Fans often have reason to hope when their team is legitimately awful. It can be hard for fans in the moment to know that, however. And in 2014, Milwaukee Bucks fans truly could not have known just how much hope was truly on the floor as they watched their team barf out a 15-67 season that marks their only failure to win even 20 games in the 55-year history of the franchise.
The Bucks had a rookie project from Greece. They trotted out a second-year small forward who would develop into an All-Star wing player and the second-best player on a championship team. Milwaukee’s future had never been brighter in the moment.
The On-Court Record
Show me a 15-win team and I’ll show you a team that had at least one truly plug-awful stretch of the season.
The ’14 Bucks had three.
First, they lost 11 in a row after they split their first four games. This put them at 2-13 and pretty much ensured a tank job to rival Operation Citadel in World War II.
Second, they limped into the All-Star break after they lost 19 of 21 to drop from 7-24 to 9-43.
And finally, as lottery balls danced in their heads while they slept, the Bucks went 2-17 in their last 19 games.
That’s 6-49 cumulatively in their deepest swoons. 9-18 isn’t much better, but it’s better than that.
They weren’t the worst team in the league by Net Rating—that was the grab-your-barf-bag Sixers, who went 19-63 and whose minus-10.5 Net Rating beat Milwaukee by 1.7 points in the wrong direction.
But they were pretty bad, and perhaps most importantly, they managed to out-tank a team run by Sam Hinkie down the stretch. The Sixers lost 26 in a row and still couldn’t finish last.
The Featured Players
Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 1.2 Win Shares in 1897 minutes to start his career, a woeful .031 clip.
Khris Middleton led the team in minutes with 2460 and managed only 2.7 WS (.053 per 48.)
John Henson led the team in WS with 3.3, while Ramon Sessions—from my alma mater!—was one of only two players above the Starter’s Mendoza Line, posting .121 WS/48 in 909 minutes. He matched Jeff Adrien, whose identical per-48 rate came in 705 minutes.
And pride in the Nevada Wolf Pack aside, there’s nothing else nice to say about this squad other than that it had two guys of whom one will definitely be in the Hall of Fame and the other—Middleton—is building a fringe case year by year. Middleton’s already up to 50.6 WS and has a ring along with three All-Star appearances. Not bad for a second-round pick.
But just because it wasn’t obvious at the time doesn’t mean Milwaukee didn’t have the pieces of a championship—it just took awhile for everything to fall into place.
Oh, Larry Drew. It’s bad enough that your name’s already come up in this series thanks to your participation as a player in that 12-70 Los Angeles Clippers debacle in 1987.
But now you pull off the double of being a terrible coach as well?
Congratulations, mate! That’s some world-class suckitude right there.
Drew coached a decent-but-underwhelming Atlanta Hawks team from 2011 to 2013. Taking over in Milwaukee after Atlanta fired him in favor of Mike Budenholzer (how interesting the threads are in NBA history!), he lasted just one season.
Drew then re-emerged to coach a vomit-inducing 2019 Cavaliers team. That squad started 0-6 then fired Tyronn Lue. Drew then completed their post-LeBron swoon 19-63.
Drew is an assistant under Lue in Los Angeles with the Clippers team he once played for all those years ago, but at 64, it’d be a fool’s errand for him to take the head role unless it is again on an interim basis.
Which means he finishes his coaching career at 162-226, a .418 clip. That’s a good 3-point percentage. It is not a good winning percentage for a coach.
Milwaukee returned to the playoffs in 2015 after a year absence.
Once the front office caught wise to the fact that Jason Kidd is a garbage coach, they brought in Budenholzer. That squad immediately proceeded to go 60-22 in the 2019 season.
Two years later, in 2021, they won the title.
It’s like I said at the top. Fans had plenty of cause for hope in 2014. It just wasn’t evident at the time.
NEXT: Minnesota Timberwolves. My oh my, where do we even start? How about at “really? You didn’t draft Stephen Freaking Curry?!” or “You traded one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history for WHAT?”
Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!