For the first time in forever, the Milwaukee Bucks franchise has an opportunity to reinvent itself. With Herb Kohl riding off into the sunset, new owners stepping forward to guide the team, Giannis Antetokounmpo emerging as a potential impact player, and a premium pick coming up in the 2014 NBA Draft, a unique opportunity exists to erase the image of a franchise that hasn't exactly distinguished itself as a winner over the past two decades.
Trying to build a sustainable foundation of quality young players while simultaneously satisfying a win-now mandate has proven to be too much for GM John Hammond to handle, but his solid record in the draft could be enough to make new (prospective) owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens think twice about jettisoning Hammond prior to arguably the biggest draft in franchise history. With a huge decision looming and a stable framework already in place with Hammond, David Morway, and Billy McKinney, the question about whether to overhaul the front office immediately becomes a difficult one to answer. But that doesn't mean that a decision can, or should, wait until after the draft.
In my opinion, the Bucks will never be more attractive to top GM candidates around the league than right now. Armed with an excellent draft pick, a roster that's begging for a complete overhaul, and new owners with the money and the vision to emulate great small market franchises like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, this is the best the Bucks may ever look to the brightest GM hopefuls searching for the right opportunity in the Association.
If the Bucks wait to make a decision until after the draft, or if they adopt some sort of hybrid scheme where Hammond/Morway retain decision-making power, the franchise may not be as interesting to the next great basketball mind. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, et al. each represent a fundamental building block for a struggling franchise positioned at the top of the draft. This 2014 NBA Draft pick will immediately become part of a GM's lasting legacy. Moreover, the future roster-building decisions will be shaped according to the specific strengths and weaknesses of the player selected. Anyone willing to take on the task of rebuilding the Bucks should absolutely want the power to make this pick.
The best pitch Milwaukee could ever make to a hot GM candidate like Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren would involve him coming in prior to the draft, overseeing the process, making the all-important top pick, moving around roster pieces as he sees fit, and shaping every aspect of the team according to plan to create a consistent contender. The longer the Bucks wait, the less attractive the position may become. What GM candidate in his right mind would settle for sitting silently on the sidelines while someone else selects the key core player for the franchise?
With so many things still up in the air and so little time for Lasry and Edens to implement changes, it's going to be tough on the new owners. They aren't allowed to make decisions or even talk to the current Bucks staff until the sale is approved by the NBA owners, and that isn't expected to happen until at least the middle of May—which could keep them from deciding anything until the NBA Draft Combine (May 14-18) arrives. Talk about a pressure cooker, right? But if the Bucks are truly going to reinvent their organization and start fresh, the time to act is probably right now.
In Part 2 of our podcast binge (Part 1 is located here), I discuss this delicate timing for a GM decision with Frank Madden right after I force Frank to consider to my John Hammond - Joe Dumars comparison.