The Milwaukee Bucks have been the NBA's forgotten franchise for the latter half of this decade. They had a brief stint in the spotlight in 2001, with a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, but ended up losing in seven games to Philadelphia.
After a disastrous free-fall in the standings during the next season, the Bucks failed to make the playoffs and, the long road to rebuilding began.
Since 2002, the Bucks haven't advanced past the first round of the playoffs and haven't had a winning season since 2004.
You would think that after five-plus years in the NBA Draft lottery that the Bucks could have assembled something resembling a contender. Instead, they make questionable first-round picks and seem to save the sensible picks for the second round.
That's not to say that the Bucks haven't made some splashes on draft day. With that, I present to you:
The Milwaukee Bucks top five NBA Draft moments.
This one goes down as No. 3 on the Bucks "What-If?" draft list (No. 1 and 2 will be revealed in later slides).
When I first heard the Bucks had drafted a seven-footer out of Germany named Dirk, I was about ready to gouge my eyes out.
"How could the Bucks screw this one up?!" I asked myself for the next ten minutes. Then, a miracle happened: The Bucks traded Nowitzki to Dallas for the the most coveted big man in the draft, Michigan's Robert "Tractor" Traylor.
This bold move was supposed to propel the Bucks to the next level, whereas Dallas now looked like the confused franchise. As they say, the rest is history.
Any NBA fan with even a sliver of knowledge knows what Nowitzki has done for the Dallas Mavericks: a trip to the NBA Finals, an MVP award, not to mention his extremely important role in making the Mavericks a relevant franchise again.
As for "Tractor" Traylor? He is widely considered one of the biggest draft day busts and in 2007, as he pled guilty to tax evasion charges. His final NBA stats: 4.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 0.7 blocks. He lasted only two seasons in Milwaukee.
Most critics agree that the 1996 NBA Draft is one of the deepest in league history. 10 of the top-20 picks went on to be All-Stars, with names like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson all being picked in the first round.
The Bucks initially drafted Stephon Marbury with the No. 5 pick. Marbury proved his mettle during his freshman year at Georgia Tech, combining speed and playground-style toughness on the court.
Most believed Marbury was destined for greatness, and the pick was almost immediately considered a success by Bucks fans.
Minnesota picked next and took junior Ray Allen from Connecticut. Allen had more college experience under his belt but didn't have the flash and showmanship that Marbury displayed. Most predicted Allen would be good, but nothing special.
Opposite of the previous Dirk Nowitzki slide, when the Bucks drafted Marbury, I was as pumped up as anyone in Milwaukee.
Georgia Tech was a regular fixture on ESPN's college basketball coverage that year, and Marbury was always the center of attention during the highlight reels. To have a player of his caliber come to Milwaukee prompted immediate excitement among fans.
Lo and behold, roughly a half-hour after the Bucks had seemingly breathed life back into their franchise, they went ahead and swapped picks with Minnesota, sending Marbury to the T-Wolves and Allen to the Bucks.
Boo's immediately filled the Bradley Center's draft night festivities. Fans couldn't believe that management would trade a player with such huge potential as Marbury's for a player with average expectations like Allen. I must admit that I felt the same way, but again, I was proven wrong.
Allen turned out to be the perfect compliment to the 1994 first overall pick by the Bucks, Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. With the addition of Sam Cassell and coach George Karl, the Bucks went from pretender to contender in a span of three seasons.
Allen, Robinson, and Cassell formed Milwaukee's "Big Three" and catapulted the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. After a crushing defeat by the 76ers in seven games, the Bucks vowed to return next season stronger and more determined, but ultimately imploded and missed the playoffs.
It was that implosion that would lead to the depressing breakup of the "Big Three." Karl and Allen butted heads over defensive play, which prompted Milwaukee to make one of the most controversial (and in my mind, completely terrible), trades ever, sending Allen to Seattle for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason.
To this day, I believe the Bucks and their fans have never fully recovered from this trade. Gary Payton abandoned the team in the offseason and signed with the Lakers, and Glenn Robinson was traded to the Atlanta Hawks.
All the strength and excitement that defined Bucks basketball for a three-year period was dealt away in one fell swoop.
