5 Bucks that could have been

Published by Axel on 10th November - 17:13 (CET)
The Milwaukee Bucks have done a good job drafting recently, with picks like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and this year's Thon Maker, who most other teams passed on just because he apparently is old or something. Did they even watch MJ in Washington? Or Tim Duncan ever for that matter?! Timmy's old enough to have witnessed dinosaurs not named Chris Bosh.

Anyways, I'm not here to talk about draft picks that went well, I'm here to talk about the ones that didn't.

The series must go on. 5 Bucks that could have been!
Picked 15th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Larry Sanders didn't start playing basketball until he was about 15 years old, but when he did he quickly excelled as a strong and athletic big man. In his very first season playing for the Rams at Virginia Commonwealth University, Sanders became the second option behind Eric Maynor and was awarded with a spot on the CAA All-Freshman Team and the CAA All-Defensive Team at the end of the season.

He continued to develop during his sophomore season as he again was selected to the CAA All-Defensive Team, even winning the CAA Defensive Player of the Year and being named to the Second-team All-CAA by the end of the season.

As Maynor was drafted by the Jazz in before Sanders' junior season he became the true star of the Rams and came to lead the team in points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. For his third straight year he was selected to the CAA All-Defensive Team, once again winning the CAA Defensive Player of the Year award. This time good enough for a spot on the First-team All-CAA. Also good enough to declare eligible for the 2010 NBA draft.

After two seasons with the Bucks that left much to desire, Sanders improved heavily and managed to average 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals and an incredible 2.8 blocks per game. He virtually finished second along with Greivis Vasquez for the Most Improved Player of the Year award in 2013 and signed a hefty $44 million contract that was supposed to make Sanders a Bucks for the upcoming four years.

As we all know by now that's not what happened. Just like DMX, Sanders started soaking up trouble like rain in the dirt. Injuries sustained in bar fights, multiple violations of the NBA's drug policy, having himself suspended without pay and some trouble with injuries actually sustained on the court. It was clear that something was wrong, and by December 2014, after missing seven games, it was announced that Sanders was being placed on the Bucks' inactive list due to personal reasons. A few months later the Bucks bought Sanders out of his contract and Sanders himself released a video statement about his intentions to leave the NBA. Possibly for good.

I love basketball and the competition and the comradery and all of that. But, at the same time, I feel like basketball took a lot away from me too. It limited me in a lot of ways. And I’ve been an artist my whole life. I loved drawing. I wanted to be an oceanographer. I’ve skateboarded for the majority of my life. I always had this artistic and rebellious way about me, and it clashed with the NBA culture. It really did. I got to the point where I realized that the NBA is a machine. It’s going to keep running, with or without you. If it can keep running without Allen Iverson – Allen Iverson! – then it’s definitely not worried about me.
I’m a person. I’m a father. I’m an artist. I’m a writer. I’m a painter. I’m a musician. And... sometimes I play basketball."

Sanders wasn't known as a offensively gifted player, but he was a good rebounder, a better rim protector and a fantastic shot blocker. Sanders' 7.1 block percentage over the course of career would place 3rd all-time had he played enough to qualify. If you ever can call 71 games someone's prime he was good in his prime. Had he kept that up he had all the tools to become a Whiteside/Gobert type of player. Too bad, for all of us.
Picked 8th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Spending much of his youth in China, Joe Alexander became the first foreigner in history to win the Beijing High School basketball MVP award. After moving back to Maryland, USA to play a couple of seasons for the Linganore High School, Alexander moved on to play college ball at West Virginia University.

After two mediocre seasons at WVU, Alexander improved a lot physically and finally started to show some promise during his junior season as he earned a spot on the First-team All-Big East in 2007. He wasn't the most skilled player, but he was touted as the most athletic player in the whole draft class, which says a lot when the class in question includes Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley. I'd say they're all pretty damn athletic. As many other teams the Bucks believed in drafting for potential and selected Alexander with the 8th overall pick. Before Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka, DeAndre Jordan and the Lopez-brothers among others.

