The Milwaukee Bucks have had a newsworthy offseason. And for the first time in more than a decade, it isn't a negative.
Historically, under the hard-headed leadership of former owner Herb Kohl, the Bucks would hire and fire coaches seemingly each year, re-sign players who were undeserving of the millions thrown at them and destroy any chance at a future with free-agent signings of mid-level players to inflated contracts.
Fortunately, the Bucks seem to be directing themselves away from hapless attempts at being a doormat for the East's top teams, to a focus on rebuilding the team in three areas: the draft, roster development and a plan for an eventual franchise-altering move to complete the rebuild and begin the era of contention in Brew City.
So let's take a look at how the Bucks have been doing in those three areas as well as speculate on what is coming next; mainly, why the Jared Dudley signing might not be just another mediocre addition to a team looking to secure the eighth seed in next year's playoffs.
The Bucks have successfully utilized the draft over the last few years with great value picks outside the top 10 in John Henson (2012) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2013), as well as the highly touted second pick in this year's draft: Jabari Parker.
The Bucks can't be content with a few solid draft picks; they need to create an environment where the front office, coaches and players challenge each other to construct an environment where everyone is working to improve their craft.
With that said, the new coaching staff headed by Jason Kidd will be responsible for improving the play of the team's current young assets.
The Final Piece to the Rebuilding Puzzle
Some fans might argue that a successful rebuild takes three to five years. And they may back that up by pointing toward new co-owner Marc Lasry's Twitter proclamation that the plan for the Bucks is to have them ready to compete for a championship in three to five years.
Is that really set in stone?
The key to rebuilding is to do it right, and "right" doesn't have to take three to five years. It's naive to think if a potential All-Star-caliber player, at a key position like point guard, is made available to the Bucks, that they would pass because they'd rather reside at the bottom of the league a few more years.
The Bucks have a young and talented core of Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Antetokounmpo, Henson, Parker and Larry Sanders. They also have players with veteran leadership and skill in Zaza Pachulia, Ersan Ilyasova and Jerryd Bayless.
Furthermore, the Bucks hired a coach who can relate to the roster's young core, so there is no reason they can't catalyze the current rebuild with a proven point guard capable of scoring, distributing, defending and rebounding in Eric Bledsoe.
Bledsoe has backed himself into a corner in Phoenix, where he has forced the hand of Suns' management to begin trade discussions for the disgruntled future star looking for a max-level contract.
Bledsoe is coming off a year where he posted career numbers in points (17.7), assists (5.5) and rebounds (4.7).
He could be a great fit to lead Milwaukee's young core onto the court this year.
With the addition of Bledsoe, the team would have to open salary space by sending a player like newly acquired Dudley, who spent five years with the Suns and is a fan favorite according to AZ Central's Paul Coro. He reiterates how beloved Dudley became as a member of the Suns:
(Dudley) became an essential player, popular teammate and a fan favorite over nearly five seasons with the Suns. Dudley even helped the Suns in his departure that benefited him just as much as Phoenix.
So does Dudley to Milwaukee mean more than what it might appear to be on the surface? Could a package centered around contributing players like Ilyasova, O.J. Mayo or Bayless, as well as a Phoenix favorite in Dudley entice the Suns enough to part ways with the talented Bledose?
It most definitely could be. Here's what Bucks co-owner Wes Edens said to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com) back in May when he purchased the team:
It doesn't happen overnight. You build a very solid foundation and build from there. We want to have a championship-winning basketball team here, and you start with the pieces you've got and build around it.
To echo the sentiment made by Bucks new ownership, a rebuild doesn't happen overnight. But when you have a solid base of role players, two potential cornerstone pieces acquired in consecutive drafts and the chance at grabbing an All-Star-type player to lead them onto the floor, that's a shot worth taking.
With the team's recent moves, current roster makeup, dedicated ownership group and staff and the fans' interest beginning to peak, the Bucks need to pull the trigger and build this team for the future now.
The city of Milwaukee is ready to begin to "Fear the Deer" again, and the only question is: How long until the rest of the NBA begins to fear these young and talented deer?
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