Last year, both of these teams pulled the incredibly-unsubtle-tank-job routine, rivalled only in blatantness by that of the Minnesota Timberwolves. So obvious was it that then-Celtic Ryan Gomes essentially admitted to the tank job in an interview, saying, and I quote:
“I probably (would have played), but since we were in the hunt for a high draft pick, of course things are different,” Gomes said. “I understand that. Hopefully things get better. Now that we clinched at least having the second-most balls in the lottery, the last three games we’ll see what happens. We’ll see if we can go out and finish some games.”
Say what you really feel, Ry.
Both teams put most of their eggs in one basket, trying their best to lose out, hoping for one of the top two spots in this year’s draft, and thus a chance at Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. But both were the victims of bad karma, and failed to move up, ending up with the fifth and sixth picks respectively.
From there, Boston has gone on to trade for two All-Stars, one of whom is arguably the most talented player of his generation still in the back end of his prime. They are left with plenty of work to do, yet they have become instantly vaulted towards the top of the Eastern Conference and into title contention.
Whereas Milwaukee is mired in the middle of a soap opera.
Enough has been said about Boston and what they’ve done, but Milwaukee and GM Larry Harris seem to have been overlooked somewhat. After a poor 2004-05 season in which they finished with a disappointing 30-52 record, the Bucks beat long odds to win the lottery, and also had maximum cap room available to them. This offseason, they once again had potentially maximum cap room, and a high pick (#6) in a supposedly powerhouse draft.
And once again, they have not taken advantage.
2005’s offseason yielded Andrew Bogut with the first overall pick, one of the better players of a weak draft but far from the best. The cap space was spent on re-signing Michael Redd to a maximum contract (decide amongst yourselves whether it was worth it), signing the Most Improved Player of the previous season (Bobby Simmons) to a $46.4 million contract only to then see him miss one season and disappoint in the next, and re-signing Dan Gadzuric to a considerably overpriced deal, all while letting the younger, cheaper and better Zaza Pachulia sign with Atlanta, unchallenged.
This offseason brought much of the same. They signed another starting small forward in Desmond Mason, who figures to not only make the Simmons signing look that much worse, but who should also be roughly the equal of the man he is replacing – Ruben Patterson – and signed Jake Voskuhl to compete with/replace Gadzuric at the back-up centre spot. Voskuhl, too, figures to be the mere equal of the guy he has replaced, the unheralded Brian Skinner. (OK, so “unheralded” is a blatant embellishment. But you know what I mean.)
In addition to the disappointments in free agency, the Bucks also have an ongoing saga with their draft choice at #6, Yi Jianlian, whose agents and ‘people’ warned Milwaukee that their client did not want to play there, going as far as refusing to let Bucks personnel watch a private workout conducted by Yi. The Bucks took the risk and drafted him anyway, and now Yi is refusing to sign for Milwaukee.
All in all, something of a cock-up.
In between these two mismanaged offseasons, the Bucks traded T.J. Ford to Toronto for Charlie Villanueva, a can’t-miss trade that they somehow managed to miss on. They also made an extremely unsuccessful trade in dealing Mason and a first-round draft pick to New Orleans for Jamaal Magloire, a man not only coming off of serious injury but who also played the same position as Bogut, whom they had drafted only four months previously (Magloire then went on to disappoint mightily and was shipped out for spare parts at the start of last season). And Milwaukee also managed to compound their problems at the 2006 draft by needlessly trading their 2007 second-round pick to San Antonio for the ineffective Damir Markota – due to last year’s tank job, that pick went on to become as high as #33, meaning that Milwaukee missed out on Glen Davis and Josh McRoberts, amongst others.
The result of all this as things stand is a Bucks team that figures to be mired once again in mediocrity (or, at best, decency), and its place as a team that has more than ample opportunity to improve considerably more than it has done. Can anybody really see them as being anything more than a low seed/late lottery team, even if things begin to go their way for a change?
Larry Harris has made some good under-the-radar finds in his tenure as GM (Pachulia, Charlie Bell, Ersan Ilyasova), but perhaps he would do best to let someone else manage the financial side of things.