Since the revelation in February of this year that the Milwaukee Bucks would begin owning and operating a G-League team in Oshkosh, WI, things have slowly come together for the nascent franchise.
It began with the naming of Oshkosh as the team's home city, continued with the appointment of Dave Dean as team GM, moved on to revelations that the team would be named the Wisconsin Herd (with a three-headed logo to boot), and most recently with the announcement of Jordan Brady as the team's inaugural head coach.
All that's missing are the players.
The Bucks have already filled up both two-way player contract spots for the coming year with the signings of Bronson Koenig and Jalen Moore, so now their next step is filling out the rest of the roster. That process should begin this afternoon with the 2017 G-League Expansion Draft.
The Herd will have a chance to select up to 11 players from the available pool of names unprotected by the G-League teams who own their current rights. They'll be picking alongside three other expansion teams - the Erie Bayhawks (under new ownership), Memphis Hustle, and Agua Caliente Clippers - each of which will have equal opportunities picking from the same list of players.
Expansion drafts aren't new to the G-League. In fact, the developmental league has held an expansion draft every offseason since 2013, and so the guidelines dictating the selection process aren't new. For those of you who may only have begun looking into the league since the creation of the Herd (and you're not alone!), we’ve done our best to lay out the general structure of the event for you below.
- It will be held this afternoon at 1 PM Eastern, but it is done behind closed doors on a conference call (we'll probably know the results by the evening, though)
- There will be 11 rounds and each team will have two minutes on the clock to make their selection
- The first round of the draft will go in the following order: Erie first, Memphis second, Wisconsin third, and Agua Caliente last. From then on the order will snake (i.e. in the second round it will go Agua Caliente, Wisconsin, Memphis, and then Erie, and back the other direction and so on)
- Existing G-League teams will only be able to protect nine of their players’ rights, but each team can only lose up to two of their unprotected players. If, say, Erie and Memphis select two players from the Austin Spurs back-to-back, then no one can pick from the Spurs again for the duration of the draft
- Any team is able to forgo making a pick, but if they do so they can no longer make further selections
- A player who is drafted will have his G-League rights retained by his new team for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons
- Just because a player is selected in the Expansion Draft doesn't automatically mean he'll play for his G-League team this season. Owning a player's rights only means that, should he join the G-League at any time in the future, he is automatically allocated to the team that own his rights rather than joining a general player pool and going through a waiver wire process
As you can see, the process is a little convoluted, and there is plenty of nuance and special regulations in place when it comes to governing rosters in the G-League.
It has actually been quite rare for players picked in an Expansion Draft to play for a new franchise; normally a single player, if any at all, will suit up in the following season for his G-League team. This is due to the fact that many of the guys picked will have better opportunities for guaranteed money overseas that vastly outweighs the paltry $19,500 and $26,000 salaries of normal G-League contracts.
For the most part expect that, regardless of the names on the draft selection list released by the Herd, most of the guys we will begin to get to know will not be playing in Oshkosh and may really serve as trade chips for the future. Instead, the roster will continue to be filled out through a multi-faceted process that involves the regular G-League Draft in October, the two-way players, NBA assignees, free agents, success stories from local tryouts, NBA training camps, and more.
Regardless of the odds, though, there may be a gem in the rough waiting to be found. Any G-League team owned outright by a single NBA franchise can become a boon for the parent club; they serve as talent pools, a blank slate for teams to experiment with in-game tactics, and a training ground for their youngest NBA talent who may benefit from regular playing time they won't get during the season.
Early success for the Wisconsin Herd, whether on the court or as a true developmental asset for the Bucks, is unlikely. But a well-run G-League franchise can become an undeniably useful tool in the hands of a forward-thinking NBA front-office. Tonight marks the starting point of testing whether the Milwaukee Bucks have the skills necessary to transform an expansion team into a real asset.