Milwaukee Bucks: How Andrew Bogut’s injury shaped the NBA landscape

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 21: (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 21: (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Andrew Bogut‘s 2010 injury didn’t just change the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks, but also the wider NBA.

Wind the clock back to 2010 and the Milwaukee Bucks were deep in the midst of their famous “Fear the Deer” run. The Bucks were well above .500 for the first time in years thanks to their exciting duo of rookie Brandon Jennings and young superstar and former first overall pick Andrew Bogut.

Jennings was lighting up the league with an exciting devil-may-care brand of basketball, and after torching the Warriors in his 55 point outing earlier in the season, had fans salivating for more. Bogut was having his best statistical season in the NBA, averaging 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per contest and was voted into the All-NBA Third Team.

Things were trending upward in Milwaukee, and Bucks fans had reason for optimism.

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Then came a moment which in hindsight, caused ripples not just through Milwaukee, but the whole NBA. On April 3, 2010, the Bucks were up 44-32 with around four minutes to go in the second quarter of a home game against the Phoenix Suns when everything changed.

The Bucks had gathered a defensive rebound and quickly forced it up court to a running Bogut for what seemed like an easy bucket. Bogut went up for the dunk but was forced to hang awkwardly hang for a moment as his defender ran under him, before he fell awkwardly on his outstretched right arm.

As most Bucks fans will remember, Bogut had dislocated his elbow in the most gruesome way imaginable. With the benefit of hindsight, although the Australian center has continued to be successful in the NBA, it’s fair to say he has never returned to the elite level of his play pre-injury.

Following on from that moment, the Bucks struggled as their season came to an end with a first round exit in the playoffs. A tight 4-3 loss to the Hawks left Bucks fans with a sour taste in their mouths. The season became a case of what could have been.

Bogut returned the following season but was unable to replicate his previous level of play. The Bucks missed the playoffs that season and mid-way through the next season, Bogut was traded to the Golden State Warriors for the much maligned Monta Ellis.

Even though Bogut did not have the same impact on the offensive end, he was still an elite rim protector who suited the Warriors system perfectly. Additionally, the removal of Ellis gave a young shooting guard by the name of Klay Thompson an opportunity to shine which as history tells us, he took with both hands.

As the years progressed, Bogut and Thompson became vital cogs in the Golden State machine as they went on to became what is now considered to be one of the greatest teams of all-time.

The Bucks were also greatly impacted by the trade, as they teamed up the small, trigger-happy backcourt of Ellis and Jennings. Even though both players averaged above 17 points per game in the resulting season-and-a-half, the duo never quite gelled and as such the team stalled, missing the playoffs in 2012 while scraping into eighth spot in 2013.

The now famous Jennings quote, “We’re going to win in six”, was born from this experiment but to be honest, thats about as exciting as it got, with Miami sweeping the Bucks in the first round with ease.

The following offseason, Jennings and Ellis both left the Bucks, and they drafted an unknown out of Greece named Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest if history.

Bogut’s injury is a clear sliding doors moment, and one that changed both teams’ fortunes immensely. So the question must be asked, if Bogut instead went up for a lay-up and never dislocated his elbow, how would things look today?

Perhaps the “Fear the Deer” run would still be in effect! Bogut could have stayed in Milwaukee and become Milwaukee’s second best center of all-time. Perhaps Brandon Jennings would still be a Buck, putting up over 20 points per game, and exciting fans with his dynamic scoring.

Maybe Klay Thompson would never have gotten the chance to shine in Golden State and become the star he has become today. And most importantly, perhaps the Bucks would never have drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo, instead settling for a more tried and tested player on draft night to help Milwaukee over the line in their playoff push.

At the end of the day, those questions remain unanswered, but both teams arguably benefited from that moment.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: Derrick Rose pursuit isn’t surprising

Hindsight is 20-20, but this one moment in Bucks history had a lasting impact on the wider NBA.