As Mitchell laid out last week, this summer was one of continuity for Milwaukee. While the Western Conference pilfered stars aplenty from their Eastern Conference compatriots and the Conference’s contenders swapped players, Milwaukee rode quietly into the fall. With their only major additions coming via the draft, the Bucks have the most roster continuity in the entire league heading into this season.
Updated continuity rankings, w/ RFAs, Melo trade & Wade buyout. NYK & OKC fell from 13th & 14th, respectively. MEM (Green) could still rise. pic.twitter.com/9ouDSOFa0v— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) September 25, 2017
Continuity was the word of the day at the Bucks’ annual media day event. From ownership to front office to coach to every player that stepped on the stage, people couldn’t stop talking about the benefits familiarity will offer this Milwaukee team. Wes Edens mentioned it explicity too, remarking, “...continuity card is what we’re playing right now.” He went on to discuss ownership’s satisfaction with their “talented young core” and while they had opportunities for big changes, after listening to the litany of offers from other teams they’re ultimately “happy with where we ended up.”
Edens spoke the most among ownership, mentioning that they think their best path to get from here to there (referring to their lofty franchise goals) was “to stick with what we got.” He left the door open by saying that things change and there could always be different opportunities, but his remarks are clearly reflective of the organization’s internal belief. Indeed, the most drama that emerged from this offseason stemmed almost entirely from the troubled GM search that revealed dissension amidst the ownership group.
Edens commented on that too, saying that they obviously have disagreements like any partnership, but they’ve made a conscious effort to continue working until they all agree on vital franchise matters. Their ultimate decision to universally agree on Jon Horst as the ultimate successor to John Hammond was a conscious choice to choose continuity over an influx of new blood. Even with their hamstrung cap situation, I would argue that mindset trickled into the decision making this summer.
Horst remarked that by bringing back Tony Snell and Jason Terry, their primary hope is for an “organic growth over time.” Once more, it reflects their ultimate reliance on internal development, an area that has seen growth under Jason Kidd, at least when it comes to player development. In terms of his own growth, Kidd hasn’t seemed to progress at the same rate of some players, but he provided the usual platitudes about reflecting on the past and how to improve both his communication with players and avoiding substitution snafus. Both Horst and Kidd, who shared the stage together, mentioned the fruitfulness that’s emerged from their budding relationship the past several years.
Even the largest cloud looming over this franchise, Jabari’s impending contract negotiation, served as another hand for Horst to slide his chips into the continuity craps table. While they have to make a decision for any early extension by October 16th, Horst buttered up Bartelstein (Jabari’s agent) by mentioning their “great discussions” to this point and that their ultimate goal is to reach an extension. If they don’t this fall, he said they’ll have the same discussions when he becomes a restricted free agent. After a summer that took any lingering notion of franchise loyalty and tossed it straight into the cold, unfeeling slots of the trade machine, it’s difficult to take Horst entirely at his word, but I’m generally of a mind the entire organization shares the same sentiment he expressed.
The players used the same talking points as ownership and coaches, commenting often on how their continuity will give them a jump start on the season. Expectations seemed set at loftier levels than before, with several people citing 50 wins and a potential trip to the second round of the playoffs. Khris and Giannis both remarked they felt they were superior to Toronto last year and felt that Jason Terry’s prediction they could become a top-five defensive team in the league wasn’t farfetched. Those sorts of lofty leaps feel like a slight overstep considering the continuity, but it plays once more into the internal belief of the organization in their own guys. No day embodies a franchise’s wholehearted belief in themselves more than media day. Today was no different.
Talk of the Eastern Conference growing weaker was brushed aside like beads of sweat from a brow. Guys like Mirza and Delly both remarked that they’ll enter this year more familiar with the defensive scheme. Even small catalysts for change were disregarded between D.J. Wilson remarking he doubts anyone will join his short shorts trend and the mega-brief podium time for the non-guaranteed contracts (whose audio was accidentally muted for the entirety of their appearance on the Facebook feed) looking to fill the 15th roster spot.
For better or worse, this is almost entirely the same team we saw last year. From the top-down, Milwaukee seems content with that fact. Continuity has its benefits, giving players instant familiarity without having to spend all year adjusting to one another’s role. Those teams that do have to adapt to an injection of new blood are looking to peak come playoff time, oftentimes with superior talent than what Milwaukee boasts. Assuredly Milwaukee has those same goals, but continuity will have to be coupled with development if they hope to make that a reality. After all, a fast start means little if the season fizzles out in April again.