Imagine this: What if Scott Skiles, John Hammond, Brandon Jennings, and Monta Ellis all did not return to the Bucks next season? While the argument can go in a million directions of who you would like back, the fact of the matter is this franchise will depart into a murky frontier of uncertainty without all four of these people.
Now, I am not pleading to have these four gentlemen back into the organization next season. I would prefer none of them to return. This ‘murky frontier of uncertainty’ could be the best thing for the Milwaukee Bucks (or maybe the worst thing), but I’m willing to take that risk. I’m tired of reaching the quota that a .500 record and an eight seed is good enough season in and season out. When this team is bad, I’m sick of drafting out of the top five. I wish we had a top-tier player willing to come to this city, having butts back in the seats again, and obtain a team driven and destined to win our second-ever NBA Championship. I’m done living in the Skiles/Hammond Era. That so called dynasty is nothing more than a farce.
You have Scott Skiles, a guy who does not appear to have any control of his team. Every time we see Skiles on the bench, he always looks puzzled and upset. When was the last time anybody saw Scott Skiles crack a smile? He never seems excited about anything. Skiles looks uncomfortable and frustrated (even if the Bucks beat a great team) every time he addresses the media. Emphasizing where the team needs to improve, Skiles never seems to successfully get his team to improve. His sarcasm never gets old, though. His defensive philosophy has been all over the board in his five seasons as coach for the Bucks. Since being hired, here’s where Skiles’ defense ranks among the league…
The stats speak for themselves. When the Bucks’ defense ranked among the NBA’s elite, the offense disappeared. To be 3rd in the league in defense and 30th in the league in offense in the same season is an absolute travesty. That’s been Skiles problem. A lack of balance from both disciplines, there has not been one season is his tenure, where both the offense and defense were ranked in the top 15! Ironically, his rookie season might have had the most balance. Oh, and by the way, since the win against Indiana on Tuesday night, Skiles is 159-176 as head coach for your Milwaukee Bucks. Does that sit well with you?
As for John Hammond, he was almost a godsend for this franchise….At least that’s what we thought after the great playoff run during the 2009-2010 season. Give credit where credit is due to Mr. Hammond. Getting the reputation as Trader John, Hammond has done an exceptional job trading away garbage. However, in many cases, getting quality in return has never paid off (maybe in the short term, though). When he has made a mistake, he corrects it by trading the mistake away for another potential mistake. I LOVED when Hammond traded away the likes of Bobby Simmons, Yi, Charlie Bell, Joe Alexander, Jon Brockman, Shaun Livingston and the Flying Dutchman. However, in return, you received guys like Richard Jefferson, Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson, John Salmons, and Samuel Dalembert. (I was OK with trading Bogut).
Hammond, however, has failed as a general manager. I understand the Bucks payroll is small. I understand we don’t see a ton of sell-out crowds at the BMOBC these days. I understand we’ll never be the L.A. Lakers or Miami Heat. I understand we don’t have a minor league system to look towards (sorry, the D-League is a joke). As GM, though, if you know your job is being called into question, and the product you’ve put on the floor isn’t winning/selling, then you need to rethink your strategy. Hammond, in my opinion, is not confident in what he has on the floor. Obviously, you can point fingers at the players all day for consistently underperforming, but in the end, the blame is put on the general manager. I wish Hammond could make a bold move in the draft, by trading up to a top three pick, even if that means sacrificing a ton to get it. What else does he have to lose at this point?
Remember the 55 point night by Brandon Jennings a few seasons ago? It was a number that no Bucks’ fan anywhere in the city of Milwaukee could have fathomed. In our minds, Jennings gave us hope that with a little maturity and some hard work, he could be the face of the franchise moving forward. He could lead this team to a higher playoff seeding; he could get us deeper in the playoffs; he could be responsible for turning this franchise around…Now heading into his fourth season, I can’t say I’m all that impress.
From a statistics standpoint, Jennings’ rookie season (2009-2010) might have been his best season. Averaging 37% from the field and from three-point land, Jennings proved to be great from the free throw line, a decent defender despite his size, and someone who was good about passing the ball around. In his career, Jennings averages 16.9 points per game. His numbers in just about every category in the last two seasons had diminished from his rookie season. In all fairness though, Jennings wasn’t 100% healthy in the 2010-2011 season, and despite playing every game in the 2011-2012 season, it was still a shortened season due to the lockout.
Perhaps I’m being too tough on Jennings…but when do you draw the line and say it’s time to move on. I have not seen his numbers drastically improve since his rookie season. When can we finally say he’s an establish veteran in this league? Signing him long-term is a risk the team could be unwilling to take. A starting point guard averaging 39% in his career is not good enough, in my opinion. Then again, if you do get rid of him, who picks up the scoring slack on this team? It’s bad enough this team doesn’t have any consistent shooters. I wish there was an easier alternative…I know!...TRADE HIM FOR A DRAFT PICK!
And then there’s Monta Ellis…A guy that clearly doesn’t want to play here. He says he’ll do whatever he can to help the Bucks win, and that’s fine and dandy. Don’t expect him to get paid the big bucks from the Bucks. Since coming to Milwaukee, Ellis has underperformed from a numbers standpoint. Now in his 9th season in the NBA, Monta Ellis has a career 46% from the field, averaging 19.5 points per game. However, his field goal percentage hovers around 40%. With the lack of shooters on this team already, Ellis needs to step his game up. When Jennings and Ellis are both cold, you can expect an imminent defeat. Monta Ellis is not the answer going forward, especially if he’s asking for a steep price.
I’m a firm believer that in order to succeed, you need a superstar-caliber player to lead the team. That’s one thing the Bucks have been missing for so many years. Perhaps it’s just bad luck.
Here’s where I’m confused, though. What does this particular season mean to the franchise? Let’s say the Bucks play out of their minds going into the second half of the season, get a top five seeding in the playoffs, and manage to get their way to the second round of the playoffs (that’s asking a lot). Which of these four people – Skiles, Hammond, Jennings, and/or Ellis – stays with this team going into next year? This could finally be the year the Bucks finally make some noise in the NBA. If the Bucks do pull something off, which of these people deserves credit? Would you want any of them to stay, regardless of a great season? Will it make this team better in the long haul?
Case and point. Their track records with this team show no optimism that this team can move up to a whole new level. I’d rather take my chances down the ‘murky frontier of uncertainty’, than tolerate a few more seasons with these guys…