A Greivis Situation: Raptors playoff heroics recall a comic satire of a 2015 draft day deal gone bad for the Bucks

The playoff heroics of OG Anunoby and Norman Powell against the Celtics, as they saved the Raptors from the brink of 0-3 (Anunoby) and then elimination in the two overtimes of Game 6 (Powell), can’t help but be juxtaposed with the fate of the Milwaukee Bucks in these bubble playoffs.

Both Powell and Anunoby, many in Bucks nation drink to forget, came to the Raptors courtesy of the Bucks via a draft day trade for (ulp) Greivis Vasquez back in 2015. With Raptors-Celtics Game 7 on the boards tonight, the Bob Boozer Jinx returns to take you back to those fateful pre-draft days of 2015, sometime in June.

(The phone rings at Raptors headquarters in Toronto, where GM Masai Ujiri is mulling the humbling reality of his Raptors being swept out of the 2015 playoffs by the Washington Wizards.)

Ujiri: Hello?

Bucks GM John Hammond: Masai Ujiri? John Hammond here from the Bucks. 

Ujiri: John Hammond from the Milwaukee Bucks!! Of course, you are. What can I do for you?

Hammond: Well you don’t know me very well, but I’m a square shooter, and I never fail to honor the undisclosed compensation of any deal, if you know what I mean. …

Ujiri: Yes, yes, your reputation precedes itself, and you have made many deals with the Clippers and the Pistons, I have heard. Nice job on the Jared Dudley acquisition! Very nice. He helped you quite a bit last season, and you received a protected 1st round pick too, without giving up much at all. Quite a marvel, truly. Now what can I do for you?

Hammond: Coach Kidd wants a big point guard. We don’t think MCW is gonna cut it, sad to say. How about your guy Grievis?

Ujiri: You mean Greivis?

Hammond: Yes, Grievis.

Ujiri: You mean Greivis, don’t you?

Hammond: That’s what I said — Grievis.

Ujiri: I don’t know who that is. But if you mean Greivis, we can talk about Greivis.

Hammond: OK, let’s talk about Vasquez.

Ujiri: Him I know. I’ll take your 1st Round pick in the draft.

Hammond: (wrings hands) I can’t do that. We have big plans for that 1st round pick. Kidd wants to revamp the back court. I think he should take Bobby Portis, but no one listens to me except that Woj guy who works for yahoo.com. … He’s on my side with this Kidd thing. (pause) … Speaking of Portis, what do you think of John Henson?

Ujiri: I prefer not to think about John Henson. Greivis was all-ACC too. He is a 1st round draft pick himself, and he shot 38% from three last season for us. Let’s not talk about John Henson (Henson’s rookie deal was up after 2015 and the Bucks had yet to extend his contract).

Hammond: OK. Forget that I mentioned Henson. What can we talk about?  

Ujiri: Well then, I’ll take both of your 2nd round picks, #41 and #46, and a pick to be discussed later as future compensation.

Hammond: I’d love to Ujiri – can I call you Ujiri?

Ujiri: Of course! Everyone does! 

Hammond: Great, but I don’t have 2 second round picks. That #41 pick went to Brooklyn as part of the compensation for letting Kidd out of his Nets contract. I only have #46. 

Ujiri: I see. Isn’t coach Kidd the GM also?

Hammond: He is.  

Ujiri: Does he know you’re making this phone call?

Hammond: Of course. But I think he’s out playing golf with Schwartz today. 

Ujiri: Jeff Schwartz? The agent Jeff Schwartz?

Hammond: Yes, his agent.

Ujiri: Greivis’ agent.

Hammond: Schwartz is Grievis’ agent?

Ujiri: You mean Greivis, don’t you? Yes, Jeff Schwartz is the agent of Greivis, and, you say, Schwartz also works for Kidd. I think that kid from UNLV, Rashad Vaughn, he’s got Schwartz, too.

Hammond: (silence).

Ujiri: I see you are in a difficult position.

Hammond: You wouldn’t like my job.

Ujiri: Let me help you. I will let you have Greivis for the 2015 #46 and I think I would also like that 1st round pick you received from the Clippers with Jared Dudley. What draft is it?

Hammond: 2017. We have our own pick there. … And the Clippers pick is lottery protected …. (mumbles) and my contract will be over by then ….

Ujiri: Yes, I don’t think there is a worry there – the Clippers will not be falling into the lottery anytime soon (insert: magical “Ujiri is thinking” sounds).

Hammond: Well, I think we have a deal 

Ujiri: Wonderful!! 

Hammond: OK … this is good, this is good. … One last bit of business, the draft is coming up here. Who should we take for you with the #46 pick?

Ujiri: I think we would like Norman Powell. Four years at UCLA, good defender, good shooter, and we hear he was a leader on the team and actually attended his classes most of the time. I see good things in Norman Powell’s future, maybe sooner than anyone thinks (more magical “Ujiri is thinking” sounds can be heard). But I’ll get back to you on that before the draft.

Hammond: Hmm, if you say so about Powell (indistinct mumbling in the background). Well, we have a deal. Pleasure doing business with you, Ujiri.

Ujuri: Indeed.

Indeed. Ujiri would have the Bucks draft Powell for his Raptors, and Powell would go on to sink a few daggers against the Bucks in the 2017 playoffs … and a couple more against the Bucks and others in 2019 during the Raptors championship run, though not really so many. 

The Raptors would draft OG Anunoby with the 2017 Clippers pick (#23) they received from the Bucks.  Although Anunoby didn’t play much during the Raptors title run, his role would grow large in 2019-20, in the wake of Kawhi Leonard‘s departure to the Clippers. Let’s just say Celtics fans will never forget Anunoby after the big shot at the buzzer in Game 3 of the East semifinals. Or Powell after the 2nd overtime in Game 6. 

The Bucks took Rashad Vaughn in the 2015 draft, let him hang around for a couple of years and then traded him to Brooklyn for journeyman 2017 playoff help in the form of Tyler Zeller, who was actually helpful, but not really so much. Vaughn is now out of the NBA, playing in Europe. Zeller played in 2 games for the Spurs this season.

In an odd twist, the Bucks would eventually get their other 2015 2nd round draft pick when they signed Pat Connaughton to a free agent contract in the 2018 offseason. Connaughton was the player the Nets drafted with the #41 pick the Bucks sent to Brooklyn as compensation for Kidd. Pat C has been helpful to the Bucks at times during the regular season, though not really so much in the playoffs.

After Ujiri’s Raptors ended the Bucks season in the 2017 playoffs, Hammond resigned from the Bucks to go work for the Orlando Magic. He was long gone (though certainly not forgotten) by draft day when the Bucks drafted D.J. Wilson with their own #17 pick, and the Raptors took OG Anunoby with the #23 Clippers pick formerly belonging to the Bucks.

Of course, Hammond called his pal Woj, who by then was working for ESPN, on his way out the door.

Bucks coach Kidd would be fired rather unceremoniously during the 2017-18 season, as his worn down Bucks nursed a 23-22 record after a tough stretch, with the All-Star break and a host of patsies looming ahead on the schedule. The Bucks won all the games against the patsies with the interim coach, Bucks fans rejoiced and the Bucks would go on to lose anyway in the 1st round of the 2018 playoffs, to Boston. 

Greivis Vasquez? He played in 23 games for the Bucks in 2015, then went out to have surgery on his right ankle, never to return. He signed with the Nets in 2016, played in 3 games and was waived. This ended his NBA playing career. Vasquez now coaches the Erie Bayhawks, the New Orleans Pelicans G-League team.

But yes, he really did shoot 38% from 3, once upon a time in 2015. For the Raptors.

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