John Hammond will be the Milwaukee Bucks General Manager for nine years coming up as Hammond was hired on April 11th, 2008. Herb Kohl appointed John Hammond to replace Larry Harris as the Bucks primary decision maker way back when. This next year is reported to be Hammond’s last as Justin Zanik is supposed to take over the position in 2018, with Hammond sliding down to a team consultant role. Hammond came from the Detroit Pistons organization where he was the Assistant General Manager and has overseen mixed results in his nine-year reign in Milwaukee. In the high point of Hammond’s career he was named NBA’s executive of the year in 2009-10 after Milwaukee made their famous Fear the Deer run and took the Atlanta Hawks to 7 games in the first round of the playoffs. If it wasn’t for Andrew Bogut’s gruesome elbow injury towards the end of the regular season they might have won that series and made it into the second round. One of the lows for Hammond and the Bucks came during the 2013-14 season. Milwaukee had a franchise worst 67 losses that season. The Bucks have only made the playoffs three times under Hammond and have yet to win a playoff series.
It is fair to say that during Hammond’s time as GM he has not had the free rein most general managers enjoy. His tenure has been marked by internal battles with previous ownership over the proper way to build the team and therefore he has not always been able to do as he pleases. Under owner Herb Kohl it was always dictated to Hammond that he must ensure the Bucks are “competitive” which lead to lots of mid-tier signings and trades. It felt like Hammond was always juggling the expectation of mediocrity along with building the Bucks future through the draft. To continue the trend of Hammond not having total control, current ownership hasn’t necessarily allowed Hammond to hire his own coach. Jason Kidd was brought on as head coach in 2014, in part, due to Kidd’s relationship with the current Bucks owners. There have also been whispers that Kidd, at times, has used his leverage to overrule Hammonds player acquisitions. Through all of that Hammond has been the consummate professional, never letting the media know about possible internal quarrels.
The following will be a three-part series where I break down and grade Hammonds draft picks, coach hirings, free agent acquisitions, re-signings, and the trades the Milwaukee Bucks have made under Hammonds rule. I will dole out a grade to Hammond in each section and an overall grade in the last segment of this series. Part one, draft picks and coaches, is obviously happening today. Part two, free agent acquisitions and re-signings, will rear its beautiful face tomorrow. And Part three, trades and overall grade, will debut on Wednesday.Buckle up! This will be fun.
Without question the draft is the reason that John Hammond still has his job today. His willingness to take the high risk-high reward player has paid off beautifully for Milwaukee. During Hammond’s reign the Bucks have only picked inside the top five on one occasion (Jabari Parker in 2014). The mediocrity of the Bucks has led to Hammond trying to find long-term players closer to the middle of the draft. He has definitely had a penchant for taking the boom or bust player, especially in the first round. Hammond has also had pretty good success drafting players in the second round with guys like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (2008), Jodie Meeks (2009), Jon Leuer (2011), Nate Wolters (2013), and Malcom Brogdon (2016). All of those players besides Wolters is currently contributing on an NBA roster. The following is a breakdown of every draft pick the Bucks have made under Hammonds.
