Man, what a difference a year makes huh? From that Bango to a Bango backflipping off of 30 foot high ladders. This was the exact picture that I used 19 months ago when the NBA season started to ask a simple question: do people care about the Bucks? Seemed poignant at the time. Considering this squad had come off of 26, 24, and 34 win seasons, hadn't been to the playoffs in four years (which in the NBA is shocking, I think my high school intramural team almost made the NBA playoffs in 2002), and whose mascot was sidelined last season with a torn ACL. It was a perfect storm of bad. Hell the Bucks were about as irrelevant in the NBA as Aquaman was in Justice League*. And to be honest, at the time I figured I'd sooner be writing a blog about the Bucks moving to Seattle before I'd write one about them being a contender again.
But here we are. A dynamic draft pick in Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut blossoming into a dominant NBA center, Scott Skiles finishing 2nd in coach of the year balloting, John Hammond winning executive of the year, and a catch phrase so trendy that 'Hulkamania' is jealous, and BLAMO the Bucks suddenly look like a team on the rise. I think I acutally wrote 6 or 7 in season blogs about this team. Hell by the end of the year the Bucks were even in the first 20 minutes of Sportscenter and I was watching them play on a date in MAY.
And the best part of all of this? This team has no where to go but up. Look I'm not saying they're going to win an NBA championship, but an NBA championship is entirely possible/probably going to happen. Think about it, Brandon Jennings is 20 years old. He now has playoff experience as a rookie, and while he had some shooting nights this season that looked like me 'practicing' in the alley behind my parents house (read: brick city), his shot is only going to get better. He's got a great basketball IQ, can pass with the best in the league, and has bought into Scott Skiles system. Andrew Bogut is already locked up for another 4 years and I would argue is behind only Dwight Howard in terms of best centers in the east. And even though it seems like he's been in Milwaukee for 10 years already, he's only 25 years old. Delfino and Ersan? Both young, and both signed. Mbah a Moute is already one of the best defenders in the league, and is slowly developing an offensive game. Oh and he's also young. Noticing a trend? This team is young and talented.
And we have one of the best GMs in the league. Seriously if you look at the team that John Hammond inherited two years ago and the team we have now it's actually shocking what he has been able to do. Ever watched the show "Flip this House" on HGTV? That's basically what Hammond has done, except instead of a house, it's an NBA franchise. Somehow he has rid this team of literally DOZENS of terrible contracts and has managed to put enough talent on the floor to make this team exciting, all while waiting to get out of financial hell in 2011 when both Michael Redd's 18 million and Dan Gadzuric's 7 million come off the books. As of right now the Bucks will have the MOST money to spend in the summer of 2011. When guys like Carmelo Anothony are free agents.
The other nice thing about the NBA is that the 'hot stove' is not that far off. The draft is next month already, and free agency begins July 1. Resigning John Salmons should be a priority, but beyond that I'm not sure I would change this team all that much from this year. Just let them grow and mature together. Bonus word: rise.
*Me:1 Aquaman: 0. He never saw it coming. Your move Aquaman. Your move.