Former Milwaukee Bucks general manager Larry Harris certainly didn't do any favors for current general manager John Hammond.
Harris managed to strap Milwaukee down with a variety of long term contracts including Michael Redd, Mo Williams, Dan Gadzuric, Bobby Simmons and Charlie Bell, effectively limiting any flexibility the franchise would have with their money allocation.
Yi Jianlian, the Bucks sixth overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, also presented an ongoing headache while his agent put consistent pressure on the Bucks to move Yi to a larger market.
Former Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak was clearly in over his head during the 'Yi' season. Krystkowiak only managed to win 26 games in his only season at the helm of the club and had trouble keeping his players in check as the team had well noted locker room issues.
Enter John Hammond.
Over the past two years, Hammond has managed to overturn a significant portion of his roster. Only four of Milwaukee's fourteen players were present on the team before Hammond's arrival and only one of them, Andrew Bogut, is playing a significant role for the team right now. In addition to the new players, Hammond was also able to hire a high profile coach in Scott Skiles in an effort to change the mentality of the franchise.
After a disappointing 2008-2009 season which was prematurely put to rest with season ending injuries to Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, Hammond was forced to make moves in order to keep the team headed in the right direction.
Sometimes general managers are forced to make decisions unpopular with the fan base, and Hammond did just that during the summer of 2009. Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva, two good young players, were allowed to walk with no compensation in free agency and Richard Jefferson was dealt for cap friendly deals.
Fast forward five months and you've got the current Milwaukee Bucks, one of the hottest teams in the NBA having won twelve of fourteen games since the all-star break. Many of the offseason moves made by Hammond over the past two years play a large part in that. Players Carlos Delfino, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Luke Ridnour, Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Jennings, Kurt Thomas, and Jerry Stackhouse are all playing significant roles in the team's success. The most recent acquisition of guard John Salmons, may be the most impressive move Hammond has made to date.
John Hammond was able to turn backup power forward Hakim Warrick and a player in Joe Alexander who fell far short of initial expectations into a starting shooting guard, two second round picks, and a first round pick swap option. If the playoffs began today, the pick swap option would allow the Bucks to jump seven spots in the 2010 NBA Draft.
In Salmons, the Bucks have a scorer on the wing capable of creating his own offense. With Michael Redd's second ACL tear in under a year, it's an element the Bucks severely lacked making Salmons a perfect fit.
The Bucks, once seven games under .500 now stand at seven games over .500 and are firmly entrenched in fifth place in the eastern conference. In contrast, the Detroit Pistons, Hammond's former team, sit at 23-43 primed for a lottery appearance.
While Hammond was with the Pistons, they were a team with a defensive identity, the Bucks, a team known for it's soft jump shooters. Now that Hammond is in Milwaukee, the teams' calling cards are reversed.
So, who had the brains behind the Pistons Championship team? Was it John Hammond? Could Milwaukee see a championship team in the near future constructed in the very same fashion? Either way, you'll certainly hear Hammond's name come up in the NBA's Executive of the Year Award discussion in the coming months.
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