Let’s start with calling out the obvious:
This 2018-19 Bucks team is different to any other we’ve witnessed in recent times.
They play different. They run different. They defend different. They space the floor different. Their score lines look different and with that has come a significant difference in the most important matter of all: Their position in the standings.
We’re not used to this as Bucks fans. But one thing’s for sure: we’re certainly not complaining (well, not complaining yet!)
And although the standard line-up is working in their favour at practically every position right now – not to mention Giannis filling any left-over gap when its required – we can’t help but look back and wonder what could have been, had the trades, contracts and free-agency signings of years past fallen in the Bucks favour.
We can’t help but consider what would have been possible if they had fought a little harder for particular younger talent when free agency came along. We feel compelled to question what the roster could look like now if the Bucks had been given the opportunity to peer into the future and realise the real trade value of the players they sent out the doors of the old BMO Harris Bradley Centre.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at which previously-feared-deers would have actually turned out to be a perfect fit for the Coach Bud’s new-look Bucks and the system they now play within. Granted, the current roster is the way it is now because of trading and cap-space being made available due to these guys’ departure, but let’s not forget the massively over-valued contracts still sitting on the books at Milwaukee Bucks HQ that were also generated within the same decade of pen strokes.
Hold your breath as we take a look at ‘what could have been’:
Landing at the Bucks on Draft Night (via the Charlotte Bobcats) in 2011, Tobias Harris quickly found his way into the Milwaukee Bucks rotation and showed potential from the start. Playing 42 games in the 2011-12 season and shooting over 46% from the field seemed to be more of a reflection of his future value than the average of just 5 points and 2 assists per appearance for Harris’ first season.
After being moved to Orlando during the 2012-13 season then to Detroit in 2015-16, he continued to improve his numbers and now finds himself as one of the more effective players on the L.A. Clippers roster, averaging 21.3 points through 10 games of the 2018-19 season. It was clear from the start that Harris was always capable of these numbers and has by no means hit his ceiling yet.
Shooting over 40% from long distance both last season and through the first 10 games of this season means the current Milwaukee Bucks outfit would love to have a player like Harris around. His ability to create a shot means he can’t be left alone on spaces of the floor that coach Bud would love to draw the opposing defenders towards.
Would he be a starter on the current Bucks roster? Perhaps on some nights. Would he be more impactful than the likes of a Tony Snell if he were required to come off the bunch? Absolutely.
Coming to Milwaukee for just 28 games during the 2012-13 season, JJ Redick was predicted to be the touch of class and scoring prowess the struggling Bucks needed. He turned out to be anything but.
Averaging just 12 points per contest and a career-low 31.8% from beyond the arc meant JJ Redick fell well short of both his own potential and the impact the Bucks needed. His run with the team ended in a sweep to Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs that year and he was moved to the LA Clippers the next season. At the time of writing, he is the king of the three-point line in Philadelphia – a team majorly benefiting from his ability to create shots from just about anywhere downtown – where he last season scored an average of 17 points per game on 42% shooting from 3.
From the moment he arrived, it was clear that JJ Redick wasn’t a fit for the Milwaukee Bucks system – then lead by interim coach Jim Boylan. He couldn’t find the shooting rhythm he had become so well-known and trusted for and it was clear the frustration was mounting on him each time he stepped onto the court.
But what if JJ Redick were to be slotted into the current system the Bucks are now running? What if he had a player like the Greek Freak seducing the opposing shot blockers into the lane before passing out to him for an open shot on one side of the court or an open Khris Middleton on the other?
If that were to be the case, the modern 3-point-obsessed Milwaukee Bucks would give just about anything to have a player like JJ Redick suiting up to call Fiserv Forum home.
Picked up by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 15th pick in 2010, Sanders appeared to be a unit of living, breathing potential from the first moment he swatted a ball into the stands. His inspector-gadget-like length meant he was a perfect fit for the Milwaukee Bucks (alongside the likes of John Henson and a young Giannis Antetokounmpo) across his five seasons in Brew Town and the Bucks were committed to smoothing his erratic edges to turn him into a premier shot blocker in the modern NBA.
Unfortunately, off-court issues lead to Sanders needing to take time away from the sport and when he returned it was in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform for the 2016-17 season.
Why would the current Bucks benefit from a fit, healthy and well-behaved Sanders if given the opportunity? Because to have another lengthy, athletic big man on the defensive boards – likely in the second unit behind Lopez, Henson and/or Wood – could only be a good thing. The modern game demands depth in the rim protection category and this was something Sanders excelled in when at his best.
It’s highly unlikely Sanders would ever return to the state of potential he once had, but he will truly remain one of ‘the ones that got away’ when the Milwaukee Bucks look back on what could have been.
What do you think? Who did we miss? Did we hit the mark on these names, or would coach Bud sleep well at night without them? Let us know in the comments below.