Jason Kidd to Milwaukee: Did the Bucks Get it Right?

After a whirlwind saga, what exactly have the Bucks gotten in Coach Kidd?

In more than 20 years in the NBA, Jason Kidd has yet to leave a team gracefully. From forcing his way out via trade to allegedly faking migraines to walking away in the midst of contract negotiations, Kidd has always found a way to weasel out of a situation he didn’t find to his liking. That trend has carried over from the court to the bench, as Kidd is now on his way to the Milwaukee Bucks after one season calling the shots in Brooklyn.

Apparently holding a clipboard wasn’t enough for the future Hall of Fame point guard, and his play to get control of the front office failed spectacularly. The Bucks will reportedly send two second-round picks to Brooklyn in exchange for Kidd, the coach, and will probably end up giving him the front office control he desires at some point.

On the latter point, no one knows if that’ll be a good decision. The list of NBA coaches who also run the front office is very short, and the four men who hold the dual roles mostly have championship pedigrees or sterling reputations on the bench: Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers and Stan Van Gundy, with Flip Saunders being an exception. While Phil Jackson was recently hired as President of Basketball Operations with the Knicks with no front office experience, but he has considerably more time in the game than Kidd does and has 11 championship rings that show he has some idea of what he’s doing.

Kidd receiving that level of power is just speculation at this point, although it’s safe to assume that he’s angling for that with his personal friend Marc Lasry, who happens to be one of the new owners in Milwaukee. That’s a matter to be sorted out down the line though. In the meantime, what have the Bucks gained by bringing Kidd in to run the team from the sideline?

First of all, the Kidd acquisition means the dismissal of Larry Drew. But simply, the Bucks treated Drew like garbage during this whole fiasco, openly chasing a coach under contract with another team while still employing Drew in that same role. That being said, Milwaukee likely won’t miss Drew.

His hiring last summer was met with shoulder shrugs. He was only available because the Atlanta Hawks had no interest in retaining Drew after three seasons at the helm, despite having made the playoffs in all three of Drew’s campaigns. That probably had something to do with the team stagnating in the middle tier of the Eastern Conference, just as they had under Mike Woodson.

In 2014, the Bucks failed spectacularly despite coming into the season with misguided playoff aspirations, with a confluence of injuries and apathy resulting in the team tailspinning to the worst record in the league. Drew’s rotation decisions were questionable, but it says something that his most frequently used lineup played in all of 17 games together. There’s only so much you can do with seemingly every player in and out of the lineup.

Kidd has some experience dealing with a roster in flux from his one year in Brooklyn. The Nets lost their best player, Brook Lopez, after 17 games. The team looked completely lost in the first two months of the season, but Kidd went away from traditional lineups and found a way to drag the Nets back into the playoff race. The team’s performance before and after January 1 show a massive split that can be traced back to Kidd’s shakeup.

2013-14RecordOff RtgDef RtgNet RtgeFG%TS%
Before Jan. 110 W - 21 L101.9106.7-4.849.153.1
After Jan. 134 W - 17 L105.9103.9252.856.6

With Lopez hobbled and the team foundering on both ends, Kidd inserted Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup alongside fellow point guard Deron Williams, sliding Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett up in position, and swapping in Mason Plumlee when Garnett went down with injury. That meant KG was playing exclusively center for pretty much the first time in his career, while the 6-foot-7 Pierce was starting at power forward. That move gave the Nets the ability to play what Kidd often referred to as “long ball.” Brooklyn had tons of size with those two lineups, with Williams the smallest at 6-foot-3 and everyone else measuring at least 6-foot-7. They also had quickness and speed, as pretty much the entire unit was used to playing out on the perimeter. Even replacing Garnett and Plumlee with Andray Blatche, those lineups were remarkably effective for the Nets.

After Jan. 1GamesOff RtgDef RtgNet Rtg

Kidd inherits a Bucks team that appears to have the pieces in place to play something resembling that long-ball strategy. When Giannis Antetokounmpo, Larry Sanders and John Henson hold hands, they can reach from one basket to the other, approximately. Toss in number two overall pick Jabari Parker and his small forward game and power forward size, as well as the inconsistent but talented Ersan Ilyasova, and you can see the structure for what could actually be a fun team. Kidd reportedly wanted the Nets to trade for Sanders and Ilyasova at some point during his Nets tenure, so it’s safe to assume that he has some ideas on how to best use the two frustrating players.

Kidd showed himself capable of managing a star-laden roster and making adjustments to best suit his talent on hand in his first year on the bench. That comes with a caveat, though: he had the help of two future Hall of Famers known for their locker room influence and on-court savvy in Garnett and Pierce. The Bucks, to be kind, do not have those types of players on the roster. How will Kidd fare with a roster full of young, malleable players when he is just over a year removed from playing his last game as a member of the Knicks?

There’s really only one answer here: we’ll see.

If Milwaukee wanted to move on from Drew, they could have pursued one of the big-name coaches currently on the free agent market; one-time Bucks coach George Karl, Lionel Hollins and Mark Jackson are all currently looking for work, and none of them would have required giving up any draft picks. The Bucks clearly see potential for Kidd to be one of the great coaches in the league, just as the Nets did a little over a year ago, and they likely trust him enough to hand over plenty of decision-making responsibility at some point down the line.

Kidd’s history says it won’t end well. We’ll see.

In the meantime, can we work on getting some cameras in Kidd’s first meeting with Bucks general manager John Hammond?