Late Monday night and into Thursday morning, the Milwaukee Bucks bolstered its starting lineup and drastically increased the likelihood of Giannis Antetokounmpo signing a five-year supermax contract to stay with the team for the long haul by making two significant trades. Milwaukee got Serbian sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic in a sign-and-trade deal with the Sacramento Kings that sent Ersan Ilyasova, D.J. Wilson, and Dante DiVincenzo to the California capital. About an hour before that, the Bucks preceded that transaction with another sizable roster move—landing Jrue Holiday from the Pelicans in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and THREE first round picks (and pick swap options for New Orleans in two other drafts).
While both trades made Milwaukee—already a favorite in the Eastern Conference—a better team instantly and cleared cap space after this season, they were bittersweet. Personally, we’re going to miss two of our favorites in Ilyasova and Hill, not to mention Bledoe’s defense (though Holiday is no slouch on D) and watching DiVincenzo’s development on a nightly basis. We’re struggling to find something to add about Wilson here. However, the toughest aspect of these otherwise amazing trades—that will be made even better if it means Giannis re-signs!—is the loss of those draft picks.
Because some Milwaukee fans are incapable of just enjoying the present without dreading the future, lots of people rushed to the internet to bemoan the picks the Bucks are giving to the Pelicans for a year of Holiday’s services (including this year’s 24th overall pick, it appears). Though the roster moves that happened within the past 24 hours certainly signal a “win now (and lock up Giannis if possible)” mentality, it’s not like the NBA Draft has always been a guaranteed boost to the Bucks by any means. In fact, Milwaukee has missed the mark with first round picks on more than a few occasions.
3 firsts?!? you mean two thon makers and a rashad vaughn
— ry (@bucksthot) November 17, 2020
Though the jury is still out on semi-recent draft picks like the recently-departed Wilson and DiVincenzo (and current Pistons employee Thon Maker), Milwaukee actually has a less-than-sterling track record in the first round. As we fully embrace living in the now…at least in terms of Milwaukee basketball…not the nightmare world we’re experiencing otherwise, here are 10 certified Bucks first round busts you can reference the next time someone you know whines “bUt ThE dRaFt PiCkSsSsS!!!”
Rashad Vaughn — 17th pick (2015)
To be fair, the 2015 NBA Draft class won’t go down as a particularly good one. Plus, there wasn’t much of value left on the board when the Bucks took a guard out of UNLV at number 17. Still, Rashad Vaughn didn’t impress in parts of three seasons in Milwaukee. After averaging 3.1 points in 70 games (1,001 total minutes) in his rookie year, his playing time dwindled significantly the next 1.5 seasons, until the Bucks eventually essentially gave up on the not-so-sharpshooting guard and sent him to Brooklyn in exchange for Tyler Zeller in early 2018. Vaughn has played in six NBA games since, none of which took place last season.
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 number eight. The small forward played in 59 games during the 2008-09 season before the Bucks front office swindled 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 underwhelming seasons, approximately $17,877 per point scored in his forgettable NBA career.
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, but that didn’t hold Milwaukee back. 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.
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’s 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.
Eric Mobley — 18th pick (1994)
In 1994, the Bucks kicked off the draft by taking Glenn Robinson with the top pick. It’s safe to say he worked out pretty well. However, the same can’t be said for Milwaukee’s other first rounder pick that season. Just 17 picks later, the Bucks took Eric Mobley out of Pitt. Following an abysmal abbreviated rookie campaign in 1994-95, Milwaukee counted its losses and packaged the center in a deal with the Vancouver Grizzlies for Benoit Benjamin a month into Mobley’s second season. By the summer of 1997, Mobley’s professional career was over.
Russ Lee — 6th pick (1972)
Many people forget that Milwaukee actually drafted Julius Erving in the first round of the 1972 Draft and that Dr. J opted to play in the ABA instead. Even more people forget that before the Bucks took the eventual Hall Of Famer 12th overall, they selected some dude named Russ Lee with the 6th pick in that same draft. The small forward out of Marshall played a total of 82 games over the course of a mere two seasons with Milwaukee, averaging 2.6 points and less than one rebound per game in Bucks green.
Collis Jones — 17th pick (1971)
Speaking of Bucks draft picks who opted to play in the ABA instead, Collis Jones did just that a year before Milwaukee drafted Dr. J. The 17th overall pick never played a minute with the Bucks, and played just four ABA seasons before he and his 8.1 points per game were forced to call it a career in 1975.
Gary Freeman — 16th pick (1970)
With the 16th pick in the 1970 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks took Gary Freeman. The small forward out of Oregon State played only 52 career games in his one and old pro season. Just 41 of those were spent with the Bucks, who traded him to Cleveland partway into his rookie year. For frame of reference, Freeman was drafted a few picks before Hall Of Famers Calvin Murphy and Tiny Archibald.
Charlie Paulk — 7th pick (1968)
The first pick in Milwaukee Bucks history also has the distinction of being one of the team’s biggest draft day misses. Charlie Paulk—the 7th overall pick in 1968—played only 17 games in Milwaukee, averaging three points per contest. He left the following season to serve in the military, then played 103 more games for other teams over two seasons after serving the country. Starting the franchise out by taking Kareem makes for a better story, but it actually all began with Charlie Paulk.