Joe Alexander– Joe Alexander was Hammonds first ever draft choice as General Manager and it could not have gone any worse. Alexander is far and away the biggest bust Hammond has ever picked. Considered the most athletic player in the 2008 NBA draft he only lasted two seasons in the NBA with one and a half of those seasons coming in Milwaukee. In Alexander’s only season in Milwaukee he averaged 12.1 minutes per game and 4.7 points per game. He was shipped to Chicago in 2010 along with Hakim Warrick for John Salmons, two second round picks, and the ability to swap first round picks in the 2010 draft. This move ended up being a season saver for Milwaukee as Salmons then caught fire for the Bucks. Alexander only appeared in 8 games for Chicago before going to the D-League and ultimately ending up overseas to play basketball. Grade: F
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute– After being drafted with the 7th pick in the second round in 2008 Luc exceeded expectations in Milwaukee and has since gone on to have a successful NBA career. He has never been a scorer, averaging only 6.9 points per game during his 5 seasons in Milwaukee, instead relying on his defensive prowess to make an impact on the court. Luc was able to guard multiple positions and soon made a name for himself as a defensive stopper. Although he was never able to develop a consistent jump shot of any kind he has stuck around in the NBA and is currently playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. Grade: B
Brandon Jennings– Brandon Jennings was selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft and, most importantly, is my all time favorite Bucks player. Jennings had some spectacular moments in a Bucks uniform, once dropping 55 points against the Warriors in only his 7th NBA game. Jennings wasn’t your typical point guard as he was more apt to chuck up shots then he was to set up his teammates. Jennings also displayed swagger unlike any the Bucks had seen for a long time. This swagger resulted in a lot of fun moments when Milwaukee was winning but eventually wore thin with fans and players alike. Jennings was traded in 2013 for Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton. Grade: B
Jodie Meeks– When Jodie Meeks was drafted he was best known for scoring a Kentucky men’s basketball record 54 points in a conference game against Tennessee. Meeks was also known to be a three-point shooter when Milwaukee selected him with the 41st overall pick in the 2009 draft. Meeks played in 41 games for Milwaukee in his rookie year before being shipped to Philadelphia in a deal at the deadline. He has gone on to have a successful NBA career and currently plays for the Orlando Magic. He averaged a career high 15.7 points per game for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2013-14 season. Grade: B+
Larry Sanders– Sanders was selected with the 15th overall selection in the 2010 NBA draft. Sanders was a raw athletic prospect more known for his potential defensive impact when he was taken out of VCU. As a result Sanders barely played for the Bucks during his freshman and sophomore campaigns. He appeared to make a big jump his third year however when he was second in the league in blocks per game at 2.8. Sanders signed a four-year $44 million extension during the summer of 2013 which turned out to be a brutal decision for Hammonds. Sanders only played 23 games the following year missing games due to an injury sustained in a fight at a night club and then a fractured eye socket he suffered in a game. After two suspensions in 2014 due to positive marijuana tests Sanders announced on February 21st, 2015 that he would walk away from the game all together. Sanders and the Bucks agreed to terms on a buyout and he hasn’t played in an NBA game since. Grade: B-
Darington Hobson– Hobson was selected with the 37th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft. Hobson did not play for the Bucks during his rookie year due to injury and only appeared in 5 games during the 2011-12 season. Grade: F
Tobias Harris– Tobias Harris was drafted 19th overall in the 2011 draft out of Tennessee. Harris was part of a draft day trade that saw the Bucks drop from the 10th pick to the 19th pick in order to acquire Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston (or more accurately rid themselves of the John Salmons contract). Harris was only 19 years old when he was drafted and did not see the floor very often due to Scott Skiles being passionate about rookies earning their minutes. Harris lasted a season and a half in Milwaukee before being shipped to Orlando in the JJ Redick trade. After averaging 4.9 points in Milwaukee Tobias exploded to average 17.3 points the rest of the year in Orlando. Tobias continues to be a dependable scorer as a combo forward and currently plays for the Detroit Pistons. Grade: B+
Jon Leuer– Leuer was a hometown favorite when drafted out of Wisconsin with the 10th pick in the second round in 2011. He played sparingly in Milwaukee during his only season before being attached to a 2012 summer time trade in order to make the salaries match. Leuer has caught on an NBA roster every year of his career and is currently averaging a career high 27 minutes to go along with 11.1 points per game in Detroit. Grade: C+
John Henson– Henson has been nothing if not consistent during the first five years of his career, averaging exactly 7 points per game each of the last three seasons (including this year). After being drafted with the 14th overall pick in 2012 his game hasn’t appeared to develop since his rookie year. Henson signed a four-year $44 million dollar contract extension in 2015 and is stuck in rotational no mans land. He has good shot blocking ability but has no offensive game outside of a mediocre hook shot. Grade: C