Shouldn't have done that! Alexander's rookie season left much to desire. He was the ultimate tweener.
Not enough lateral quickness to handle the small forwards of today's game, but too small to play the power forward. Head coach Scott Skiles wasn't a very big Alexander-fan either and after a few injuries the Bucks surprisingly chose to decline his rookie option for a 3rd season with the follwing statement:

"We believe Joe can be a good NBA player, but his latest injury has hampered our ability to further assess his progress. Joe has missed valuable on-court development opportunities due to injury."

Of all the draft busts I've seen I can't recall a single top 10 pick that hasn't had his rookie option picked up. Can you?! He was sidelined with an hamstring injury to start the '09-'10 season and thereafter spent some time in the D-League before getting traded to the Chicago Bulls where he played a mere 29 minutes before getting sidelined from the NBA for good. We'll just leave it at that, but before moving on I'll leave you with Alexander's own views on the situation:

"Obviously the No. 8 pick is expected to have an illustrious and longer NBA career than I’ve had, so that’s fine, but I think that Milwaukee should certainly share that [bust] label. They contributed heavily to it. Heavily. For the Bucks to pull the plug on me, I thought, was dramatically irresponsible on their part. What it did was label me as some sort of a problem player. It made everyone in the league look at me different when 12 months before any team would’ve died to have me."
Picked 6th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Just as Thon Maker, Chinese big man Yi Jianlian also have had his age disputed, but I'm pretty sure he was 15 years old when Adidas, with the hopes of signings him to an endorsement deal invited Yi to their ABCD-camp in New Jersey to play against High School All-Americans. Not long after returning to China Yi signed a contract with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the CBA, having instant success and even being labeled as "The Next Yao Ming" in the media. Yi played five seasons for the Tigers. During those years he won three league titles and averaged a respectful 24.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game while shooting .585 from the field during his very last season before declaring eligible for the 2007 draft.

Yi's agent Dan Fegan made it clear that he wanted Yi drafted by a city hosting a large Asian-American community, and therefore warned the Bucks not to draft him, even declining them to join him for his pre-draft workouts. Larry Harris, general manager of the Bucks at the time still selected Yi and stated they had only drafted the best player available. The Bucks made multiple efforts to persuade Yi to sign, even sending team owner Herb Kohl to assure Chinese officials that Yi would get sufficient playing time to improve for the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. After a few months of negotiations and a trade request the Bucks and Yi finally came to an understanding, signing Yi to a multi-year rookie contract.

In November 2007, Yi met fellow Chinese Yao Ming's Houston Rockets in what would become one of the most-watched games in the history of the NBA. The game was watched by over 200 million people, just in China. He gained praises from Tracy McGrady who after the game said that Yi had a "tremendous upside in this league". Yao was equally impressed as he called Yi's talents unbelievable.

Yi was named the Rookie of the Month in December 2007 and continued with a strong rookie campaign which unfortunately ended with a knee injury, sidelining him for the latter part of the season.
During his first year in the NBA Yi played 66 games, averaging 8.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.8 blocks in 25 minutes per game. Quite good for someone who was hampered by his injuries long before he was ruled out.

During the summer, Yi was traded to the Nets where he played two seasons, averaging 12.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game during the latter. He played two more seasons in the NBA for the Mavs and the Wizards before going home to China to win four domestic MVP titles for his old team Guangdong Tigers. What domestic means is that he's the best player who's actually from China, since the league otherwise is dominated by NBA rejects like Michael Beasley, Mike Harris, Jonathan Gibson and A. J. Price. All of whom average more than 30 points per game.

After a strong performance in the 2016 Summer Olympics, Yi surprisingly signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Lakers. They probably would have gotten that $8 million back in jersey sales in a week if it wasn't for the fact that Yi himself just a few weeks ago asked to get waived, stating that he didn't feel like the minutes and opportunities he would have gotten with the Lakers were in line with his goals and ambition. Back to rule China and get some more domestic MVP's I would presume.
Picked 8th overall in the 1995 NBA Draft by the Trail Blazers, immediately traded to the Bucks.

