Milwaukee Bucks: Johnny O’Bryant discusses what went wrong with 2015-16 team

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 13: (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 13: (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images) /

Johnny O’Bryant has opened up on the Milwaukee Bucks’ disappointing 2015-16 season, and why it failed to live up to expectations at the time.

With the blistering success of the Milwaukee Bucks over the past two seasons, it’s easy to forget that their journey up until that point was far from smooth sailing.

Even with future All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton showing real promise early in their careers in Milwaukee, the Bucks had a long-running habit of seemingly taking one step forward only to take another couple of steps back.

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Perhaps the most notable example of that came in the 2015-16 season. In 2014-15, the Bucks had made an incredible turnaround, bouncing back from a franchise-low 15 wins in 2013-14 to win 41 games and return to the postseason. That playoff trip may have ended in six games against the Chicago Bulls, but it undoubtedly renewed optimism and enthusiasm among the fanbase, something which was only further fueled with the marquee signing of Greg Monroe in free agency that offseason.

In other words, the Bucks seemed set to rise up the ranks in 2015-16, only to then slump to an underwhelming 33 wins and miss the postseason entirely.

What exactly happened? Well, in conversation with Behind the Buck Pass alumni Ti Windisch and Rohan Katti on a recent episode of the Gyro Step, former Buck Johnny O’Bryant offered up some intriguing insight into what changed that season:

"“I think, honestly, guys were not happy. I just think guys weren’t happy. I think [Michael Carter-Williams], he wasn’t really happy. I think the bench guys weren’t happy. I don’t think Greg Monroe was happy, even though he just got paid. I just think there were a lot of unhappy guys on that roster…Rashad Vaughn…so that’s what I’d chalk it up to. It was a group of unhappy guys and we kind of underachieved.”"

One notable change in the offseason between those two campaigns was the Bucks’ clear-out of veterans, with Jared Dudley, Zaza Pachulia, and Ersan Ilyasova all being moved on. According to O’Bryant, that change in the locker room dynamic certainly didn’t help things:

"“Those guys are so selfless. Like Ersan can start 14 games, then not play 14 games, and every time he gets in he’s going to be Ersan. Zaza is the same way. But I think when you take that away, and you go younger, with younger guys — Greg Monroe was young at the time too — I just think we went a lot younger. And any time a younger guy doesn’t get what he wants, he kind of becomes a rebel, or resistant. And I think that’s kind of what happened, guys were unhappy with their roles or situations, and it led to a disappointing season.”"

O’Bryant’s time with the Bucks ended after that season, as he picked up briefly with the Nuggets before landing for a steadier stint with the Hornets. Since then, O’Bryant has thrived overseas, winning an Israeli League championship with Maccabi Tel-Aviv, and most recently playing in Russia for Lokomotiv Kuban.

The 26-year-old’s game has evolved in that time, most notably through his expanded shooting range (40 percent from deep on 5.0 attempts per game this season), so an NBA return could still very much be in his future.

Among many other things discussed in the Gyro Step interview, O’Bryant talked about how he’d love that potential return to be with the Bucks, how he felt he was played somewhat out of position in his first stint in Milwaukee, and he also gave details of his manga publishing company, Noir Caesar.

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A popular player among fans in his two years in Milwaukee, there’ll be plenty who will be pleased to see that O’Bryant has gone on to an impressive career around the world, while also thriving with his interests outside of basketball.