That’s a famous phrase used by Jon McGlocklin, Mr. Milwaukee Buck and long-time TV analyst. The ‘window of opportunity’ is brought out when there’s a chance for the Bucks to climb back into a ballgame. But let me apply it to the situation currently facing this year’s team.
Center Andrew Bogut is out indefinitely with a broken ankle. It’s an injury that takes 6-8 weeks just to heal, and a few months to return to physical activity according to the Aurora Health Care website. While the Bucks, who are notorious for keeping information quiet (and doing a poor job at diagnosing injuries as is), throw out the term ‘indefinitely,’ he’s done for the year. The only reason ‘indefinitely’ is being used is to give fans a glimmer of hope that he’ll return. But he won’t. Nor should he if he could.
Amidst everything that occurs with the Milwaukee Bucks, dysfunctional or otherwise, there’s an underlying problem. Ever since their Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 2001, the Bucks have averaged 36 wins a season. In fact, you can take their lowest win total of the last decade (26 in 2007/08) and their highest win total of the last decade (46 in 2009/10) and get the average wins per season for each season in the last decade. The two outliers in an equation determining an appropriate average is usually a statistical anomaly. But not with the Bucks. Why?
The Milwaukee Bucks have never undergone a rebuild under Sen. Herb Kohl’s tenure as owner. In the 26 years as owner, Sen. Kohl has seen the Bucks make it past the second round of the postseason twice (2001, 1986), yet has seen only three top five draft picks (Bogut, Stephon Marbury – traded to Minnesota for Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson). In most every league in professional sports, you can find one or two franchises who are stuck in neutral. The Milwaukee Bucks are the epitome of mediocre.
But here lies a window of opportunity to change that. Bucks fans are ready, more than ready, to see the reset button hit. A possibility of a first-round playoff exit isn’t enticing. It never was enticing, even in 2010 when it was so unexpected. Fans aren’t sure how much louder they need to shout to management that what they’re doing isn’t working. Attendance has tanked, TV ratings are brutal, and no one’s willing to pony up tax money for a new building. There’s a clear format to construct a winner in small-market NBA land, let alone with the least valuable franchise in the NBA (pop the cork!).
Even in this slightly altered financial NBA system, small-market teams MUST build through the draft. Accumulate young talent to grow and develop, bringing in free agents to support the core. Oklahoma City could very well win a title doing that this year. San Antonio won many titles that way. Everyone else that has won championships recently reside in large markets. If there’s any hope for the Bucks to compete, it must be through the draft.
So while I’m sure it’s enticing for John Hammond to go get Joel Pryzbilla and cling to the eighth-seed, on behalf of Bucks fans everywhere, don’t. Fans don’t want to see that. Fans want the hope of something bigger. Let this team lose, which they will do without Andrew Bogut (Houston notwithstanding). Or, open the doors and let the buyers come in. You have a few decent young players that you should hold on to (Jennings, Leuer, Harris, Mbah A Moute), but everyone else can go. Grab young players, expiring contracts and draft picks, and hit the reset button once and for all. You have twelve teams ‘ahead’ of you for draft positioning in a deep draft. There’s work to be done. Hell, when you won the lottery in '05, you had a six percent chance to do so. It won't even take that much work. But what you CAN'T do is try to salvage a winner out of this group. It's pointless.
By no means am I happy Bogut is injured. It’s not fair to him at all that another odd injury sidelines him for a long period of time and will likely lessen his ability as a player. But it’s also unfortunate that the Bucks can no longer trade their biggest commodity to get the rebuild started in earnest. But they can start it.
The window is open.
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