Milwaukee Bucks: It’s Time To Kill The Norman Powell/Patrick McCaw Narratives

Mar 15, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives for the basket against Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 15, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives for the basket against Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s wrong to look at the players selected with picks traded by the Milwaukee Bucks as missed opportunities, as they may never have been the team’s picks to begin with.

Over the past 18 months or so, the Milwaukee Bucks have made a number of deals that were at best questionable.

Already, some of those can be unequivocally declared as deals where Milwaukee came out on the losing side, and in those cases the front office rightfully deserves scrutiny and even criticism. When it comes to exploring two of the Bucks’ transactions from that timeframe, a much more troubling trend has emerged though.

The past two NBA Drafts have involved Milwaukee trading away the rights to second round picks, dealing the 46th pick in 2015 and the 38th selection in 2016.

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With Norman Powell and Patrick McCaw, the players who were subsequently selected with those picks, going on to have promise-filled starts to their pro careers, inaccurate assertions have steadily flowed on social media among Bucks fans and slowly but surely seem to be seeping into mainstream discourse about Milwaukee’s recent decisions.

There’s a major issue with this, whether it’s borne out of a sense of what could have been, fits agendas, or simply comes down to a lack of understanding the process of trading draft selections. To get to the heart of it, let’s look back on the trades in question in greater detail.

Norman Powell ultimately became a Raptor, as Milwaukee sent the rights to the pick he was selected with to Toronto along with a 2017 first rounder (by way of the Clippers) in exchange for Greivis Vasquez.

Considering only 12 months later Vasquez now plays for the Brooklyn Nets, and due to injury only played 23 forgettable games in his sole season with the Bucks, it’s fair to decry that trade as a catastrophic loss for Milwaukee. Any potential justification that existed for that trade at the time has been washed away with the benefits of brutal hindsight.

Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports /

On that night, the deal was announced a couple of picks prior to Milwaukee’s selection of Rashad Vaughn at 17, almost 30 picks before Norman Powell’s name was called out by the NBA’s deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.

When Tatum eventually announced Powell’s selection hours later, the former UCLA Bruin was officially selected by the Milwaukee Bucks, but that was by virtue of a strange quirk in the NBA rulebook, rather than Milwaukee necessarily having any say or intention of picking the guard.

As Jake Fischer explained in a piece for Sports Illustrated on the rule that often causes confusion among players and bizarre photo opportunities on draft night:

"“NBA teams have until 2 p.m. on the day of the NBA draft to officially trade draft picks. Following that deadline, teams can agree to trade players and picks as the draft occurs, but in order to finalize those trades, teams must draft players with their original selections before trading the rights to those players.”"

So a year later, when Khris Middleton goes down injured, is it easy to say the Bucks could have had the perfect replacement in Norman Powell? Absolutely. Is there enough concrete evidence that it was in play to begin with to even make it a worthwhile debate? Definitely not.

Even if the Bucks had managed to complete a deal for Vasquez involving just the first rounder and kept the 46th pick, would Powell have been their man? Considering the Bucks had just traded for and drafted guards, to go with Michael Carter-Williams, Jerryd Bayless, Tyler Ennis, Jorge Gutierrez, O.J. Mayo and Khris Middleton as backcourt players under contract with Milwaukee at that time, it would seem safe to say the answer to that is also no.

With that in mind, what could the Bucks have made out of that second round pick? Only Branden Dawson has played a game in the NBA out of the players drafted on that night who were selected after Powell. Maybe the Bucks would have added a center as many had expected them to do in that draft. Never mind Powell, there’s an alternate universe where Arturas Gudaitas or Satnam Singh Bhamara, picked 47th and 52nd respectively, became Bucks.

As you can see, the “what if” game can get pretty ridiculous in a hurry.

Moving on to the draft from this past summer, the picture was even more clear cut in terms of Milwaukee’s second round picks.

Entering draft night with two second rounders, John Hammond had made no secret of his plans. As Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported days prior to the draft:

"“The Bucks have the 10th, 36th and 38th picks. Hammond hinted he would not use both second-round picks because the Bucks have some of their own free agents they would like to sign and also expect to be active in free agency after July 1.”"

As it turned out, Milwaukee, reasonably, decided to trade the lesser of the two picks, selecting Malcolm Brogdon at 36.

The Golden State Warriors sent cash considerations in exchange for the 38th pick and subsequently chose Patrick McCaw.

Although McCaw has a lot of potential and could develop into a fine NBA player, Milwaukee’s intentions were clear not just heading into the draft, but from the conclusion of the previous season.

Having struggled due to a lack of leadership and experience among other things in 2015-16, the Bucks had set their minds on adding veterans ahead of the new campaign. With the most inexperienced rookie in the entire class, Thon Maker, their first selection at 10, three rookies never truly seemed in play, and the team’s decision to select the experienced, polished Brogdon made perfect sense.

Although Patrick McCaw has impressed in preseason, the decision to choose Brogdon has been further vindicated with the events that have transpired since. With Middleton out and Carter-Williams traded, Brogdon will be asked to play major minutes as one of the first guards off the bench. His experience makes him a more natural fit for that role than McCaw, that’s before even considering how his defensive prowess is a vital addition for Milwaukee.

The Bucks could have kept their second round selections and found players who could offer real value to their team, but assuming they would have been Powell and McCaw is an argument devoid of logic.

If anything, the focus on those two deals should be centered more on the failure to receive valuable assets in return (a much more common Bucks theme than missed second round opportunities), as the Bucks never truly had their hearts set on using those picks.

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When the season starts next week, Powell and McCaw could go from strength to strength, or, respectively, they could face the difficult second album and get buried in a Golden State rotation not reliant on rookie contributions. Either way, it’s neither Milwaukee’s problem or concern. Mourn the deals that surrendered the picks, but don’t attach names and faces to purely hypothetical arguments.