After months of speculation, the Milwaukee Bucks officially announced at a Wednesday afternoon press conference that they would be establishing the Fox Valley NBA D-League franchise. Located in Oshkosh, roughly 90 miles north of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, the team will be owned and operated by the Bucks and should be fully operational for the 2017-18 season. With this move, the Bucks become the 20th NBA team to run their own D-League affiliate, while also bringing the NBADL to 25 organizations.
Coinciding with the inclusion of this new D-League franchise, the city of Oshkosh also approved plans for a 3,500+ seat arena. Unlike their big league club, Oshkosh natives won’t to pay a single cent for this new D-League arena. That’s due to the work of a group called Fox Valley Pro Basketball which will privately fund the construction of this new arena, which will cost Pierce & company around $18 million.
That decision to have an arena funded by private investors rather than local & state taxpayers is likely one of the biggest reasons as to why the Bucks picked Oshkosh for their new NBADL team over other locations. In the build up to this move, cities of Sheboygan and Racine were both in the hunt for this D-League affiliate. However, neither city had plans for an arena in place that would allow the D-League franchise to begin for the 2017-18 season.
From an on-court perspective, this move is something that should’ve happened a long time ago for the Milwaukee Bucks. Since drafting Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Bucks have been consistently pursuing raw high-upside prospects that they could develop. While Antetokounmpo has been able to develop into one of the NBA’s best prospects without spending a second in the D-League, the same can’t be said about other young Bucks.
2nd year Bucks guard Rashad Vaughn is a perfect example of the kind of player that deserved to spend time in the D-League. After the team selected him with the 17th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Vaughn spent most of his rookie season towards the back of the Bucks bench, as head coach Jason Kidd decided to play more experienced guards. That limited role affected Vaughn’s on-court play, as he put up 3.1 points and 1.3 rebounds per game on 30% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc during his rookie season.
Vaughn’s disappointing play continued into the current season, as he’s only played in 21 of the Bucks’ 50 games. While Vaughn has been in the D-League, where he’s played with the Canton Charge and Westchester Knicks, there’s no doubt that he’d be at a better point in his career if the Bucks had their own D-League team from the jump.
As we’ve seen with countless prospects over the years, the D-League is a great way for prospects to develop their on-court game while building up the kind of self-confidence that they wouldn’t be able to do by sitting on the back of their NBA team’s bench.
During Wednesday’s introductory press conference, Bucks GM John Hammond explained the importance of having a D-League franchise when he said the following:
To have an NBA general manager state that the NBA D-League is an crucial way to develop a championship caliber franchise further emphasis how important the NBADL is for franchises across the NBA. As we’ve seen in recent years with the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs, the NBA D-League can be a great way for elite teams to develop the kind of rotation that can push them to an NBA title.
While it may be a while until the Milwaukee Bucks are able to be a title contender, they definitely made a big step towards that goal with this mid-February announcement..