Last Thursday, I wrote an article breaking down my picks for the best Bucks draft picks outside of the top 5, a.k.a my “honorable mentions.” Now, with the 2017 Draft this just hours away, it is time to look at my picks for the top 5 Bucks draft picks of all time!
#5: Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2013
Draft Notes: Drafted #15 overall out of Greece
Stats with MIL (4 seasons): 318 games, 31.8 MPG, 14.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 27.0 WS
We all knew this name would show up eventually, right? Well, here he is at #5. Yes, he has only played 4 seasons in a Milwaukee uniform. However, I am willing to overlook that fact due to just how darn good the Greek Freak is at this moment in his career and how historically great he could be, both in Milwaukee and league-wide. In his four seasons in a Bucks uniform, Giannis has undergone one of the most amazing evolutions in sports today. On draft night, many analysts had him pegged as a project player who would need a few years of seasoning before making a significant impact as an NBA player. However, at just 22 years old, he would do just that. In the 2016-17 season, Antetokounmpo increased his numbers across every major statistical category, averaging 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks per game, becoming the first player in NBA history to finish in the top 20 in the NBA in each of those five categories over a single season. In addition to being the Bucks’ first All-Star representative since Michael Redd in 2004, Giannis was also voted second team All-NBA and is the heavy favorite for Most Improved Player at next Monday’s NBA Awards show. Over the last four years, Giannis has shown that this “project” was well worth the investment for Milwaukee. Who knows, you could see him near the top of this very list someday.
#4: Bob Dandridge, 1969
Draft Notes: Drafted #45 overall (4th round) out of Norfolk State
Stats with MIL (9 seasons): 618 games, 35.8 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 62.6 WS
When you think of the 1970-71 Bucks squad, the one that brought the city its one and (as of now) only NBA title, which players are remembered the most historically? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. This fact, however, tends to overlook the impact that one Bob Dandridge had on that championship team. Through his 9 years with Milwaukee, Dandridge was one of the most solid players at his position, and one of the most productive in Bucks history. During his time in Milwaukee, he would make 3 of his 4 All-Star appearances as well as have 4 of his 5 highest-scoring seasons, including 3 seasons of 20 PPG or more. In addition to being productive on the offensive end, he was also a stud on the defensive part of the ball, averaging over a steal a game for the final five years of his Milwaukee career.
#3: Marques Johnson, 1977
Draft Notes: Drafted #3 overall out of UCLA
Stats with MIL (7 seasons): 524 games, 34.8 MPG, 21.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 71.1 WS
Think in your head about the success that the Milwaukee teams of the mid 1980s experienced. Got it? Now, imagine that same team with just one more player, a player who had scored 20 or more points per game over the previous six seasons, including 25.6 just six years earlier. That is what the 1984-85 Bucks could have had in Marques Johnson. Prior to the 1984-85 season, Johnson was traded along with Junior Bridgeman and Harvey Catchings to the Los Angeles Clippers for Terry Cummings, Craig Hodges and Ricky Pierce. While in LA, he would go on to make one more All-Star team prior to suffering career-ending neck injuries that sidelined him for two seasons in the late 1980s. Now, at the time of the trade, Johnson was just 28 years old and coming off of a season in which he averaged 20.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 4.3 APG. While he certainly did not struggle while with the Clippers, he was not quite the player he was in Milwaukee, averaging 18.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Johnson said of those Clippers teams “(it) kind of wore you down and made you feel like you were kind of the JV team in Los Angeles.” Johnson was a varsity level talent while in Milwaukee, and while he may not have gotten to taste the success of those mid 80s teams, his involvement in the Clippers trade did help to make it a reality.
#2: Sidney Moncrief, 1979
Draft Notes: Drafted #5 out of the University of Arkansas
Stats with MIL (10 seasons): 695 games, 31.7 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, 88.5 WS
Perhaps no other factor helped lead to the success of the mid 80s Milwaukee Bucks than guard Sidney Moncrief. One of the more underrated guards of his time, partially due to the fact that his prime consisted of going up against some of the best team in the history of the NBA, including Bird’s Celtics. In his prime, from 1981-82 to 1985-86, Moncrief averaged 21.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.7 APG and 1.5 SPG while shooting 51.1% from inside the arc on nearly 14 shots per game and 50.3% overall. He also made the All-Star game each of these years, was named to 5 All-NBA and All-Defensive teams and won the first two Defensive Player of the Year awards (1982-83, 1983-84). Since then, the award has only been given to a guard four times, and none of them have gone back-to-back as Moncrief did. With his starting lineup companions of Paul Pressey, Bob Lanier and others, Moncrief helped spearhead one of the best eras of Bucks basketball in the franchise’s history. As a result, while you will never see his #4 on the court for Milwaukee again, you can see it hanging in the rafters of the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
#1: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1969
Draft Notes: Drafted #1 out of UCLA
Stats with MIL (6 seasons): 467 games, 42.7 MPG, 30.4 PPG, 15.3 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 3.4 BPG, 114.7 WS
Who else could it truly be? From the moment the Bucks drafted the man then known as Lew Alcindor out of UCLA in 1969, it was expected that not only would Kareem be the next star or superstar, but the next NBA legend. Over his 6 seasons in Milwaukee, he more than lived up to that label with one of the most dominant stretches of any player in NBA history. In his Milwaukee career, he never had a season with fewer than averages of 27.0 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 3.3 APG or 3.3 BPG. His best season was in 1971-72 when he averaged 34.8 PPG along with 16.6 RPG and 4.6 APG. At this time in NBA history, blocks were not recorded, but based on records that were tracked in his last seasons as a Buck, it is likely that Kareem averaged anywhere between 3.5 and 4.5 blocks per game in this and his other first four seasons. Those who say that Shaquille O’Neal is the most dominant force in NBA history should take a deeper look into the incredible career that Jabbar had in Milwaukee. The most impressive stat of all, though, may be his otherworldly 114.7 win shares over just 6 seasons, coming out to a 19.1 average. For comparison, only 21 seasons have been put up with a higher WS than 19.1, with Kareem having 3 of the top 6 seasons, including a staggering 25.4 in the aforementioned 1971-72 season. Simply put, there will likely never be a stretch of seasons on the level of Kareem for a long time, if not in Bucks’ history.