It's been rough sledding for the Milwaukee Bucks since winning 46 games in the 2009-10 season. Even though the franchise made the postseason two years ago, it hasn't won more than 38 games in any of the last four years.
Despite that futility, there is good news and reason for optimism. The Bucks had the second overall pick in June's NBA draft and used it to select Duke superstar Jabari Parker. He may not be the most exciting athlete, but no rookie is better prepared to step in right away and average 15-18 points per game.
They are also starting a new era with an all-new ownership group with Jason Kidd taking over as head coach after the Bucks acquired him in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets that cost them two second-round draft picks in 2015 and 2019.
Despite the turnover in the owner's box and coaching staff, no one is under any illusions about where Milwaukee is right now. The turnaround process is going to take time, but the team finally has a cornerstone player to build around.
Kidd even sent a personalized message to the fans of Milwaukee after he was acquired as the Bucks head coach, via the Bucks' official Twitter:
One notable portion of that message is where Kidd wrote about how excited he is for the opportunity to be part of a young, up-and-coming team:
Over the past couple days, I've been asked: 'Why Milwaukee?' My answer is simple: there is no place I'd rather be. Over my twenty years in the NBA as a player and a coach, I have always been impressed with the level of support that Bucks fans have given this team, in good times and bad.
There is something to be said about the situation in Milwaukee. Kidd came from a situation in Brooklyn that doesn't appear to be sustainable over the long term, as the Nets lost $144 million last year.
The Bucks aren't locked into any bad long-term contracts—Larry Sanders has the biggest deal at $44 million over four years—and have a potential star in Parker.
While the Bucks still aren't a playoff-caliber team, even in the weak Eastern Conference, they will be more interesting to watch because of their new direction.
The NBA has released Milwaukee's full schedule for the 2014-15 season, via NBA.com, and here you'll find a look at what to expect from the Bucks, including key games to watch, odds to win a title and a final regular-season record prediction.
|To Win Eastern Conference||150-1|
|To Win NBA Championship||400-1|
*Odds courtesy of VegasInsider.com
Most Intriguing Matchups
Milwaukee Bucks at Brooklyn Nets
When: Wednesday, Nov. 19, 6:30 p.m. ET
Given the circumstances in which Jason Kidd left the Nets, it's easy to pick the first matchup between the head coach's current and former team as the early marquee game of the season.
The Nets took a chance on Kidd to lead their veteran-laden team last year. He had just retired from the NBA and had no coaching experience at all. There were times during the season when his inexperience showed.
Kidd's most famous, or infamous, moment as a head coach came late in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, when he told Tyshawn Taylor to bump him as a way to knock a cup out of his hand and get some time to discuss a play since the Nets were out of timeouts.
Bleacher Report NBA writer Howard Beck took Kidd to task for the way he decided to leave Brooklyn—demanding more power and control without doing enough to earn it, while also getting a fellow coach (Larry Drew) fired in the process:
Loyalty? Respect? Dignity? Compassion? Kidd just trampled every notion of professional decency with his brazen power play in Brooklyn and his clumsy escape to Milwaukee.
Kidd will soon be introduced as the Bucks' new head coach—a position that was still occupied by Larry Drew until Kidd lobbied his way into the job over the weekend. Kidd seized the job after being denied full control of the Nets' basketball operations —a demand he made last week, while working to undermine Brooklyn's front office.
Kidd was an icon for the Nets when they were in New Jersey, playing six-and-a-half seasons with the franchise from 2001 to 2008, making the playoffs each of his first six years and leading them to consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.
Now, after burning the bridge in Brooklyn, Kidd figures to get a very cold reception from the crowd.
There isn't going to be a great showdown between rookie stars in this matchup. Parker will be on the floor, but the Nets didn't have a pick in the 2014 NBA draft. The only storyline that will matter is Kidd's return to Brooklyn.
Philadelphia 76ers at Milwaukee Bucks
When: Friday, Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET
Look, no one is going to sugarcoat the fact that Milwaukee will be bad this season. Philadelphia isn't going to be much better, if it is at all. These were the two worst teams in basketball last season, with the Bucks winning 15 games to the 76ers' 19.
The beauty of this matchup is it could end up playing a key role in who wins the draft lottery. It's not exactly the same thing as saying a matchup could determine home-court advantage in the postseason, but it still has some drama attached.
It's also a big deal, at least right now, because the 2015 NBA draft class looks like a deep group with several intriguing names at the top. ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required) listed Duke's Jahlil Okafor as the best in the group and says that his ceiling can range anywhere from Tim Duncan (highly optimistic) to Elton Brand (more logical).
A young power forward like Brand would make a nice pairing with Parker. It gives the Bucks an inside-outside presence on the floor that they will lack this season. But that's a long way away, so there's plenty of time for turnover.
Another reason to be intrigued by a Bucks-76ers matchup is the amount of young talent on the floor at one time. If you are going to watch two bad teams, at least watch a game where they are bad because they're developing future stars.
For Milwaukee, Parker is the only franchise talent, but Philadelphia will be running out players like Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Jerami Grant and K.J. McDaniels.
No one knows what those players will become, but at least the potential is there for all of them to be solid or average NBA regulars in the future. Some of them will flame out, possibly by the time they get to this game, but for now it's still fun to think about the future.
After all, what do the Bucks and 76ers have to look forward to other than that?
As you can undoubtedly tell, things are not going to go well for the Bucks in 2014-15. They are clearly still in a rebuilding phase, despite the addition of Kidd to the bench. Fans aren't going to take kindly to another season of 15-20 wins, but that's the reality of their situation.
What is the biggest storyline for Milwaukee heading into the season?
The Bucks aren't in a position where they can add high-profile free agents, nor should they try to start doing that, so the draft is going to be their best friend for a long time. They have their first stepping stone with Parker, but one rookie doesn't change everything, unless he's LeBron James.
Brandon Knight had a solid season in 2013-14 with a career-high 17.9 points and 4.9 assists per game, but he still has to work on becoming a more effective shooter after hitting just 42.2 percent of his shots.
On top of that, the Eastern Conference has improved this offseason. It still can't compete with the West's depth, but more teams will be in the 45-50 win range—like Miami, Indiana, Cleveland, Charlotte, Toronto, Washington, Chicago and Brooklyn—than in the past.
More depth means more wins to go around, so the bottom-feeders are going to suffer in the process. Milwaukee certainly fits into that category. The team will be more entertaining to watch than last year, when they ranked 25th in points allowed and 28th in points scored.
Ultimately, with better talent spread around the East and a roster lacking in top talent, the Bucks are going to find wins hard to come by.
Final prediction: 17-65