Here’s a secret about the Milwaukee Bucks Summer League history: they haven’t always been fiery garbage. It’s true! Back in the day, Milwaukee ran out some respectable rosters that finished with 4-1 records in 2008, 2008 and 2012. I’m not calling that 4-year run a dynasty, but it’s damn close. This year...not so much. As I’ve watched Sterling Brown blow bunnies, Rayjon Tucker play like he shotgunned Four Lokos (the vintage kind with caffeine) and Fletcher Magee stare longingly at the court, I couldn’t help but think about those glory years that I never watched. I got curious, is this the LEAST essential Bucks Summer League team ever?
By essential, I mean in terms of relevancy to the Bucks regular season roster, as well as the pedigree of the players involved. As such, I thought it an important exercise to determine, without a doubt, if this is the least relevant Bucks team we’ve ever witnessed. Let me make something clear: I did not take into account how any of these players performed during Summer League at all. This isn’t about entertainment value, although there may be some correlation, it’s about relevancy to a fanbase. I tried my best to look back and make sure players who fit the scoring criteria actually played rather than sat out with injury, but may’ve missed one or two. Here’s how I broke the criteria down:
- MKE 1st Round Pick (Plays in regular season) - 5 Points
- MKE 2nd Round Pick (Plays in regular season) - 4 Points
- Undrafted Player (Plays in regular season) - 3 Points
- Former Draft Pick (other teams)/Undrafted Player that signs two-way/Played with team prior year (Doesn’t play in regular season from then on) - 2 Points
- Former Wisconsin/Marquette/UW-MKE Player (Doesn’t Play with Team) - 1 Point
The points cannot stack if a player overlaps across tiers. For example, Bronson Koenig is both a Wisconsin alum, and an undrafted player that signed a two-way but didn’t play that subsequent regular season. He would only count in the latter tier, meaning he’s worth two points. I also gathered all of my data from RealGM’s invaluable Summer League stat archive. I did my best to fact check stuff, but it’s very possible some of that was incorrect. If that was the case, apologies.
Without further ado, let’s start with the most essential Bucks Summer League team ever and count down to the squad we could’ve skipped for the duration of their time in Vegas.
12. 2017 Bucks Summer League Team (30 points)
Key Players: Sterling Brown, Bronson Koenig, JeQuan Lewis, Thon Maker, Jalen Moore, Gary Payton II, Rashad Vaughn, D.J. Wilson, Stephen Zimmerman
Wow. What a group of pedigreed young men. The confluence of three first round picks (shout out to SL legend ‘Shad), combined with Horst getting an itchy trigger finger with the two-way contracts (Koenig and Moore) gave this squad a plethora of guys notching points. Special commendations for JeQuan Lewis, the most mysterious offseason signing that went absolutely nowhere in recent Bucks memory. We all remember the poetic exit of Payton II, when Horst took away one of Kidd’s favorite toys that season. We may never see a collection of talent like this ever again. Major props to Josh Broghammer for continuing in his mentor, Sean Sweeney’s, footsteps and leading them to 1-4 glory.
11. 2014 Bucks Summer League Team (24 points)
Key Players: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Brust, JaJuan Johnson, Johnny O’Bryant, Jabari Parker, Jordan Taylor, Nate Wolters, Chris Wright
Whoa. This might be the most eclectic group in this list. Start with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari parker, then considered future franchise pillars, suiting up together. Toss in Johnny “At Least I’m not ranked Last” O’Bryant III suiting up for his rookie year alongside Wolters the vet, Wright coming back after a cup of coffee with Milwaukee to end the prior season and JaJuan Johnson, who feels like he might’ve come along five years too early to be honest. On top of that sumptuous stew, toss in the spice of two former Badgers in Ben Brust and Jordan Taylor, and ouch, I think I just burned the roof of my mouth. Kudos to them and Sean Sweeney, once again, for setting the bar low during his first Summer League as coach.
10. 2009 Bucks Summer League Team (23 points)
Key Players: Joe Alexander, Brandon Jennings, Amir Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jodie Meeks, Chris Richard, Salim Stoudamire, Szymon Szewczyk
This team would’ve ranked even higher had Alexander gotten to take the court that season at all before getting shipped out for John Salmons, but alas, I gave him a token two points. Beyond that though, this team actually boasts some really solid depth pieces that lasted in the league. Led by Brandon Jennings getting his first chance to showcase his talents professionally in America, who would’ve guessed it would be the other second round picks (Fresh Prince, Meeks and Johnson) that would outlast BJ55 in the league. Richard, Stoudamire and Szewczyk are all older picks who could join the team since there were a few less teams participating and diluting the Vegas player pool. Congrats on the 4-1 record too, following up on 2008’s success. Speaking of...
9. 2008 Bucks Summer League Team (21 points)
Key Players: Joe Alexander, Matt Freije, Luc Mbah a Moute, Olumide Oyedeji, Ramon Sessions, Awvee Storey, John Thomas
I honestly don’t remember most of these players, beyond Mbah a Moute and briefly Ramon Sessions, but Storey did spend the last part of 2007 with the Bucks before re-joining on this summer team. Once again, the team benefited from the higher supply and smaller demand at this point in Summer League’s development curve, nabbing at least six guys who were drafted. It was Alexander’s debut too. Solid performance here.
