Wisconsin Herd: Repeating recruitment success would be sign of major progress

WILMINGTON, DE - NOVEMBER 23: (Photo by Mike Lawrence/NBAE via Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - NOVEMBER 23: (Photo by Mike Lawrence/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With the Wisconsin Herd enjoying an award laden week, the big test now will come in repeating their recruitment success for next season.

The Wisconsin Herd‘s first two seasons didn’t exactly go to plan, although an incredible run in the first half of the franchise’s inaugural season certainly sparked the kind of optimism and interest in Oshkosh that has allowed the team to fully embed itself in the Fox Valley community.

It’s safe to say that in many ways the 2019-20 season hasn’t gone to plan either. The Herd may well have planned and dreamed of having the G League’s best record in the current campaign, but not getting to actually compete in their first playoffs, in spite of having clinched a spot, isn’t ideal to say the least.

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In spite of the incredible disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which ultimately led to the cancelation of the G League season, the Herd compiled the kind of season that signals significant building blocks being put in place for the franchise’s future.

Of course, that sees them fall in step with their NBA parent club, and the greater progress that the entire Milwaukee Bucks organization has made over the past two or three years.

With news on Monday that the Herd have been named as the G League’s Eastern Conference champions, with Frank Mason III already having taken home MVP honors and Jaylen Adams coming in second to him, multiple All-NBA G League team selections, and Chase Buford and Dave Dean coming in second and third, respectively, in the Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year stakes, it’s safe to say the Herd will enter their fourth season with very different expectations than they did their third season.

On that front, the biggest challenge facing the team will be to repeat the incredible recruitment effort that fueled this year’s success.

This is a total effort from the NBA level down, as Dean holds dual roles in the Bucks and Herd front offices, and essentially the work for filling out the G League squad starts at the NBA Draft.

The likes of Rayjon Tucker and Luke Maye were quickly snapped up by the Bucks as undrafted free agents last summer, going on to compete for the Bucks in Summer League before landing with the Wisconsin Herd.

Jaylen Adams was another player who joined the Bucks in training camp, securing his rights for the Herd upon being waived, while a similar scenario also led to Jemerrio Jones arriving to become one of the most interesting and productive players in the G League this season.

Of course, although the Bucks didn’t need to call on them very much this season, Mason and Cameron Reynolds were both pivotal parts of what the Herd managed to achieve too.

And then there was also the midseason signing of Justin Patton, who signed an NBA deal with the Detroit Pistons in the past week

Finding so many capable contributors again will be a big ask, but it’s the kind of creativity that the G League demands.

The Herd managed to maintain their winning ways even after absorbing the loss of Tucker when he signed an NBA deal with the Jazz, and with Adams having now signed a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, it’s unlikely that he’ll be back in Oshkosh next season too.

In the longer term, it would be nice for the Bucks to be able to reap the rewards of some continued development at the Herd level, particularly as a salary cap crunch could make players such as Tucker and Adams the ideal kind of low cost project signings to fill out back of the rotation spots in the years ahead.

For the moment, the Herd will have to settle for celebrating what their 2019-20 season was, while also still mourning some elements of what it could have been. But the work will begin again soon, and the challenges will grow even greater in an always unforgiving G League.

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If the Herd can repeat this year’s successes, it will only speak volumes of just how far the entire Bucks organization has progressed, and how it’s continuing to press on.