The Milwaukee Bucks have been mired in mediocrity since the turn of the millennium. They haven't been good enough to win a playoff series since 2001, yet they've only landed a single top-five draft pick in that inordinate stretch of time.
Following an abysmal 2013-14 NBA season, Milwaukee is back in the lottery, and in a twist only sports fanatics can comprehend, losing a franchise-worst 67 games was the best thing that could have happened to this organization.
Milwaukee owns a top-four pick in the upcoming draft, and with that selection comes a chance to shed the "mediocre" label. This year's class is laden with star potential, but while fans are excited now, this wasn't the projected route to improvement when the season began.
As B/R's Howard Beck put it at the start of the year, "Unable to contend, but refusing to tank, the Bucks reloaded this summer with middling role players, in a stubborn quest to make the playoffs."
Beck continued, "The mission is honorable, if self-defeating on its face."
Luckily for the Bucks and their fans, that mission never came to fruition, although it's easy to see why that was the presumed plan of attack. With the procurement of O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino, the Bucks' offseason moves were emblematic of their "stay afloat" disposition.
Transactions aside, the players on the roster were ready to compete, which was predictable considering the pressure from up top to remain competitive. Mayo even went as far as to say, "Hopefully we can get to a fifth or sixth seed this year and continue growing, show we're making improvements and strides."
That quote comes courtesy of Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel, and it epitomizes where the franchise has been for more than a decade—in the middle, and in denial. Even Herb Kohl, the team's owner at the time, was of the same mindset, as evidenced by the following excerpt from Beck's early-season report:
“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.”
As it turned out, the 2013-14 campaign was, in fact, different. Fans around the league have been calling for a tank job in Milwaukee for quite some time, and while Kohl wouldn't admit it, 2014 became about positioning for the draft once the team nose-dived into the basement of the NBA.
Looking forward, the goal is simple: find an undisputed franchise player. Management has done a sufficient job compiling role players, but talent acquisition has been an arduous, if not impossible task as it pertains to top-tier talent.
Going 15-67 is tough to swallow for fans of good basketball, but with the payout being Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or another upper-echelon rookie, one down year will be forgotten with a quick turnaround.
It's been 13 years since the Bucks won a playoff series, and now that they've hit rock bottom (at the right time), making the right pick is a giant leap toward escaping mediocrity.