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Roundtable: Bon Voyage John Hammond

Milwaukee’s GM is off to Orlando for sunny skies and to join his former protege, Jeff Weltman

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks-Press Conference Sam Caravana-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t feed the pugs from the table, thanks. Today, the staff weighs in on the sudden departure of general manager John Hammond to join his one-time right hand man, Jeff Weltman, in Orlando.

Eric and Frank also discussed the news ad nauseam, what it means that Justin Zanik wasn’t immediately named GM and what the future holds for Milwaukee’s front office in today’s Locked on Bucks:

How surprised were you by the move?

Adam: I’ll admit, I thought this was a lot of smoke just emanating from a fog machine. All the rumors about Hammond leaving immediately seemed out-of-step with the succession plan in place, but I can’t blame him for wanting to work with a personal friend and avoid continuing his survivor status within Milwaukee’s franchise. I also presumed he would rather ride into the sunset atop his Giannis-sized legacy. I was mistaken, and now he’ll be taking over one of the most dysfunctional rebuilding jobs we’ve seen in a while.

Gabe: I guess I could say I sort of saw it coming when Zanik was brought on. But did I expect it to be this fast? No. I thought once Weltman was brought on it would simmer the possibility of Hammond going to the Sunshine State as well, but I guess we were all wrong in that facet.

Dylan: I knew it was possible, but after the success of the team this past season and the new ownership’s presumed happiness with Hammond’s work thus far, I figured Hammond would play out the rest of his contract with the Bucks. As the ninth longest tenured GM in the NBA, Hammond was poised to enter his 10th and most likely final season with the fan bases’ loyalty and a promising season for the Bucks looking forward. I’m not devastated by the move, but his loss isn’t a sigh of relief by any means.

So I can sorta get Hammond leaving...but why Orlando?

Adam: The Weltman hiring seems to have made this all fall into place, although it is rather funny that the “pupil becoming the master” cliche holds true here. Weltman’s history with Hammond is undeniable, and he’s clearly seen as a shrewd operator given Ujiri’s insistence on bringing him to Toronto with him. Still, I don’t see the particular upside for Hammond here outside of a temperate climate and no state tax. Okay, so maybe there’s a few sweet side effects, but Orlando’s entire team construction is a mess. At least he’s got job security.

Gabe: Maybe he got more money? Maybe he wanted more of a challenge? Who knows, maybe he wanted more control and thought Jason Kidd was intruding too much on how he wanted to achieve things. But I also think you have to consider the concept of him buddying up with Weltman. And hey, now he won’t have to deal with Milwaukee winters.

Dylan: Hammond must prefer Disney World to Culver’s or something because the Magic were a mess last year. As a 62 year-old Hammond is stepping into a hefty rebuilding project in Orlando, a team not often mentioned among the up-and-coming teams to fear in the East. It’s highly possible that he felt his time in Milwaukee was simply over and that he had done all he could for the Bucks, but I think it was just an opportunity knocks situation. The Bucks had a successor lined up, and his drinking buddy offered his hand. There are only 30 NBA GM positions in the entire world so it’s tough to argue with his choice too much.

What are your expectations for Justin Zanik as he reportedly steps into Hammond’s role?

Adam: Zanik’s career started as an agent before veering into the NBA front offices, making his mark in Utah as the manager of their D-League franchise. They’ve made some smart, late-round selections while he was there, and while I have no clue what role he had in those, he was at least a voice in the room. Zanik’s developed a strong reputation, particularly with his knowledge of the CBA, and Milwaukee will need all the cap gymnastics they can get as their young core graduates to more lucrative deals. Stepping into Hammond’s legendary scouting role, which stretches back to his early workouts with Kevin Garnett, will be a tall task and I’m curious to see if their draft board deviates from lengthy, youth-oriented archetypes that became Hammond catnip. However, Milwaukee clearly brought him in to be the guy during their march towards a championship. His exam is just starting a year early.

Gabe: I think it’s going to be tough to compare Zanik to what Hammond brought during his nine years here. Hammond brought the Bucks through a rebuild, and have them on the doorstep of contention. He built the main pieces. Now, it’ll be up to Zanik to mix in the role playing pieces necessary to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Milwaukee. Getting the main pieces of a revitalized franchise can be tough, but finding the right players that mesh and cap it off can be just as difficult, if not more.

Dylan: Zanik inherits a gem in Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the franchise and the fan base understand that as well. The 2nd team All-NBA player raises the Bucks floor and now it’s up to Zanik to finagle free agency and the draft to reach the ceiling. After one year of working under Hammond, we have to expect him to understand the city, the franchise and its standing. Will Zanik try to hit high-upside home runs on draft day or settle for middling sure bets? This team isn’t ready to hoist the trophy and there’s a Lebron-sized door in the way, so Zanik needs to maneuver these first two to three years of his reign by putting the Bucks in position to contend for the next ten.

What will Hammond’s lasting legacy be in Milwaukee?

Adam: No one will forget him as the man who drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo, but let us all remember his incredible ability to make questionable signings and somehow squirrel his way out of them. John Salmons. Corey Maggette. Steven Jackson. Miles Plumlee. Alas, he never did manage to move John Henson though. May he forever live as his white whale.

Gabe: Simple. The man who drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Dylan: He did what he thought impossible. He brought a superstar to Milwaukee. In all honesty without Antetokounmpo there’s no telling where this franchise would be NBA standings-wise or even geographically. He imbued the franchise with excitement in the notorious “Fear the Deer” season, and he set into motion ten more years of beer-soaked optimism and brought on the next generation of Bucks fandom.