Who Wants to Work Out For the Bucks?

It's now been two weeks since the Bucks worked out Joe Alexander, Anthony Randolph and Donte Greene, and since then only a group of potential second rounders has made the trek to the Cousins Center for workouts. Like last week, today's workout--which Gery Woelfel reported might have featured Kevin Love and Brandon Rush--has been canceled, though we'll likely see some players stop by early next week before the draft on Thursday.

Still, on the surface it appears the Bucks are falling victim to both draft posturing and their own small-market, also-ran status. As we saw last year with Yi Jianlian, the Bucks don't need to work a guy out to take him in the lottery, but there's no doubt that they'd prefer to kick the tires on a player before using a high draft pick on him. As a result, it's a bit disappointing that the Bucks have been unable to bring Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon and Danilo Gallinari in for a closer look, but it also doesn't guarantee that they won't end up in green and red next year. At the very least you'd expect the Bucks to bring in some more guys just to obscure their true intentions with the pick, but it's also very possible they trade up, down or out of the draft entirely. As John Hammond has noted a number of times, all options are on the table.

The lack of players being worked out might suggest that trading down is less likely at this stage and could also hint at the Bucks' interest in using the pick in a package for a veteran player. The Bucks should have no problem convincing players projected for the mid- to late-first round to work out for them, so if the Bucks might be picking lower in the first round, why aren't they working any of those guys out? Obviously it's a different story with top-tier prospects like O.J. Mayo, who typically refuse to work out for teams picking well below their projection. Similarly, the general lack of workouts for potential first rounders could be construed as an indication that the Bucks aren't going to make a pick in the first round at all, instead using it in a package for a veteran.  But even if that was true you'd expect them to do their homework just in case they do keep the pick.  As a result, you have to think the Bucks are to some extent having troubles getting guys to come in for workouts.

 

Here's a quick look at the key prospects, where they might be headed, and how they do (or don't) fit into the Bucks' draft plans. Note that Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, Mayo and Jerryd Bayless are considered locks to go in the top seven right now. Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon and Kevin Love also favorites to be gone by the time the Bucks pick, but any of them could be available if a current mid-lottery prospect like Gallinari (Memphis/Knicks/Clips), Randolph (Knicks), Alexander (Knicks), Brook Lopez (Minnesota) or D.J. Augustin (Knicks/Clips) moves up in the next week.

Joe Alexander: Assuming the Bucks stand pat, Alexander has emerged as the current favorite to end up in Milwaukee. He's currently slotted there by Chad Ford, DraftExpress, and NBADraft.net among others, and with good reason. As a big, athletic small forward who could also get some time at power forward, Alexander fills a positional need while also bringing the type of work ethic and character that John Hammond and Scott Skiles are no doubt looking for. Like pretty  much everyone outside the top three or four picks, he's likely too raw to be a real impact player as a rook, but his physical maturity at least gives him a chance to contribute early on.

Another factor: availability. Alexander apparently could get a look from the Knicks at six, but overall it's all but certain that he'll be around when the Bucks pick. But is he worth it? Though he's one of the "older" lottery prospects at 21, Alexander only burst onto the scene this past spring and has played organized basketball for only five years, so there's still some question marks about whether he's actually got the all-around game to match the workout hype. In that way the Bucks have to be careful--on the one hand he might be undervalued simply because scouts haven't been drooling over him since high school, but at the same time you can't pick a guy simply because of his stellar combine measurements. Would the Bucks be interested in moving down to pick Alexander? Portland reportedly likes Alexander at 13, but the Blazers are also shopping their pick. You could certainly argue the talent drop-off between 8 and 13 is minimal, especially with guys like Brandon Rush and Marreese Speights sitting around in the mid-first. The Blazers have plenty of cheap  pieces that they could use as bargaining chips, including Travis Outlaw, Jarrett Jack, Channing Frye, James Jones and Sergio Rodriguez.

Anthony Randolph: Like Alexander, Randolph has already worked out for the Bucks, which offered Hammond and company a chance to see him in action against a number of different forwards--a helpful exercise given the possibility that he ends up as a tweener. The gossip is that he was taken out for dinner by Scott Skiles and Kelvin Sampson afterwards, though the Bucks' closed door policy on workouts means we have no real idea how he stacked up against Alexander and Greene.

As the youngest player in the draft, Randolph has a long way to go in terms of developing his game and maturing physically, but his production as a freshman also hints at the vast potential he possesses.  Because of that, Jonathan Givony at DX writes that Randolph is among the tougher guys to peg and could slide into the mid-first round if the Bucks and Nets pass on him in the top ten:

If Sacramento selects Darrell Arthur at #12 like many NBA sources we spoke with anticipate (this was his last workout stop before cancelling numerous workouts), then Randolph could be in for quite a tumble, as he would likely continue to slip past Portland at #13, Golden State at #14, Phoenix at #15, until reaching Philadelphia at #16. That’s about 10 spots lower than some mocks have him projected right now, but isn’t out of the question depending on how things play out next week. Randolph is not helping himself reportedly with the way he’s working out, being very average so far according to numerous people who’ve watched him, looking "laid back" or even "out of shape." Compounding the problem is that he may have recently hurt his shoulder.

In other words, even if the Bucks really like Randolph--which seems unlikely if some of the above quotes came from Bucks sources--they could probably still nab him with a trade down.

O.J. Mayo: We haven't been talking about Mayo at all because he's all but assured to go between three (to Minnesota) and six (to New York). However, Chad Ford thinks the Bucks are interested in moving up for Mayo:

The Bucks have been trying to move up in the draft to add some star power to their team.

In particular, we've heard Mayo's name associated with the Bucks. The Bucks have been trying to get into that seven-team Mayo workout in Chicago on Saturday to get a closer look.

