It has been a season of absolute futility for the Milwaukee Bucks, and after last night’s loss to Toronto, the team officially confirmed its doormat status by clinching the league’s worst record.
To many Bucks fans, this is actually good news. By clinching the worst record, Milwaukee now has the best lottery odds of claiming the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s highly touted draft. Last month, amid the 76ers’ putrid 26-game losing streak, it seemed as though the Bucks would pass Philadelphia in the standings and give themselves less favorable draft pick odds.
Though the Bucks weren’t as awful as the 76ers down the stretch, they were still pretty bad. Since Philly’s losing streak began Jan. 31, Milwaukee has gone 7-29, while the Sixers went an unfathomable 3-32. Because the Sixers had a 6.5 game lead on the Bucks at the outset of their losing streak, they were thus unable to “catch” Milwaukee in the standings.
Take that, Philly. You can’t even lose correctly.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s home game against Atlanta will finally put a merciful wrap on the worst Bucks season in franchise history. Even with a win to finish 16-66, this season’s team is still comfortably behind the 1993-’94 team that went 20-62 under head coach Mike Dunleavy.
Last summer, Milwaukee overhauled its roster, trading four-year starting point guard Brandon Jennings to Detroit and declining the team option on combo guard Monta Ellis. The Bucks then signed veterans Carlos Delfino, O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal, Zaza Pachulia and Luke Ridnour in free agency. Just before the regular season began in October, Milwaukee locked up its young center Larry Sanders to a four-year, $44 million contract that will kick in next season.
These moves indicate that the Bucks were clearly aiming for the playoffs rather than bottoming out, as has typically been the case under owner Herb Kohl. Then everything imploded.
Delfino never played at all this season due to a foot injury. Mayo was out of shape and fell out of the rotation in January. Neal and Ridnour were traded to Charlotte. Though Pachulia averaged seven points and six rebounds this season, one has to wonder if a 30-year-old backup center is worth the three-year, $15 million deal the Bucks gave him.
The biggest black mark of the year, however, was Sanders. First there was the embarrassing nightclub fight (with comical security camera action below–Larry is the one on skates!) that required thumb surgery. Then there was a sharp overall decline in numbers upon his return. Then a broken orbital bone sustained in early February that ended his season. And finally there was the five-game suspension for marijuana use.
Rough way to start an extension. One year removed from being a franchise cornerstone, Sanders has become expendable this offseason and could wind up on a different roster come next October.
In addition to the Sanders debacle, the Bucks have plenty of other things to figure out in what could be the most important summer in franchise history. With both a potential sale of the team and the need for a new arena looming, Milwaukee must make the right moves this offseason to infuse some hope into this long dormant franchise.