The pending change in ownership has put the entire Milwaukee Bucks organization in a holding pattern. For head coach Larry Drew and GM John Hammond, the most visible figures remaining from the worst season in franchise history, its been a waiting game since the team's sale to Marc Lasry and Wes Edens was announced two weeks ago.
Lasry and Edens have a lot to consider as they ponder the future of the organization. It's hard to rationalize keeping around the individuals who constructed and led a team like last year's Bucks, but both faced challenges--unexpected or otherwise--that cast doubt on how much blame should really be dumped in each's lap. While Larry Drew did little to inspire or unite his young roster, he also got horribly ineffective play from many of his leading pieces...or no play at all. Meanwhile, the handicaps John Hammond faced every day are well documented, but until last season it hadn't stopped him from putting together a team that was at least competitive for stretches. For those reasons, and simply because house-cleaning seems to be the norm when new ownership takes over, gamblers might be inclined to wager on Drew and Hammond departing in the not-too-distant future.
I want to focus on Hammond though, and ask the question of what happens if he doesn't get canned? What if Lasry and Edens feel the timeline is too crunched to get a new team in place to effectively lead the draft effort? Or what if they determine that the win-now mandate presumably imposed by Herb Kohl obscured his abilities as a roster-builder?
Would the same questions that have plagued Hammond's tenure to date linger under new bosses? That is, if Hammond is still the guy making the final call on draft night, does he have incentive to make a safe selection over a riskier, big-upside prospect?
I ask as a response to the latest NBA mock draft from Jeff Goodman for ESPN. In that mock, Goodman predicts the Bucks would select Jabari Parker first overall, assuming they win the top pick. Goodman writes "[Hammond] can ill afford to miss on this one, and Parker is the safe pick."
Let's suss out Goodman's hypothesis. He first appears to be suggesting Parker is the "safest" prospect in the draft. Many would agree, viewing Parker as the guy most equipped to bring immediate production to whichever team lands him and little risk of flopping. Goodman posits that there's some level of pressure on John Hammond to grab such a player, a guy who is seen as "can't miss" rather than the highest-potential player available. Presumably that pressure has to do with job security (i.e. if Hammond blows this draft, he's gone soon thereafter).
Goodman's thinking seems reasonably valid, but is it sound? If Lasry and Edens retain Hammond as GM, would they do so in something like a probationary role, with his job clearly on the line? That seems weird to me, considering those truths that seemingly have to be accepted to justify keeping Hammond--most importantly, that he can thrive given a little more breathing room. To think Hammond could survive the turmoil of an ownership change and then get sent packing for "blowing" a draft seems strange, even if this draft has outrageous hype. Not only does such a conclusion require a near snap judgement of the draft's success (how long does the eventual pick get to prove himself?), but it would seem to say "We had faith that you could rebuild the team in the long term given the chance, but this one mistake changes everything."
Now in fairness, blowing this draft to a degree worthy of such a label might legitimately be a fireable offense, and I still come back to the questionable probability of Hammond sticking around. It just doesn't seem likely, regardless of justification either way. But these same questions could just as easily apply to whoever might replace Hammond in that event. Are Lasry and Edens eager to make a splash? Does the yet-unsettled arena issue play into a desire for a quicker-than-expected turnaround? In a draft and offseason as critical as this, balancing these issues will be critical for the Bucks' new owners and whomever they might empower to lead the franchise into the future.