Remember when the Bucks were an exciting and competitive team? A carefree, simple time when you could tell your friend that you were TiVo-ing the Bucks game without sounding sarcastic? No, I'm not referring to the teams of the late 90's and early 2000's that had Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, and Glen Robinson. I am referring to the Bucks of 2009.
That tough, gritty, defensive-minded team lead by Scott Skiles. Those regular season giant killers who just kept on winning. Do you remember Brandon Jennings scoring 55 points against Golden State and emerging as one of the most exciting point guards in the league? How about Andrew Bogut finally showing us signs that he may have been worthy of that number 1 pick? Do you remember John Salmons proving that he is still one of the most dangerous scorers in the league? Eryan Illyasova coming out of nowhere? The "Fear the Deer" signs? So much has happened in the league last year that the Bucks falling off the face of the NBA universe was casually swept under the rug, which is a shame.
As a lover of underdogs and an unabashed basketball purist, this is doubly disappointing for me. The Bucks played hard night in and night out. Skiles preached defense and team basketball. The young and talented corps bought in and played well. Brandon Jennings looked like a complete guard, an increasingly rare occurrence with NBA bound freshmen. This is a testament to his work ethic and also to the emphasis that European leagues put on basketball fundamentals. Andrew Bogut showed flashes of greatness that year. The young Aussie is a rare mix of strength, finesse, and pure talent who lamentably appears to be a part of a growing list of NBA centers that could possibly become the next Shaq or Olajuwon if they could only stay healthy.
Landing Jimmer Fredette with the 10th overall pick may be a blessing or curse for the Bucks. Sacramento was determined to land the BYU scoring machine and Milwaukee made the trade. Getting Stephen Jackson, Beno Udrih, and Shaun Livingston may help them. Giving up Corey Maggette and John Salmons will undoubtedly leave a void in scoring on a less than prolific offense. Can they get back to being that young, hungry team with a chip on it shoulder that we saw two long years ago? It seems like Skiles got the younger players on the team to buy into his system back then. 2010 Draft pick Larry Sanders from VCU may develop into a solid player. 19 year old Tobias Harris from Tennessee (last year's 19th overall pick) is talented but extremely raw. If a real estate agent were attempting to lease this roster, they may use phrases like "fixer upper" or a "handy man's dream". Is this just the blank slate that Skiles could work with? The only constants on this team are Jennings and Bogut, and rumors are already swirling that Andrew Bogut may be used in some sort of three team trade to get Dwight Howard to Los Angeles or New Jersey.
I would love nothing more than to see Scott Skiles get this team into the Playoffs this year. Some would argue that the brutal schedule with many back to back games actually benefits the young teams with young legs. Milwaukee will have plenty of young legs needing to get acclimated to the NBA as soon as possible. Here's to seeing those "Fear the Deer" posters waving come mid-April.