Doron Lamb– Lamb was drafted with the 12th pick in the second round in the 2012 draft. He only lasted half a season in Milwaukee before being thrown into the JJ Redick- Tobias Harris trade. Lamb finished out the season in Orlando and played the following season before heading to the D-League. Grade: D+
Giannis Antetokounmpo– Giannis is obviously the draft pick that has defined John Hammonds career. He was a typical boom or bust selection back in 2013 when Hammonds and the Bucks took him with the 15th overall pick. He was a little known prospect at that time but has quickly blossomed into one of the best and most beloved players to ever wear a Milwaukee Bucks uniform. This year Giannis has become the first all-star Milwaukee has seen since Michael Redd. Here’s to hoping Giannis makes good on his promise and never leaves Milwaukee. Grade: A+
Nate Wolters- Wolters was a pleasant surprise for Milwaukee after being drafted out of South Dakota State in the second round. Even though Wolters technically isn’t a Hammond pick he is close enough as the Bucks acquired Wolters the day after the draft. Wolters ended up starting the season opener for the Bucks as he was the only health point guard on the roster at the time. Wolters would go on to start 31 games for the Bucks during the 2013-14 season often alongside Brandon Knight. Wolters was released in the middle of his second year so that the Bucks could sign Jason Kidd’s buddy Kenyon Martin. Wolters would sign two ten-day contracts with New Orleans but would never again play in the NBA after that. Grade: C
Jabari Parker– Jabari Parker is the only top five selection Hammond has made in his career as the Bucks General Manager. Parker was taken with the number two overall pick in 2014, only behind Andrew Wiggins. In the three short years since he has been drafted Parker has already experienced extreme highs and lows. He has now torn his ACL twice and is facing another grueling 12 months of recovery and rehabilitation. However, before his injury he gave the NBA a taste of what he could become in the future. His athleticism appeared to return this season along with an improving jump shot as Parker was averaging 20 points per game this year. Hopefully Parker is able to make another comeback from his ACL tear. Grade: Incomplete
Damien Inglis– Inglis was drafted out of France with the first pick in the second round of the 2014 draft. At just 18 years old Inglis was thought to be a versatile player with and NBA ready body. However he broke his foot during the summer after he was drafted and didn’t appear in a game for Milwaukee in his rookie year. He played in just 20 games for the Bucks during the 2015-16 season and was waived by in the summer. Inglis is not currently on an NBA roster. Grade: D-
Johnny O-Bryant– JOB was drafted with the 36th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He played in Milwaukee for two seasons before being released in the summer of 2016. O’Bryant had a D-League stint and is currently finishing his second ten-day contract with the Denver Nuggets. Grade: D
Rashad Vaughn– Vaughn has reportedly been the center of some tension, due to no fault of his own, in the Bucks front office when he was selected with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Hammond reportedly wanted to draft Bobby Portis, who went five picks later to the Bulls, but Kidd used his leverage with ownership to draft the 19-year-old “shooter” out of UNLV. Vaughn had the reputation of a shooter coming out of college but that failed to prove that reputation true in his first plus NBA season as he had one of the worst rookie years in NBA history. He has shown slight improvement this year but is nowhere near ready to contribute to an NBA team. The Bucks announcement of a D-League team in Oshkosh might be great news for Vaughn as it means he will finally be able to see some time on the court. Grade: D
Thon Maker– Hammond and the Bucks shocked the world when they took Maker with the 10th overall pick in last years draft. Maker was thought to be a late first round pick AT BEST and more likely to be drafted in the early second round. Questions swirled about Maker’s true age but apparently Hammond was too intrigued by Maker’s measurables to pass on him from the 10th spot. Maker has shown flashes this year with his ability to step out to the three-point line and his non stop hustle. He also plays out of control, constantly giving the opposing team and-1 opportunities by contesting shots at the rim that he shouldn’t. Maker should be able to improve his decision-making as time goes on. Grade: Incomplete
Malcom Brogdon– Brogdon has been a welcomed surprise to the Bucks lineup this year. Brogdon is ancient by rookie standards at 24 years old which currently makes him older than the Bucks last four first round picks. Brogdon has used his age to his advantage as he has shown remarkable savvy for a rookie. Brogdon was selected with the 36th overall pick and has shown great chemistry with Greg Monroe. He continues to play well as the season wears on and has shown once again that Hammond can have success in the second round of the draft. Grade: B+
Overall John Hammond has done a very good job of finding contributors through the draft. As I have previously stated he likes to take players with a very high upside in the first round. Given that it is highly unlikely Milwaukee will ever be a destination for high-profile free agents it is crucial that they are able to get their superstars through the draft. Jabari Parker and his ability to come back from this second ACL tear may be the player who truly defines how Hammonds career is remembered twenty years from now when Bucks fans look back at his run as General Manager. Drafting Grade: B+
The Milwaukee Bucks have had four different head coaches since John Hammond took over in 2008. Those four coaches have produced one season with a winning record during their time in Milwaukee.
