If the Milwaukee Bucks were living in the Star Wars universe, the 1990s would existed in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. In their 42 years of existence, the Bucks have made 26 postseason appearances, missing the playoffs 16 times. Of those 16 campaigns, seven came in consecutive seasons during the 1990s.
The Bucks scraped together a record of 325-463 (.412) during the decade defined by a boom in technology, only twice eclipsing 36 wins and finishing three seasons failing to hit the 30 win mark. If Bucksketball’s Best Of A Bad Situation lineup didn’t depress you enough, this one might really get you to pop in those 1980s nutter-heavy highlight reels.
Picking the worst players from the worst decade in team history may sound as painful as a bloodied stump after a lightsaber battle on Mustafar, but there is a breaking point when you’re a fan of a bad team that turns “bad” into “fun bad.” This lineup was conceived with a few cringes and some stress ball abuse, but mostly with a barrage of laughter (it is, after all, the best medicine).
PG – Lee Mayberry (1994-95)
21.3 MPG, 9.9 PER, 5.8 PPG (42.2% FG, 40.7% 3FG, 69.9% FT), 3.4 APG, 1.3 TO, .6 SPG
Throughout his Milwaukee tenure, Lee Mayberry couldn’t shoot (contrary to the above card’s graphic depiction), created fewer quality shots than The Situation’s appearance at Donald Trump’s roast, and still never missed a game in his four years as a Buck. Those are all bad signs when you play point guard.
Fortunately for Milwaukee, Mayberry was not a regular starter until the 1994-95 season (when Eric Murdock sat out the first month with an eye injury), but Mayberry still couldn’t justify his status as a first round pick. He started the first 27 games of that season, and only managed to top 10 points and five assists in seven contests.
Mayberry’s minutes peaked at 21.3 per game in 94-95, but his stats measured in averages per 36 minutes reflected a player that didn’t deserve a starter’s time on the court. Paired with fellow Bucks teammate Todd Day at Arkansas in college, Mayberry and Day earned the nickname “May-Day” as an explosive 1-2 scoring punch. That nickname certainly reflected their Bucks careers accurately, although more so because it resembled a plane going down in flames.
Mayberry’s closest player comparison is Steve Blake (they both could shoot threes, which will always keep a player around longer than necessary). Even then, that relation does somewhat of a disservice to Blake, who did manage to carve out a niche role in Portland late in his career.
SG – Todd Day (1993-94):
13.5 PER, 12.7 PPG (41.5% FG, 22.3% 3FG, 69.8% FT), 4.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 SPG
Respectable scoring averages do not a valuable player make, even if that’s all a wing can really do (see Maggette, Corey). Todd Day did not make a good impression in his first post-NBA Draft interview, and he spent the next three years shooting like he wanted out of Milwaukee.
Imagine John Salmons’ 2010-11 scoring numbers (12 shots/game, 14 PPG, 41.5% FG) stretched out over a three year span, with little to contribute otherwise on offense, and you’ve just summed up Day’s Milwaukee tenure. Despite being relied on as a crucial scoring option for the 93-94 Bucks (his 22.8% usage rate was second on the team), Day accounted for a miniscule .6 offensive win shares.
A shooting guard that doesn’t perform either word in his title respectably usually finds himself in a jersey sporting another language. The fact that Day stuck around for nine NBA seasons tells you something about his raw talent. He’ll always be known as a bust that managed to force an “I” into team, and Day’s sophomore season as a Milwaukee Buck was definitely his lowest point.
SF – Michael Curry (1998-99)
8.7 PER, 4.9 PPG (43.7% FG, 79.7% FT), 2.2 RPG, 1.6 APG
Only one Milwaukee Bucks regular rotation player finished the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season with a PER below 10.9: undersized forward Michael Curry. Curry played in all 50 games and finished third on the team in total minutes logged on the court (behind only Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson), yet he certainly turned in a season worth forgetting.
Curry was a tweener in every bad sense of the word. His total rebounding percentage (5.6%) was lower than every regular player other than Vinny Del Negro (5.5%), and he had problems scoring on spots on the court that consisted of wood with a lacquer finish. Curry was supposedly a versatile defensive specialist, along the lines of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but his defensive win shares (.8) were actually a tick worse than his offensive win shares (.9).
I wouldn’t put all of my stock in the win shares stat (just as with any other singular measurement of performance), but a player that logs the third most minutes on a playoff team should naturally expect to have a positive impact on team accomplishments. Michael Curry, sadly, did not.
PF – Johnny Newman 1995-96
11.5 PER, 11.9 PPG (49.5% FG, 37.7% 3FG, 80.2% FT), 2.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG
Most NBA players would love to have Johnny Newman’s career, given its origins (he was a second round pick in 1986, and lasted 16 years in the NBA). However, his three worst years as a pro happened to coincide with his stint in Milwaukee, and boy were they clunkers. Newman never topped a PER above 11.5, which was sandwiched between PERs of 10.4 and 10.8.
Newman started all 82 games during the 95-96 season, often in forward-heavy lineups that featured Glenn Robinson and Vin Baker. He clearly didn’t bring much to the table as a passer or rebounder, and was essentially another body should Baker (17.4 shots/game) or Robinson (16.9 shots/game) choose to delegate their lion’s share of shots.
Johnny Newman’s time in Milwaukee was a far cry from his days as a New York Knick and Charlotte Hornet in the late 1980s/early 90s (16.1 PPG between 1988 and 1991), and at the end of the day he was cast in a regular supporting role that the 32 year old wasn’t really fit to play. Really that should say more about the 1990s Bucks than anything else.
C – Andrew Lang (1996-97)
10.8 PER, 5.3 PPG (2.2-4.8, 46.4% FG, 72.1% FT), 5.3 RPG, .9 BPG
The 1988 second round pick given to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for coach Don Nelson became Andrew Lang, but it took nine years before Lang actually called the Bradley Center his home court. Two months after acquiring that pick, the Bucks sent it to Phoenix for Jay Humphries, and the Suns selected Lang in the second round of that year’s draft.
Lang’s actual performance once he made it to Milwaukee (it cost the Bucks a 1998 first round pick that became Rasho Nesterovic) was nothing short of dreadful in 52 games during the 96-97 season. His PER matched Johnny Newman’s, which if you scroll up, tells you all kinds of wonderful things about the Bucks that year. However, Newman had two advantages over Lang: his cost ($1,225,000 to $2,332,000) and total win shares (2.8 to 1.9).
From Marty Conlon to Benoit Benjamin, the Bucks had nothing short of a Wal-Mart made-for-TV-movie bin of bad big men in the 1990s. Andrew Lang was really just carrying on a tradition, and he certainly set a new standard of low that made the other Ervin Johnson look magical.
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