Milwaukee Bucks: All-Time Greatest 15 Man Roster

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Vin Baker – Power Forward

Words by Jordan Treske

Entering the early 1990’s, the Bucks found themselves in a down period after experiencing a wealth of success over the course of the 1980’s.

Key names from over the course of the past decade like Nelson, Moncrief and Pressey, that were long associated with the franchise were gone and the Bucks struggled to find a cornerstone player that could jumpstart a new era of Bucks basketball.

The chances of finding that player grew season after season since the team toiled in mediocrity and in the 1993 NBA draft, the Bucks selected the player they thought could turn the franchise around in Vin Baker.

While the Bucks were confident in what they saw from Baker (the eighth overall pick), the pick still saw scrutiny from some critics outside of the franchise.

After all, Baker went to the University of Hartford, a relatively small school (especially for division 1) and the common criticism was the Bucks reached on a player that while very talented, could possibly have a hard time adjusting to the NBA game.

However, Baker adjusted to the game faster than even the team might have anticipated, as he put up 13.5 points per game, brought in 7.6 rebounds per game and swatted 1.4 blocks per game, which earned him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team for the 1993-94 season.

Baker improved on that performance the following year, where he averaged a double-double for the 1994-95 season (17.7 points per game, 10.3 rebounds per game) and was selected to what ended up being the first of four consecutive All-Star appearances for Baker.

At this point, the Bucks had the start of something special with Baker as well as the first overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft in Glenn Robinson, but while Robinson and Baker stood out individually, the team still hung around at the bottom of the league.

Baker’s numbers would continue to improve the following two seasons, as he averaged almost two more consecutive double-double seasons (21.1 points per game/ 9.9 rebounds per game in 1995-96, 21 points per game/10.3 rebounds per game) and earned two more consecutive all-star appearances.

It looked to be the start of a bright NBA career for Baker, but Baker started growing tired of the team’s struggles as he started to spiral into an alcohol addiction.

With a free agent option on his contract coming up soon for Baker, the Bucks decided to send him to the Seattle Sonics before the 1997-98 season in a three-team blockbuster trade (the same trade that saw the athletic forward Shawn Kemp go to the Cleveland Cavaliers).

The Bucks eventually went on to find success shortly after Baker was shipped out, as the start of the “Big 3” era started to form. But for Baker, his substance abuse issues eventually took its toll on his NBA career.

However, Baker has since put his struggles behind him and his relationship with the team has recently rekindled under the new ownership, as he talked to the current players about his own struggles, as well as helping out developing the players during Summer League and the start of this year’s training camp.

Although you could ask yourself “what if?” regarding Baker’s NBA career and relationship with the Bucks, he still was able to showcase some of his special abilities throughout his 4 years in Milwaukee that the team has rarely seen before or since.

Next: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar