Today, SB Nation NBA is asking who you would bring back from your favorite team's past. If you could time-warp anybody from franchise history, at the top of his game, into today, who would you choose?
Despite their decade-plus status as an also-ran franchise in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks have had some sensational players. All-time greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (as Lew Alcindor) and Oscar Robertson led the franchise to its only NBA title. Five-time All-Star Sidney Moncrief made multiple trips to the Eastern Conference Finals with the Bucks in the early 1980s. The Bucks' "Big Three" of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, and Sam Cassell within one game of the NBA Finals in 2001.
When I started thinking about this little exercise, though, I wanted to go beyond the clear top choices. Who really wants a pair of legends, or an all-time sharpshooter (also I'm a little worried about what would happen to the space-time continuum if Ray Allen matched up against Ray Allen)? I wanted to look elsewhere.
It feels like for years the Bucks' theme has been untapped potential. It kept us going through four years of Brandon Jennings and it gives us Tobias Harris-centered nightmares. But before Jennings or Harris, before promise-laden busts like Yi Jianlian and Joe Alexander, before the human embodiment of upside that is Giannis Antetokounmpo, there was Michael Redd.
While the Bucks were collapsing into the chasm of Anthony Mason's ego, Michael Redd was growing into Milwaukee's homegrown star. Freed up by the (infamous) Ray Allen trade, Redd's scoring averaged spiked to over 21 per game in his fourth season, earning him an All-Star selection and a place on the All-NBA Third Team; the Bucks haven't sent a player to the All-Star Game since.
The Bucks have had a solid defense for the last four seasons, but they've been undone by a teeth-pulling aversion to efficient scoring. With Brandon Jennings manning the point and a rotating cast of marginal talents next to him, the Bucks have lacked the sort of shooting and playmaking in the backcourt needed to compete in today's perimeter-oriented game. And if they've got a very specific problem, Michael Redd represents a very specific solution.
At his best, Redd was an accurate, high-volume bomber from behind the arc who could take defenders off the dribble with ease. He still owns the NBA record for most three-pointers made in a quarter. He's got that cool, behind-the-head catapult shooting motion (by the way, ever noticed how similar Redd and Jennings' shooting motions were?) that never seemed like it should have been as effective as it was.
It's somehow fitting that Milwaukee's last All-Star was a second-round pick, a player who escaped from anonymity to scrape the surface of stardom. He's the only player from his class (the notorious 2000 draft) to make an All-NBA team and earned a spot on the 2008 Olympic "Redeem Team" gold-medal winning squad.
It's hard to overlook that the Bucks simply weren't very good for many of Redd's peak years, rarely cracking .500 and never getting past the first round of the playoffs. Much of the blame falls on a subpar defense orchestrated by the three-headed monster of Porters, Stotts, and Krystkowiak. That's why dropping Redd into the Bucks of today is so intriguing. The Bucks don't have a great shot creator on the roster. O.J. Mayo is sure to be relied upon in late-game situations, and Brandon Knight will be given ample opportunity to develop his point guard skills, but neither are particularly good when it comes to breaking down defenses. The Bucks will have to rely on constant ball movement to find good shots. Redd was never much of an assist man (2.4 ast/36 for his career), but having a player who can get his own shot with ease can take lots of pressure of teammates. With a true go-to scorer (sorry, O.J.) to jumpstart the offense, plus a great defense, could the Bucks threaten a deep playoff run?
Of course, even more than the bad teams, Milwaukee's memories of Redd are tainted by the disastrous end of his career with the Bucks. In the second year of his 6-year, $91 million mega-contract, injuries limited Redd to just 53 games. Two years later, a devastating knee injury ended his season in January. Then it happened again less than a year later. At this point, Redd's star had faded, and the nameplate above his locker would soon be changed to read "Michael Redd's Expiring Contract." There's no denying how damaging that massive salary was to Milwaukee's team building efforts in his later years, or that it was, in hindsight, a foolish deal in the first place. But Redd showed incredible promise as an elite scorer, and it's a shame that's been swept under the rug.
That's why it's fun for me to imagine Redd back in his prime slicing through defenses, nailing pull-up jumpers, kicking out to Ersan Ilyasova or dumping off to Larry Sanders. He had the sort of hidden potential we love to obsess over, only with Redd it actually manifested on the court. Adding an in-his-prime Redd to today's roster wouldn't turn the Bucks into championship contenders, but it would at least give him a better career bookend, and he deserves it. Besides, there's something that just feels right about using the scientific miracle of time-travel to just get the Bucks to the second round.
Who would you bring back from Bucks history? Let us know in the comments!
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