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Crossroads 2017: Jason Kidd’s Tenure (and Future) as Milwaukee’s Coach

The Milwaukee Bucks have grown into an exciting franchise. How much credit (or blame) belongs to Jason Kidd, and where does the team go from here?

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Even as the final buzzer sounded in the series-ending Game 6 loss to Toronto, the Milwaukee Bucks had concluded their most successful season of the Jason Kidd era. In his three years at the helm, the Bucks have made the playoffs twice (losing in the first round both times) while amassing an uninspiring record of 116-130. The Bucks have also grown into one of the most promising teams in the NBA, as Giannis Antetokounmpo has developed from a 20-year old League Pass darling to a 22-year old superstar earning more accolades than there are vowels in his name.

But while Milwaukee’s stock has undoubtedly risen, the Jason Kidd Index has wildly fluctuated from day one, and proud investors are few and far between. This isn’t particularly surprising; whether intentional or accidental (or a combination of both), Kidd has always been a polarizing figure.

As one of the best point guards in league history and a recent player-turned-coach, he deservedly carries weight in pro basketball circles. Even Giannis indicated that he was awestruck by Kidd’s resumé in the critically-acclaimed Lee Jenkins profile from Sports Illustrated back in early January:

The first time Kidd benched him, Antetokounmpo was irate. “I was like, ‘Let’s see what this guy did in his career, anyway,’ ” Antetokounmpo recounts, and called up Kidd’s bio on his phone. “I saw Rookie of the Year, NBA championship, USA Olympic gold medal, second in assists, fifth in made threes, blah, blah, blah. I was like, ‘Jesus freaking Christ, how can I compete with that? I better zip it.’ ”

At the same time, retracing his basketball roadmap will take you past a number of burned bridges, which paint the picture of a basketball Niccolò Machiavelli who uses his stature to get what he wants. His time in Milwaukee includes more of the same: from the moment he was “traded” by the Brooklyn Nets to take over as head coach (while Larry Drew was still in that role), the controversy surrounding Kidd persisted. Rumors flew in every direction about Kidd’s relationship with co-owner Marc Lasry and how it would lead to a promotion from head coach to President of Basketball Operations, which was his preferred job title back in Brooklyn. Later, Kidd was branded the “de facto general manager” over “actual general manager” John Hammond, leading fans to pick apart every single transaction to determine which Bucks figure was responsible.

In a word, the Jason Kidd era has been dramatic. For some, Jason Kidd is the villain that stands in the way of the Bucks’ success. For others, he’s the misunderstood genius who has the keys to unlock the Bucks’ potential. For the rest of us, he’s somewhere in between.

But as we’ve discussed, while this summer is a major crossroads for the Bucks as a franchise, so too is it an inflection point for Jason Kidd as a head coach. We’re not the only ones who think so; make sure to check out the May 2nd episode of Locked On Bucks for their preliminary conversation about Kidd’s future in Milwaukee.

Over his first four years in the lead role, his teams averaged only 40 wins per season, and while his player development appears to be a major strength, such development is relatively unimpressive if it doesn’t directly translate into wins. Additionally, with Assistant General Manager Justin Zanik securely affixed in the front office, Kidd’s only path to success in Milwaukee appears to be as a head coach. This raises the question: is Jason Kidd the right fit for the Bucks as they move into the next stage of their quest to contend for a title?

Over the next four days, we’re going do dive into Kidd’s apparent strengths, weaknesses, and the unknowns (variables we can’t yet gauge), with a final* verdict on Friday. Tell us what you think in the comments, and we’ll be back tomorrow with Part 2.

* Editor’s note: final verdict is not actually final.