8. 2012 Bucks Summer League Team (20 points)
Key Players: Brian Butch, Tobias Harris, John Henson, Doron Lamb, Larry Sanders
A top-heavy team, this was another one of those rare collections of three first found picks together after Summer League was canceled for 2011 due to the lockout. It even translated into an impressive record, which is more than can be said for the upper tier of essential Bucks teams. I always hoped Lamb would turn into something more than what he was, same goes for Butch. As a Badger stan, I thought his G-League accolades may eventually translate into something more, but it wasn’t to be for the Appleton big man. Also, this seems like a pretty delightful, rangy frontcourt rotation for Summer League. #TeamLength
7. 2013 Bucks Summer League Team (19 points)
Key Players: Gustavo Ayon, Mike Bruesewitz, Junior Cadougan, John Henson, Dominique Jones, Demetric Nichols, Ish Smith, Nate Wolters
Huh, beyond John Henson and Nate Wolters debut summer, there isn’t a whole lot here that’s capturing my interest. And yet, they’ve gotten their way to the top half of our most essential rosters through a series of former drafted players (Jones and Nichols) playing, while Ayon and Smith carried over from the year prior. Bruesewitz - one honestly wonders how he even sniffed Summer League - and Cadougan brought some local flair. It’s really a fortunate collection of past, present and pedigree that helped this team rank so high. I’m not taking stats or results into account, but shout out to Henson for averaging 14 points and 13 boards for this team.
6. (Tie) 2018 Bucks Summer League Team (17 points)
Key Players: Sterling Brown, Donte DiVincenzo, D.J. Wilson, Christian Wood
Thankfully Wood was looking to finally break through in the league, because he put on a show night-after-night to cover up for Donte bricking every jumper and Wilson looking lost. This is another top heavy team. With all 30 teams participating by this point, it’s far tougher competition to get former draft picks on your team. Milwaukee wasn’t dipping its paw deep into past draft history either, both Wood and Travis Trice (another Buck who deserves to have his SL jersey retired) were from the oldest draft class, 2015. JeQuan Lewis misses out on points here because he wasn’t signed that summer. Same with Brandon McCoy, who was just a camp invitee. I didn’t want to open up that rabbit hole.
2010 Bucks Summer League Team (17 points)
Key Players: Ricky Franklin, Tiny Gallon, Darnell Jackson, Dominic James, Larry Sanders, Deron Washington, Sean Williams, Yue Sun
This team is essentially held together by the Bucks 2010 draft (Gallon and Sanders) and a slew of former draft selections by other teams that happened to be hopping on with Milwaukee for another ride in Vegas. The only guys who netted points and weren’t drafted were James and Franklin, from Marquette and UW-Milwaukee respectively, who brought the local contingent some joy. Unfortunately, the on-court performance did not.
4. 2016 Bucks Summer League Team (15 points)
Key Players: Jared Berggren, Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker, Rashad Vaughn
This was our first glimpse of Brogdon’s potential, who was trotted out at point guard and looked surprisingly fit for his eventual role that season. Vaughn was Vaughning, while Maker was an absolute foulfest whose inability to jump flat-footed was about all I can remember from that year’s proceedings. Shout out to Jared Berggren for somehow lumbering his way onto this roster knowing full-well he’d never make it in the League. Good on you. Oh, and good on you Sean Sweeney, the portrait of crapsistency with another 1-4 record.
3. 2015 Bucks Summer League Team (14 points)
Key Players: Jorge Gutierrez, Damien Inglis, Sean Kilpatrick, Rashad Vaughn
Were it not for JOB failing to appear this summer, this team could’ve ranked a few slots higher. As it were, they’ve got a couple of clingers in Gutierrez (from year prior) and Kilpatrick, who nets one extra point since he did eventually join this Bucks roster a few years later, plus this felt like his coming-out party. This was our first glimpse of Vaughn in his element too, alongside the injured stylings of Damien Inglis, who I was convinced would be a stellar two-way forward/wing his entire rookie year he spent rehabbing. They took him over K.J. McDaniels for goodness sake, he HAD to be special. Whoops. Much respect for the people that still wear their Inglis jersey. This team was horrible.
1. (Tie) 2007 Bucks Summer League Team (13 points)
Key Players: Randy Livingston, Damir Markota, David Noel, Ramon Sessions, Awvee Storey
And so we’ve reached the end of this exercise. It’s honestly a testament to how truly inessential this year’s team is that the 2007 squad, Milwaukee’s first in Vegas, is their only peer. Seriously, this team’s points seem cobbled together by used masking tape. Livingston was drafted in 1996, Storey spent the season prior with Milwaukee for a bit, Markota was almost the last pick overall in the prior year’s draft. Sessions is about the only guy worth a darn, and he eventually popped for the Bucks. It was an inauspicious start for Milwaukee, but at least they’re still tied with this year’s team.
2019 Bucks Summer League Team (13 points)
Key Players: Sterling Brown, Bonzie Colson, Xavier Munford, D.J. Wilson
DiVincenzo not joining the team certainly hurt them here, but even then, the only reason they’re not dead last is Munford’s six-game stint with the Bucks several years ago netting him some past experience points. To be fair, it is possible this team could rise higher if they end up signing any of the other roster guys to a two-way (I’m not sold on that) or if Colson gets into a regular season game this year and notches one extra point onto his total. Wilson coming back to play was a godsend to even get them to a tie for last, even if he played more like a fallen angel in his debut. Brown has been horrific, but he has played, which is enough to merit the points here.
Now, we can all feel part of something special knowing we may be watching the most inessential Bucks summer league team of all time. Fear the Deer.
There ya have it, the official countdown of the least essential group of lambs the Bucks have sent out for slaughter in Summer League. Congratulations to the 2019 team for bricking their way to the bottom. We’ll have to see how the roster shapes out this season in case they may be able to creep out of the cellar.
Does anyone here recollect watching some of these older squads? I’d be interested in hearing any Vegas memories from the diehards who have been there since far before Sean Sweeney’s tumultuous run as Summer League coach.