However, it goes without saying that the Bucks still got the best out of this draft-day swap. Marbury has proven himself to be a cancer in the locker room and a headache for fans and management.
If there's one thing Wisconsinites hate, it's bad attitudes and complainers. Simply put, Marbury would have been eaten alive by the media and fans had he stuck around.
Allen, meanwhile, was a key cog in Boston's championship run last season, and he remains one of the more popular players in the league. No matter what uniform he wears, he'll always be a Buck in the minds of Milwaukee fans.
Allow me to preface this slide by saying that it was a very tough decision to choose between the significance of Andrew Bogut getting picked No. 1 or Glenn Robinson getting picked No. 1.
Though the Bucks didn't have the best odds at winning the No. 1 pick in 2005, GM Larry Harris brought along a lucky charm given to him by a Bucks fan a week before the draft.
That lucky charm, a fishing lure, may have played a role in landing Milwaukee the first overall pick, it's first No. 1 pick since 1994 (the Bucks used that pick to draft Glenn Robinson).
The weeks leading up to the draft were filled with heady debate over who the Bucks should pick first. It was determined that the Bucks would either take reigning AP Player of the Year Andrew Bogut or UNC standout freshman Marvin Williams, both great looking options at the time.
A center with dominant potential is quite hard to pass up, so the Bucks decided to roll the dice and draft Bogut. Overall, he's fit in nicely with the Bucks and has shown flashes of brilliance at times.
He gets physical under the glass, can score effectively, and works hard on seemingly every possession. There's only one, make that two, small problems.
Deron Williams and Chris Paul were taken thirrd and fourth, respectively. Ouch.
I'm still happy with the Bogut pick. I think he'll eventually be an All-Star and put up good, but not great, numbers. He's becoming a fairly intimidating presence in the paint and showed some real toughness by playing hurt for part of last season.
However, as it was with Dirk Nowitzki, Bucks fans are again left wondering, "what if?"
Though I wasn't alive to experience this myself, many family friends have told me about the ultimate "what if" NBA draft pick. Hands down, without a doubt, it belongs to Julius Erving.
Most people don't know that "Dr. J" was originally drafted by Milwaukee. The Bucks took Erving with the 12th pick in the '72 draft, though he never played a game with Milwaukee, opting to sign with the Atlanta Hawks instead (p.s. if someone can clue me in as to exactly HOW this was allowed to happen, I'd love to know!)
Sit back and imagine a team that ALREADY HAD Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, then throw in Dr. J because, you know, why the hell not?
Consider this: In 1971, the Bucks' third season as a franchise, they had already achieved a record of 66-16 and went on to win the NBA championship against the Baltimore Bullets. With Erving, the Bucks could have potentially dominated the entire decade.
Lest we forget that Milwaukee dealt Kareem to LA in 1975, which seemed absurd at the time but allowed us to bring in great players like Sidney Moncrief and Marques Johnson.
What's even scarier is that the Bucks continued to dominate for much of the 80's as well. Milwaukee won six-straight Central division titles and had a .500 record or better for the next 11 seasons.
Milwaukee certainly doesn't hold a grudge against Dr. J, but his unwillingness to sign with the Bucks still sends a shiver down the spine of anyone who's been a fan since the team's inception.
It's January 1968, and the city of Milwaukee has just been awarded an NBA franchise. After a horrid expansion season, the Bucks were slotted to take part in a coin flip with the Phoenix Suns (also an expansion team at the time) to see who would get the No. 1 pick in the 1969 NBA draft.
Fortunately, there was zero guesswork to be done here. Without a doubt, Lew Alcindor out of UCLA was the consensus No. 1 pick.
Despite a brief bidding war with the ABA, the Bucks secured Alcindor ( who then officially became Abdul-Jabbar) and, yet again, the rest was history. The Bucks went 56-26 in their first year with Kareem and he was a shoe-in for rookie of the year honors.
Next season, the Bucks were NBA champions, and their place in NBA history was officially cemented.
It goes without saying that Abdul-Jabbar is the reason the Bucks still have a franchise today. He made the team significant and turned them into a force to be reckoned with, and all Milwaukee Bucks fans are still admiring his efforts today.
He is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most important draft pick ever made by the Milwaukee Bucks.