Last offseason Milwaukee Bucks made a decision to compete and grow their youth at the same time. General manager John Hammond brought in several veterans to fill in around young Larry Sanders and John Henson. The thought was to allow them to improve while Milwaukee made a run at the No. 8 seed — again. Typically this doesn’t work in the NBA, and for the Bucks have confirmed this in 2013-14. Since then the Bucks have changed direction, and much to the delight of their fanbase they are finally in full rebuild mode. How did Hammond get to this point?
It wasn’t long after signing O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal, Caron Butler, Zaza Pachulia, Carols Delfino and Luke Ridnour that the season went south. Sure, there were injuries, but it was also clear this team was not constructed well. The mix of youth and veterans didn’t mesh, and new coach Larry Drew was trying to implement his system with the wrong parts. Hammond got lucky at the trade deadline, dumping off Ridnour and Neal (two-year deal) and then let Butler walk away. Hammond has always been good at ridding himself of his mistakes, and this season is no exception. He continues to be stuck with Mayo and Delfino, both players with little to offer and on the books for the next couple years.
Where Hammond has redeemed himself (or gotten lucky as well) was the draft where he snagged Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters. Antetokounmpo has shown flashes of a superstar, and Wolters appears to be a steal from the second round.
In addition to the draft and free agency, Hammond also dealt Brandon Jennings to Detroit Pistons for Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton. At first the deal looked like a bust, but once again Hammond had some luck on his side as Knight has flourished into one of the more promising point guards in the East.
So maybe it’s not all luck but rather playing to his strengths of finding young talent. Hammond has had very little success finding long-term pieces via free agency, but he has had success finding talent through the draft and trades. Regardless, Hammond will need luck when the ping pong balls are drawn and even more luck when the team selects their top draft pick. The future of the franchise is riding on it.
David is a NBA writer for Rant Sports. Follow David S. Grant on Twitter @david_s_grant