Bucks GM John Hammond has gotten a lot of calls, with other teams especially interested in Yi Jianlian and Charlie Villanueva. Mo Williams and Michael Redd are also in play in Milwaukee right now.

There doesn't seem to be any chance the Bucks can parlay Villanueva and the 8th pick into the 3rd pick, but the Wolves have some undesirable contracts and could have some interest in Ramon Sessions as well.  In other words, probably not, but you never know.

Kevin Love: Was Love just teasing us last month when he spoke positively about the prospect of ending up in Milwaukee? Perhaps, but since then Love has helped his case by showing off better-than-expected athleticism in Orlando. As a result, Love's stock might simply have become too rich for the Bucks' mid-lottery blood. There have been rumors that the Heat and Wolves might both be interested in trading down a few spots with Memphis to acquire Love, though it's also possible that Memphis simply keeps the pick and slots Love in as their starting PF next year. That's looking less likely however with this morning's news that the Grizzlies will sign Spanish big man Marc Gasol to a three year, $9 million deal. While Gasol is a few inches taller than Love and projects as a center in the NBA, his mediocre athleticism might make the Grizz hesitant about pairing him with a power forward like Love who doesn't bring top-shelf athleticism. Love also worked out this week in New York, where he could be the perfect big man to trigger Mike D'Antoni's high-octane, shooter-heavy attack. On the other hand, he might be too big and slow to keep up.

Some mocks think Love could still slip outside the top seven, but that would require one of the aforementioned players to be picked higher than expected. The Grizzlies are probably the key team here, as they are already stocked at the point and small forward positions and appear to be adding Gasol to the mix at center. They could certainly use a PF, but if they're worried about Love's fit with their existing personnel they could go in a different direction or trade up (Heat/Wolves) or down (Golden State/Bucks) to a team that covets Love.  If he does slip, the Bucks could very well draft UCLA's hyper-skilled big man in spite of already having Yi Jianlian at Love's primary position(three if you think Villanueva might still be around). Given Love's strength, he could probably play minutes at center as well, though his lack of length makes that less ideal. If the Bucks really want Love then they might also find the Grizzlies receptive to swapping picks, though it's unclear how much they'd have to give up to do it. Does Memphis have any interest in Charlie Villanueva?

Russell Westbrook: Because of his inexperience at the point, Westbrook is far from a sure thing and will need to improve markedly on the offensive end to live up to his lottery hype. Still, I love Westbrook's defense, dedication, and athleticism, all of which would be a breath of fresh air for the Bucks' backcourt and a great fit for Skiles' defensive-oriented, up-tempo style.  The Knicks and Clips have shown plenty of interest in the top seven, but Chad Ford reports that the Bucks may not get a look at Westbrook because of a rumored promise somewhere in the top ten.  Westbrook has canceled his remaining workouts due to a purported ankle injury, but Ford thinks there's more to it than that.

Apparently the promise isn't coming from the Knicks. They like Westbrook at No. 6, but they're also looking at Mayo, Bayless, Alexander and Eric Gordon.

The promise isn't coming from the Bucks or Pacers; neither team was able to get him in for a workout.

That leaves the Clippers at No. 7 and the Bobcats at No. 9. As noted above, the Clippers are trying to move up to get Mayo, so I doubt it's them. That leaves the Bobcats as the most likely to have made a promise to Westbrook.

One other possibility: The Seattle SuperSonics have taken a strong interest in Westbrook, according to sources. Although No. 4 is a little higher than expected for him to go, one source said it's possible that the Sonics will trade down a few spots and take Westbrook.

I doubt Westbrook ends up in Charlotte--someone like Brook Lopez or Danilo Gallinari would have to jump up into the top eight for that to happen.  And if he's available at eight then I would hope the Bucks give him a long look, even if they didn't get to work him out.  Besides, why would a promise at nine make him disinterested in going eighth? Does the Jordan/Brown combo in Charlotte really make them that appealing as a destination?  Ian Thomsen at SI says the promise could be coming from Seattle, which as Ford notes seems too high, but makes more sense in terms of explaining Westbrook's actions. All told, it appears the Bucks won't get a chance to bring him in for a workout, and it's unlikely that Westbrook will be available for the Bucks anyway.

Eric Gordon: Gordon was an early favorite at the Bucks' pick, especially in light of the Michael Redd rumors that began to swirl last month.  He was also reportedly very close to Bucks' assistant Kelvin Sampson when they were both at Indiana, but since the combine he's expressed on a number of occasions that he seems himself going between three and six, and as a result has not been working out for the Bucks or anyone behind them in the lottery.  Gordon's worked out for Seattle, New York and the Clippers, and recent mocks also agree that he's virtually certain to be gone by the time the Bucks pick.  It's possible he goes at four to Seattle, but with Russell Westbrook now in the discussion for Seattle and New York, I'd guess the Clippers are the most likely destination.  Like Love, he could be available if another player leapfrogs him into the top seven.

Danillo Gallinari: Chad Ford reported this week that Gallinari has refused advances by the Bucks to see him workout, though his workouts with the Clippers and Grizzlies show that he's softened his earlier preference to only play for the Knicks or Nets. He's doing only solo workouts and has the option of making a lot of money by staying at Olimpia Milano, so he's still a major x-factor in the lottery.  Some teams will no doubt be scared off by the chance that he stays in Italy, while others might simply be concerned that a less athletic but highly-skill player such as Gallinari doesn't have the NBA star potential preferred in a top ten pick. I think Bucks fans are  generally a little harsh on Gallinari, but it's somewhat understandable given the Bucks' perpetual need for defenders and the usual bias against lottery prospects who aren't terrific athletes.  Given his defensive questions and the possibility that he stays in Europe, I'd just as soon pass.

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