Johnny O’Bryant was expected to be a part of the Bucks’ so-called “Own the Future’’ movement.
Instead, he became a victim of the team’s “Own the Past’’ summer movement.
After making him a high second-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Bucks officials were almost giddy about O’Bryant’s potential and how he would fit into what they were doing.
They didn’t necessarily expect the athletic 6-foot-9, 257-pound O’Bryant to develop into a starting power forward, especially with Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo being the pillars of their franchise.
But the Bucks were convinced O’Bryant could eventually be a rotational player, which is precisely what he was during the 2015-2016 season. He played in 66 games, a large number for a 22-year-old, second-year player. In fact, only five other Bucks appeared in more games.
But just days prior to the start of free agency on July 1, the Bucks released O’Bryant, a move that surprised more than a few people in the NBA.
“Every time I’ve talked to somebody (from another NBA team), they wanted to know why Johnny was let go,’’ said Gerald Collier, O’Bryant’s agent. “And I would tell them what they (Bucks GM John Hammond) told me and that was that they were looking to open roster space and he was a casualty of it.’’
By letting go of O’Bryant and another young player in 21-year-old swingman Damien Inglis, the Bucks had hopes of making some noise in free agency. That didn’t happen.
They whiffed on signing their primary free-agent target Kent Bazemore, who decided to stay in Atlanta, and wound up signing two solid backups: 25-year-old guard Matthew Dellavedova and 30-year-old Mirza Teletovic, two players whose former teams – Cleveland and Phoenix – had no strong desire to retain them.
As for O’Bryant, he’s looking for a new employer as an unrestricted free agent. He has been working out religiously after having attended Bucks assistant coach Tim Grgurich’s camp in Las Vegas, where he did well.
“We’re still exploring our options,’’ Collier said. “There are four or five teams that are showing interest. We want to get a roster spot, a guaranteed deal.’’
That won’t be easy, with most teams having already filled out their rosters for next season. But Collier believes in his client and his client believes in him and thus they aren’t going to make a rash decision and pursue some deal overseas.
“Our goal is stay in the league,’’ Collier said. “Johnny has improved in each season he’s been in the NBA and he’s still young; he just turned 23 (on June 1).
“We have received a lot of positive feedback, so we’re staying patient. We’ll see what happens.’’