Blueprint for BucksMay 23, 2012
Does the success of small-market Oklahoma City or Indiana mean anything for the Bucks?
Yes and no.
Let’s deal with Indiana first because they’re in the Bucks division. Larry Bird has done a masterful job but it required patience. The kind of patience that very few owners have and very few GM’s not named Larry Bird and a hero in the state get. What is so inspiring about the Pacers if that they’ve built a team through depth, not stars. As Gery Woelfel pointed out, Indiana’s highest pick of their own was Paul George at #10. Both Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert outplayed their draft position and George Hill, Darren Collison and David West were solid acquisitions. Having said all of that, they have almost no chance of winning a title.
The Thunder’s rise is a combination of luck, skill, daring and timing. Sam Presti has been great as Oklahoma City GM. He’s also been lucky. By losing the lottery for Greg Oden, Kevin Durant “fell” to them as the obvious choice. If the Thunder picks first, they take Oden. Who knew that Oden’s career would be ill-fated with injuries?
It took skill to select Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Both have blossomed into stars. Thabo Sefalosha and Serge Ibaka are excellent, defense-first role players. They were developed into valuable assets.
It was bold to break up a young and close trio when Jeff Green was sent to Boston for Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder desperately needed inside toughness. Now the deal looks like a steal because Green was diagnosed with a heart ailment. In another daring move, it would have been easy to look for a “name” coach. Scott Brooks was promoted from within and has been terrific.
Presti also has a knack for timing. Knowing his team was close to championship status but needed veteran experience, he swooped in signed Derek Fisher at just the right time.
Nobody is kidding around that the Bucks are as close to a title like the Thunder. They don’t have a superstar like Kevin Durant. But they might be close to being able to do what the Pacers have done. Put together a team good enough for a deep playoff run.
I know patience with the Bucks is running thin. It could be worse, though. Michael Jordan could have bought the Bucks in 2003. He and his cronies have now laid waste to two NBA franchises—Washington and Charlotte. He might be the greatest player ever—but he’s yet to show he can win as an executive.
Building a team is more art than science. “ Sure things” become busts and lesser-touted prospects sometimes turn into stars. For the Bucks to succeed, yes they can follow the blueprint of the Thunder and the Pacers. They need to have a consistent and bold vision. They also need to get lucky.