SaveOurBucks.com has been online now for just over a month. In that time we’ve been fortunate to have coverage from Kelly Dwyer (Yahoo), Bill Simmons (ESPN/Grantland), Matt Moore (CBS), USA Today, Deadspin, The Sporting News, Darren Rovell, The Dan Patrick Show, Fox 6, WTMJ 4, WISN 12 and CBS 58 among others. However, it wasn’t until the other day that we received coverage from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS), the local newspaper of record here in Milwaukee.
You can read the article by Don Walker here. We think the article was well-written and conveys our “tough love” approach as it relates to the organization. There is one point to clarify though. In the article, Walker refers to “a mystery man funding the operation…” There really isn’t a “funder” here for operations, as the costs of creating a website are minimal, and are graciously being donated by our talented webmaster.
The funding for SaveOurBucks.com activities is really coming from you, the Bucks fan, who is excited to help provide a larger platform for our message. To that end, 165 of you stepped up and collectively donated $5,100 via IndieGogo for the “Winning Takes Balls” billboard that now towers over the intersection of I-43 and McKinley in downtown Milwaukee. The funds came in quickly and the amount requested was raised within 48 hours. The way the momentum was going that day, there likely could have been significantly more money raised if requested.
The outpouring of enthusiasm validated that we were onto something here. There are thousands of Bucks fans out there who love the team, but want the front office to have accountability for the results on the court. In that regard, this site will continue to function as an ongoing watchdog. In that role we wanted to share our thoughts on the organization’s response to SaveOurBucks.com.
What Is The Bucks Plan?
In the MJS article, Bucks Executive Vice President for Business Operations, John Steinmiller noted to Don Walker that:
“Kohl is committed to building a team around a young core of talent, manage the salary cap well and draft wisely. If our fans support that, we support them…”
We are not quite sure what that means, so we are asking for clarification from the organization. Is the team now committed to playing young players and accumulating high draft picks as part of a long-term, well-thought-out rebuild? Such a shift in strategy would align with many of the goals of SaveOurBucks.com
We are not sure, however, if the (Front Office’s) strategy has changed. A commitment to a young core and draft picks might contradict statements that Senator Kohl made in an interview with Howard Beck just two months earlier:
“We recognize that the way the system is constructed…sometimes it’s better theoretically to be very bad, because it gives you a better shot at a high draft pick, but you know, it doesn’t always work out that way.”
“I feel real strong about trying to put out a decent product—a good product—for our fans……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 part of the same story, General Manager John Hammond added:
“We’re hoping that we can be a playoff team (this year)”
As evidence for the team having a strategic plan of Win-Now as Kohl outlined in the Beck interview, the front office made strong efforts this past off-season to court veteran free agents such as Kevin Martin, Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague and Andre Kirilenko among others. When those forays into free agency did not bear fruit, they then elected to commit $41 million of payroll toward a second tier journeymen veterans group of Carlos Delfino, ZaZa Pachulia, Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour, and Caron Butler. We will give the organization somewhat of a mulligan on O.J. Mayo and the $24 million spent on him, since he is still considered young at age 25. Nonetheless, the goal with Mayo was for him to bring immediate firepower to the team for a playoff run this season.
In order to free up the needed salary cap space to acquire these players the team used the NBA’s amnesty provision to eliminate the approximately $14 million owed Drew Gooden from his 5-year/$32 million contract signed in 2010, a decision panned at the time by most fans and media scribes. They still owed Gooden the money, but his salary was no longer was counted against the salary cap.
If we take into account the Gooden write-off, the Bucks in effect committed $80 million towards their “win-now” quest for the 2013-14 season. So, based on Kohl’s interview and the actual money spent on journeyman veterans, we are somewhat skeptical that the organization came into the season with a commitment to young players and accumulation of draft picks as their strategy. It would appear to us that the organization has been reluctantly forced into playing the youth, as a result of numerous injuries to the veterans acquired in the offseason. Veterans whose contributions while on the court have not moved the needle at all, or may have hindered the development of the young players behind them.
The team currently sits with the worst record in the NBA, at 6-23 as of this writing. By all accounts, the strategy of being a playoff team this season has failed. What would bring clarity to the situation would be for the organization to answer two questions:
- Has the team’s Win-Now strategy as outlined to Howard Beck back in October changed?
- And who was in charge of the execution of this strategy last summer?
As noted previously, there are numerous chefs in the Bucks’ kitchen so to speak. John Hammond, David Morway, Ron Walter, John Steinmiller, Dave Babcock, Mike Burr and Larry Drew all appear to all hold some level of influence over organizational decisions. For years now, debates have raged among hardcore fans over which person was behind the successful moves, and who was behind the failed ones. The organization would be well served to inform the fan base who exactly the “buck” stops with, as it relates to basketball operations. This will allow Senator Kohl and any and all fans to understand who is directly responsible for the failures of execution of the Win-Now plan, and to address which positions within the organization need upgrading. As we noted in our prior article, accountability drives peak performance, and we are currently short on performance.
So, even though most Bucks fans, including ourselves, are thrilled to see the youth take the court, we are unsure if this represents a true change in strategy and accountability. Further, we also do not know if the organization will stay the course with a long-term rebuild, or who exactly is in charge of such a rebuild. The answers to those questions are crucial in determining whether or not the team will be able to return to the prominence they once had as a proud and winning organization decades ago.
Of course the silver lining to all of this is the fact the Bucks currently hold the #1 seed for the NBA Draft Lottery, in a year when the draft is considered to be extremely strong in the top three to five picks. The odds are good that the team can finally obtain that ‘franchise’ player to help in the rebuilding process. We look forward to the continued dialogue on all these topics in the weeks and months to come.