The 3 biggest “What Ifs” in Milwaukee Bucks’ franchise history

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 02 (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 02 (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo, Khris Middleton, George Hill, Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – JANUARY 13 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

What if the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Stephen Curry?

In a pivotal trade in March 2012, the Golden State Warriors and the Milwaukee Bucks set off a wave of speculation and what-ifs that continue to intrigue basketball enthusiasts.

This trade involved sending Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown from the Warriors to the Bucks in exchange for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. This transaction marked a significant moment for the Warriors, as they entrusted their future to Stephen Curry, a young guard recovering from ankle surgery, while bidding farewell to the fan-favorite Ellis.

However, a fascinating revelation came to light through Marc Lasry, a Bucks’ owner since 2014, indicating that the Warriors had indeed floated Curry’s name during negotiations. Curiously, it was the Bucks’ medical team that hesitated due to Curry’s history of ankle surgeries, casting doubts on his ability to maintain a sustained, healthy career in the NBA. The hindsight of Curry’s trajectory highlights the Warriors’ prescience in centering their future on him, leaving Ellis to fade from the limelight.

As time passed, the narrative around the trade took on different shades. Larry Riley, the Warriors’ General Manager in 2012, later clarified that Curry’s name was used as bait, with Monta Ellis being the focal point of the trade. Presently, with the wisdom of hindsight, the Warriors’ decision to prioritize Curry appears genius. Nonetheless, during that juncture, many perceived the Bucks as the victors, receiving a proven scorer in Ellis in exchange for a frequently injured center.

Amidst this backdrop emerges the compelling “what if” scenario: What if Stephen Curry had been at the center of the trade, donning the Bucks’ colors instead of Monta Ellis? The possibility arises that the Warriors might have leaned towards keeping Ellis, an established scorer, while parting ways with Curry due to his susceptibility to injuries. This notion gains credence considering Ellis himself admitted that the Warriors had to choose between him and Curry to bolster their championship prospects.

Venturing into this realm of conjecture, we encounter the tantalizing nature of the “what if” game in the realm of sports. Picturing Stephen Curry as a Milwaukee Buck during that particular week, which was more realistic than it might seem now, leads us to an intricate web of hypothetical scenarios that could have reshaped the trajectories of both the Warriors and the Bucks, thereby altering the NBA landscape.

Envisioning this alternate reality, where Monta Ellis thrives in Milwaukee, averaging 19 points and six assists per game during his inaugural full season, the Bucks finish the 2012-13 season with a 38-44 record, making it to the Eastern Conference playoffs’ first round before bowing out. With Ellis alongside Brandon Jennings, the Bucks envisaged a new era of basketball marked by their potent scoring duo. However, Ellis’s eventual departure for the Dallas Mavericks in 2013 changed this trajectory.

In this parallel universe, if Curry had indeed become a Buck, his growth could have faced setbacks. Amid coaching changes, including Scott Skiles’ departure and Jim Boylen’s interim stint, Curry’s development might have encountered hurdles. While his partnership with Jennings could have established a formidable shooting duo, the Bucks’ struggles under Skiles’ defense-centric approach could have persisted. As the coaching carousel continued with Larry Drew taking over during the 2013-14 season, the Bucks faced challenges, concluding with a 15-67 record.

Notably, Curry’s presence could have sparked a transformation in the Bucks’ 3-point shooting prowess. This enhancement, in turn, might have influenced their draft position and choices in subsequent years. Curry’s arrival could have propelled the Bucks into playoff contention earlier than their actual trajectory.

Furthermore, the synergy between Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo could have reshaped the Bucks’ future. Together, they might have formed a dynamic core that contended with established teams like the Cavaliers, Raptors, and Celtics in the East. Their partnership could have ushered in multiple Eastern Conference Finals appearances, drastically altering the conference’s landscape.

In retrospect, pondering the “what if” scenario involving Stephen Curry’s tenure in Milwaukee unveils a captivating narrative of a potential alternative reality. While the actual course of events unfolded differently, this exercise underscores the intricate interplay of decisions and possibilities that shape the world of professional sports. The Bucks could have evolved into a championship contender with Curry’s leadership, altering not only their own trajectory but also the broader landscape of the NBA.