The Milwaukee Bucks are the league's worst team by just about every imaginable measure.
That's not particularly revelatory for anyone who has access to the standings. You are what your record says you are, as the saying goes, and the Bucks have just nine wins going into the All-Star break. Nine. Teams that are actively trying to lose games can't even lose as much as the Bucks are this season.
That's the issue. If the Bucks were bad on purpose, skewing young and cheap in a rebuilding effort, you could understand. Milwaukee has been mediocre for more than a decade, and rebuilding would at least signal that it was time for a change in direction and in how business is conducted. It would be a refreshing display of self-awareness from owner Herb Kohl and general manager John Hammond.
That's not the case, though. This is a team that paid substantial, long-term money to the likes of O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal and Zaza Pachulia this offseason while trading for a veteran on his last leg in Caron Butler. Instead of hiring a young coach with potential to improve the team's future outlook, the Bucks instead opted to go the retread route with Larry Drew.
Why were these moves made? As Bleacher Report's Howard Beck profiled earlier this year, the Bucks fiercely pursue mediocrity.
“I feel real strong about trying to put out a decent product—a good product—for our fans,” Kohl said, a dark green Bucks cap pulled tight on his forehead. “So I’m always saying to our basketball people, `We need to be as good as we can be.’ This year’s no different.”
Milwaukee's insistence on "competing" has backfired completely this season, and perhaps that's the best thing at this point. Maybe now the practices can change from the top down, or at least a player with transcendent talent can come in and force the Bucks into competency.
Based on what's floating around at the deadline, though, the latter is likely more probable.
Rest assured, Bucks officials will be closely scrutinizing Pelicans guard Eric Gordon, subject of trade rumors.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) February 13, 2014
Crucifying a team for reportedly evaluating a popular trade target at the deadline would normally be a bit much, but the Bucks chasing Eric Gordon feels too real to be ignored, even if others are refuting the report.
The report that the Bucks are interested in Eric Gordon are "completely untrue" according to well placed source...FYI— Bill Ingram (@TheRocketGuy) February 14, 2014
The prospect of a nine-win team trading for a frequently injured shooting guard with two years and $30 million left on his deal is laughable, no doubt, but the same can be said for most of Milwaukee's recent transactions.
It's hard to imagine any scenario in which trading for Gordon would make sense for Milwaukee. The Bucks should be selling off veteran players, acquiring draft picks, creating future cap flexibility and playing for the future. Gordon doesn't fit in with that plan in the least bit, even if Milwaukee doesn't have to give up much to get him.
It's not necessarily about Gordon himself. He's a solid player on both ends, and there's a lack of good shooting guards around the league. He's overpaid, of course, but he produces at a fairly high rate when he's on the floor, and he's still relatively young at 25 years old.
For a lot of teams, Gordon could be worth the large risk that's associated with his contract. But for a team with a small market and no realistic shot at competing for a title in the near future, acquiring a relatively known entity on a max deal is foolish. What's the end objective? The 8-seed again? How would Milwaukee elevate to the next level without cap space or valuable draft picks? Gordon isn't good enough to do it on his own.
Besides that, when you consider the fact that Gordon may not fit with the player the Bucks end up drafting this year, making such a move becomes even more questionable. There's a reason you don't see teams with nine wins at the All-Star break buying. It's backward. You build through the draft first, then add the big piece to put you over the top.
You would hope that Milwaukee's current place in the standings would be jarring enough to snap Kohl and Hammond into reality. The previous method of team building has unquestionably failed. Acquiring Gordon would be a typical Bucks move, and that's exactly why it shouldn't happen.