he certainly won't be enough to put the Bucks over the top and into the playoffs with hope of a first round series win.
General Manager John Hammond has been in office since 2008, and has done a nice job digging out of the financial mess created by former General Manager Larry Harris. Unfortunately, injuries, several coaching changes, and inconsistency in the draft have not allowed the franchise to step beyond the first round of the playoffs since 2000. In fact, the team has only made the playoffs four times since the 2000-2001 season. You'd think their level of mediocrity would lead to positive draft results. Think again.
Since 2000, you could argue that Bucks second round picks Michael Redd, Dan Gadzuric, Ersan Ilyasova, Ramon Sessions, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Jon Leuer have made a more significant contribution on the floor than lottery picks Marcus Haislip, TJ Ford, Andrew Bogut, Yi Jianlian, Joe Alexander and Brandon Jennings. Out of the entire group I listed, only Redd has ever been an all-star with the Bucks.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a great example of how the draft can help shape the nucleus of a team. Kevin Durant (selected #2 in 2007), Russell Westbrook (selected #4 overall in 2008), Serge Ibaka (selected #24 in 2008) and James Harden (selected #3 in 2009) have all met pre-draft expectations. Throw in a couple key role players such as Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefalosha, and you have one of the best teams in the league with a payroll that is about $3.5 million less than the Bucks.
I'm not saying the Bucks would be better off tanking the next three seasons in order to draft in the top five - there's no guarantee that would work - but I am saying that hovering around the eight seed and struggling to have a .500 record year after year is a terrible situation for any franchise to be in.
Hammond and Head Coach Scott Skiles are under contract through the 2012-2013 season, but there is no guarantee either will be back for next season. Hammond is considered a candidate to takeover as the GM in Portland, and Skiles path as the Bucks head coach has found a dead end. A look back on his previous stints in Phoenix and Chicago suggest his best work in Milwaukee is in the rear view mirror. Year number two in a given city has proven to be Skiles' best in regards to playoff seeding.
It's possible Skiles could be given the benefit of the doubt given a shortened season, injuries, a dramatic change in style-of-play after the trade deadline, and a lack of practice time, but it's hard to imagine the Bucks being much more than a .500 team in the near future.
There are other issues plaguing the franchise, such as an outdated arena, ho-hum television contract and stale ownership, but there isn't much that can be done about those issues. The Bradley Center appears here to stay for another decade, the market is what it is, and Senator Kohl - as much as he'd like to sell the team he's losing money over - won't sell to an investment group if there is risk of the franchise leaving Milwaukee.
All told, the Bucks are in an unenviable position and need a stroke of good fortune to break out of it.