Following the worst season in franchise history and the sale of the team (which was approved this week, by the way!), the exciting new era of Milwaukee Bucks basketball begins with a game of chance. As one of 14 non-playoff teams, the Bucks will partake in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery. As owner of the league’s worst record, the Bucks have the best chance of those 14 franchises to have its ping pong ball plucked from the hopper, thus walking away with the number one pick in what projects to be an incredible, can’t-miss draft class.
Milwaukee has a 25-percent shot of picking first. However, that means 75 percent of the other table tennis orbs flying around are emblazoned with logos of different teams. With names like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart, and Julius Randle on the board, even if the Bucks don’t draft first, they’re bound to walk away with a great pick the night of June 26. Milwaukee has made only 15 lottery selections (meaning one of the first 14 picks in the draft) since the lottery came to be in 1985. Glenn Robinson, Vin Baker, and Stephon Marbury—who was immediately traded for Ray Allen—are all winning lotto picks. It’s also hard to dispute the value of taking Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings, John Henson, and Todd Day.
Yet for every lottery gamble that has paid off for the Bucks, there are more that seemed bad at the time, and look even worse now. With the odds and quality of draft class both squarely in the team’s favor this time around, it’s safe to look back at the worst lottery pick losers in Milwaukee Bucks history.
Dirk Nowitzki, 9th overall (1998)
To be clear, Milwaukee selecting the German seven-footer was an outstanding draft pick. With all due respect to 10th selection Paul Pierce, the veteran power forward/center hybrid is the prized pick of the ’98 draft. The Bucks’ handling of the pick is what puts Nowitzki’s name in the rare position of loser. On draft day, Milwaukee swapped its new pick and 19th overall pick Pat Garrity for tubby Michigan forward Robert “Tractor” Traylor, whom the Mavericks chose at number six. Dirk is still a Mav, and is the 12th ranked scorer in NBA history (and climbing). Traylor started 59 games for Milwaukee in two partial seasons. He died in Puerto Rico in 2011.
Marcus Haislip, 13th pick (2002)
The 2002 NBA Draft won’t go down in history as a particularly strong one, but even in the weak draft class, Tennessee draftee Marcus Haislip is among the five worst picks on the board. Nobody saw second rounder Carlos Boozer coming, but Tayshaun Prince, John Salmons, or pretty much anybody else would’ve been better than Haislip, who amassed 89 career games and 311 total points.
T.J. Ford, 8th pick (2003)
Unlike the craptastic ’02 affair, the 2003 draft is already considered to be among the best in league history. With the exception of the Pistons taking Darko Milicic with the second pick (lol), the draft is stacked with talent from picks one to seven, including susperstars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and serviceable vets Chris Kaman and Kirk Hinrich. Sadly, Milwaukee was to pick eighth that year. Texas guard T.J. Ford looked good on paper, but after bookending a missed 2004-05 campaign with a pair of so-so seasons, Ford was dealt for Charlie Villanueva, who willingly went to Detroit as a free agent to escape Milwaukee.
Yi Jianlian, 6th pick (2007)
In retrospect, this one’s not “pick Greg Oden first overall” bad, but it’s close. A language barrier didn’t get in the way of the Chinese phenomenon voicing his displeasure with the idea of Milwaukee picking him. That didn’t hold the Deer back, though. Sure, the Bucks were able to quickly unload this eventual bust for one (also disgruntled) season of Richard Jefferson, but Milwaukee passed on Joakim Noah, Thaddeus Young, and Rodney Stuckey in drafting Yi.
Joe Alexander, 8th pick (2008)
Following a solid NCAA Tournament showing with West Virginia, Milwaukee thought it wise to bypass Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee, and Lopez twins Brook and Robin to nab Joe Alexander at eight. The small forward “played” in 59 games of the 2008-09 season before the Bucks front office hoodwinked the Chicago Bulls front office and traded him for John Salmons and a 2010 pick (which became Larry Sanders). Alexander earned about $5.1M for two shitty seasons, approximately $17,876.57 per point scored in his forgettable “career.” Robert “Tractor” Traylor has a better chance at a comeback than this colossal bust.
Jimmer Fredette, 10th pick (2011)
At the height of Jimmer-Mania, the Bucks briefly won points with fans who were taken by Fredette’s play at BYU when Milwaukee drafted the oddly named guard with the 10th pick. However, Jimmer barely got the Bucks cap on before he was swapping it for a Sacramento Kings lid as part of a three-team deal that saw the Bucks getting Tobias Harris, brittle journeyman Shaun Livingston—talk about lottery busts!—and Stephen Jackson, who could’ve filled our Milwaukee disses Tracklist himself during his rocky partial season in town. Man, fuck Stephen Jackson. Anyway, Jimmer (who’s not exactly owning the Association with his skills) is gone and nobody the Bucks received for the package of him, Salmons, and Corey Maggette remain on Milwaukee’s current roster.