Michigan State University have had lots of good point guards. Magic Johnson, Scott Skiles and ofcourse, Shawn Respert. During 119 games at MSU, Respert averaged 21.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. In his senior season Respert was good enough to get selected as the Big Ten Player of the Year and the NABC Player of the Year, drawing a lot of attention from NBA teams.

On draft night the Bucks therefore gave up the draft rights to the 11th picked Gary Trent and a first-rounder to get the scoring machine from MSU. But in Milwaukee Respert was far from being the iconic scorer he had been during his time in college, averaging only 4.9 points in his first season with the Bucks.

After 14 played games in his sophomore season Respert was traded to Toronto where he spent two seasons before again being traded to Dallas. Respert finished his career with the Phoenix Suns in 1999, only managing to play a total of 172 games in the NBA.

At times the misfortune of others can be enjoyable, like when Yoshi completely blasted Doc Rivers the other day. When it comes to Shawn Respert's misfortune there's nothing enjoyable about it at all. About six years after Respert's career had ended he admitted that he had cancer in his stomach for the whole part of his NBA career.

"I had cancer. I don't want people to feel sorry for me, or think I'm making an excuse about why it didn't work out for me in the NBA. I just want people who have wondered, 'Whatever happened to Shawn Respert?' to know that I wasn't strung out on drugs or anything bad like that."

"One day I felt a lump the size of a marble below my belly button," Respert said. "After I finally saw a doctor a couple weeks later, the lump had gotten bigger. When the doctor said, 'You have cancer in your abdomen,' I said, 'C'mon. There's no way. I'm 23 and I'm in the NBA," Respert recalled during a telephone interview from Houston. "I was in denial, so I got a second opinion. But then another doctor in Milwaukee verified that I had cancerous cells in my stomach. It's crazy, but I didn't tell my mom or dad, my grandparents, or my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife," he said."

As it turns out the only people that knew were the doctors, the Buck's trainers and Mike Dunleavy, Sr.
Picked 1st overall in the 1977 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

If you're from Indiana it's probably safe to say that you, just like the Bucks' fans had high hopes for Kent "Benny" Benson. After receiving the Indiana Mr. Basketball award in 1973, Benson followed up by helping Indiana University Hoosiers to a CCAT Championship with a 23-5 record and a Big Ten title as a freshman.
His sophomore season was even better as he averaged 15 points and 8.9 rebounds a game and helped IU to a undefeated 18 - 0 record before going down against Kentucky in the Elite Eight.

During Benson's junior season he lead his team to an accomplishment never repeated Division I college basketball since. The Hoosiers managed to win the NCAA championship without losing a single game during the whole season. That year Benson was named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player, a Consensus first-team All-American and the Helms Foundation Player of the Year.

As Benny lost teammates Scott May and Quinn Bucker to the NBA in before his senior season, he was now the lone star of the Hoosiers and saw his numbers improve to 19.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
At the end of the season he was was named the Big Ten's player of the year and once again a Consensus first-team All-American. Good enough to get selected with the first overall pick in 1997, with quite high expectations I might add. Last time a receiver of the Indiana Mr. Basketball award was picked first overall he became the NBA Rookie of the Year, a 12-time All-Star, 6-time NBA assist leader, an NBA champion and the Most Valuable Player. You know who it is? You can figure it out!

The start of Benson's NBA career was rougher. In his very first NBA game Benson was put up against reigning MVP Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who after two minutes decided that Benson was playing too rough, answering by sucker punching him in the face which in turn broke both Benson's jaw and Kareem's hand...

Benson never lived up to his potential and was traded to the Pistons during his third season with the Bucks. Some people still holds Kareem and his KO-punch partly responsible for Benson's failure, but I don't know about that. He still played a respectful 680 games during 10 seasons in the NBA. During those games he averaged 9.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks in 23.1 minuter per game.

Never mind that 8 player who were selected behind him in the draft became NBA All-Stars...

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