The Milwaukee Bucks haven't won an NBA playoff series in over 12 years. In the past 21 years they've missed out on the postseason 14 times. The team owns one first place finish (2000-2001) and one second place finish (2009-10) in the Central Division during the last quarter of a century. Milwaukee is rightfully drenched in red on the franchise futility index at 82games.com.
The Milwaukee Bucks have only selected two prospects with a top-5 draft pick in the past 18 NBA Drafts - Andrew Bogut at No. 1 overall in 2005 and Stephon Marbury at No. 4 overall in 1996 (who was promptly traded for the rights to No. 5 pick Ray Allen). No player on the current roster has ever been to name to an NBA All-Star roster. The last All-Star to represent the team was Michael Redd in 2003-04.
The only other player to ever make an All-Star team that's even played for the Bucks during the last five seasons is Jerry Stackhouse in 2009-10...nine years after he last earned the honor. To crystallize the soul-crushing reality in your mind, consider this: Redd and Stackhouse are the only All-Star players to suit up for the Bucks during John Hammond's tenure with the team.
Contrary to the Bucks' rigid and principled approach, limited success is not offset by limited failure in the NBA. Every team is on each other's food chain. Organizations compete against each other in complex ways and they interact through a network of cascading transactions and decisions that complicate the food web in the Association. That's why fans should always demand a certain competitive verve from their favorite team.
Teams are always in a position to compete for something valuable. The Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy is a realistic for goal for a small handful of organizations in a given year, but the others can compete for long-term opportunities and plan to hoist the trophy at a later date. Premium amateur prospects can change the trajectory of a franchise, but you have to compete for the right to draft those players. Some people call it "tanking," but under the current system there's no better way to actively pursue fresh franchise-changing talent on criminally supressed contracts.
The Bucks have stubbornly worked their way into a position where they no longer compete for anything valuable. Strong teams dominate the playoff bracket and use Milwaukee to warm up for the real prime time show. Weaker teams focus on the future and secure the top draft picks while Bango and friends pick through the scraps in the late lottery.
The Bucks certainly imagine their role is somewhere outside the structure I've described. The problem is that at this point it should be clear that there's no prize for attempting to delicately balance wins against losses like Lady Justice with her two-pan beam scales. Fans crave competition more than balance or stability in the middle of the pack.
The case in support of a deep and meaningful playoff run is banal. It's what everyone wants for their favorite sports team. When vibrant short-term success is out for reach, that's when the competitive focus needs to reverse course in the NBA. Bad teams don't scare basketball fans, but irrelevant teams do. If you can't sell success, you can still sell the path to success as long as it's visible to the fan base.
Top draft picks allow fans to create their own vision of long-term success. People buy in to the experience with a rebuilding team because they get to invest on the ground floor and take stock in the future success of the team. When a mega prospect joins in, folks jump at the chance to witness the genesis of a potentially star-studded career. We all want to be there first to find the next big thing. Some people pumped up Tobias Harris this past summer for that very reason: the desire to get in on the ground floor and claim a more pure connection to the success.
The Bucks don't have the big wins, and they don't have the mega prospects. Most teams feel alive in the NBA because they've recently moved along the continuum to experience one of those highs. Milwaukee has unfortunately transformed itself into an undead franchise that survives on scraps and avoids risky confrontations with the power squads and the feral rebuilders. It would take an improbable string of wounded playoff contenders or indiscriminate lottery teams to save them from their fate.
At this point there's nothing left to do but cry out for the team to rededicate itself to meaningful pursuits. It's time for a better brand of competitive verve in Milwaukee. There isn't much else left to say.