Scott Skiles, who was drafted by the Bucks in the first round of the 1986 draft, was hired in 2008 and coached in Milwaukee for four and a half seasons. He was the first head coach that John Hammond brought in and finished with a record of 162-182 which equals a .471 winning percentage. The highlight of his coaching career for Milwaukee came during the 2009-10 season. The Bucks were making a strong playoff push behind Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, and Andrew Bogut before Bogut went down with a nasty elbow injury just before the playoffs. The Bucks finished the season with a 46-36 record which is their only winning season in the last 15 years. Milwaukee was up 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks. With game 6 headed to Milwaukee they ultimately lost the last two games and bowed out in the first round. This was the season that sparked the Fear the Deer campaign.
Skiles was let go half way through the season in January of 2013 in favor of Jim Boylan. Skiles will forever be remembered as a no-nonsense, defense first head coach with a penchant for not playing his rookies (except for Brandon Jennings). Skiles rarely had talent to work with but always seemed to do a good job of getting a lot out of his players. Grade: C+
Jim Boylan coached the final 15 games of the season in 2013 and produced a 22-28 record (.440 win percentage) down the stretch. Milwaukee did make the playoffs that season but were quickly swept in the first round by the Miami Heat. Jim Boylan was brought back the next season but only as an assistant coach. He is currently an assistant coach on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Grade: C
Larry Drew was named the 13th coach in Milwaukee Bucks history on May 31st, 2013. Drew was previously the Head Coach for the Atlanta Hawks leading them to a winning record and the playoffs in his only three seasons as their coach. Drew would go on to coach the Bucks to the NBA’s worst record (15-67) and would not return the following year. The way that Drew was let go as Bucks coach was “definitely mystifying” which is how Drew himself defined his firing. Jason Kidd was brought in to replace Drew as the first big move under new Bucks ownership. Although Drew’s only year at the helm produced disastrous on court production Drew was not given much of a chance to show Milwaukee what he could do. Grade: D
Jason Kidd has been Milwaukee’s coach since he was surprisingly traded for in 2014. Kidd reportedly attempted a power move after his first season as the Brooklyn Nets head coach attempting to take total control of all basketball operations. This led to the Bucks giving up two second round picks to acquire Kidd, with one pick still being owed to Brooklyn in 2019. Kidd’s two plus seasons as Bucks head coach have been admittedly smoother than his first season in Brooklyn, which isn’t saying much at all.
Kidd has yet to have a winning record as the head coach of the Bucks. As of February 12th, 2017 he has an overall record of 97-119 (.449 winning percentage) in his two plus seasons as coach. Kidd’s first season in Milwaukee saw unexpected success on the defensive end of the floor. His chaotic scheme seemed to throw his opponents off rhythm as teams struggled to adjust. However, like is apt to happen in the NBA, teams have adapted and have recently torn Kidd’s defense apart with a barrage of ball movement and corner threes. This has led to fans getting restless with some calling for his firing. Kidd has worked very closely with young players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and has been given a lot of credit for their development. Even though Kidd had a long and illustrious NBA career as a player he is still very raw as a coach. He does not yet have four years of coaching experience under his belt at any level or any position. Hammond knew when Kidd was brought on as coach that there would be a learning curve and has thus far demonstrated he is willing to be patient with him. Grade: C+
Overall the coaching hirings by Hammond have not had great success on the floor. The guys he has brought on have been hard-working grinders who are looking to continuously improve their craft. The coaches have performed where you would expect them to given the amount of talent they had been given to work with. The Bucks on the court results have mostly matched up with the talent level in the locker room. There have been a couple of years, 2010 for instance, where the team did not perform up to expectations but for the most part they finished around where they were predicted to. Coaching Grade: C+
You can check back tomorrow for Part 2 where I grade each free agent signing and the contract extensions that Hammond has given out during his nine year reign of terror.