Draft preparations continued today with the Bucks putting Texas forward Damion James, Minnesota swingman Quincy Pondexter, and West Virginia forward Devin Ebanks through a workout at the Cousins Center. And while the post-workout conversation is usually fairly canned, Billy McKinney threw us a bit of a curveball by beginning his press conference with a denial that the Bucks had made a first round promise to an unnamed player. Via Bucks.com:
"Speaking of the draft, before I comment on our workout today, yesterday we received a phone call from a couple of agents and a couple of teams saying that we had promised a player that we’re going to draft him at 15. One of the first things I wanted to do today was to address that just to say that we haven’t made any promises to anybody about us taking them at 15.
"Last year, when we had the 10th pick, there was a lot of uncertainty about the pick. We did not make a guarantee to anybody at 10 last year and certainly with the complexity of the draft this year, we haven’t made a promise to anybody at 15. So I wanted to, in case any of you became aware of that, I wanted you to know that up front. We had several calls from agents and a couple teams as well and we thought it was important that we address it not only with them but we address it publicly, so I wanted to take the opportunity to do so today."
Who might the rumor have been about? Well, yesterday Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal alluded to VCU big man Larry Sanders possibly having a promise from the Bucks after he pulled out of his workout with the Grizz (12th). Steve Kyler adds a bit of color to the story at Hoops World, noting that the Hornets and Raptors could also be in the mix for Sanders' services.
Bucks' head coach Scott Skiles took Sanders to dinner after the workout and really had nothing but positive things to say about him.
Word is Sanders has started shutting down workouts, leading many to believe Sanders got a commitment from the Bucks at #15. Sources close to Sanders deny that a hard promise was made, but they are feeling good he goes no lower than #15 to the Bucks.
You'd expect a player with a promise to keep working out for teams picking earlier, but no one seems interested in working out for the Grizzlies and the Bucks would also seem to offer a better opportunity for immediate playing time. So maybe there's something to that, though it doesn't seem like a smoking gun either--Sanders could also have looked at the Grizz roster and figured he wouldn't be a likely pick with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Hasheem Thabeet already on the roster.
Reports of a Sanders promise also contradict McKinney's comments after Sanders' workout on Tuesday, where he sounded skeptical of Sanders' value at #15.
"I think that might be a little bit of a stretch, but anything is possible. This draft is a little bit crazy right now because we're not sure how the top 15 is shaking out. Every week we go through mock drafts and we look at the mock drafts and different people are all over the board. We think that might be a little bit of a stretch (to have Sanders at 15) but we have him in anyway to look at him in the event that something might happen in the event that we might move back."
Just a smokescreen? It's quite possible--you certainly wouldn't want to advertise that you're in love with a player, lest other interested teams try to trade up ahead of you to get him. But even if you are very interested in a player, I'm not sure the Bucks have much to gain by making Sanders a real promise. As McKinney mentioned, there's so much uncertainty in the draft that it's difficult to tell who will even be available at #15. So unless the Bucks see no chance of a better player dropping--whether it's Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich or Ed Davis--there's not a great reason to back yourself into picking someone who seems likely to be there.
As for Sanders as a prospect, I've always found him intriguing and a potentially excellent fit for the current roster because of his tremendous length (7'6" wingspan), defensive potential and ability to both play as a 4 next to Andrew Bogut and get spot minutes at the 5 while he gets stronger (he weighed just 222 lbs at the combine). Still, at 21 years old he's a work in progress on both ends and it's not clear he has the skill level to be more than a solid rotation big man. Does he have the basketball IQ and instincts to immediately fit into Skiles' rotation? All indications are that the Bucks want someone who can immediately compete for playing time, and it seems like other guys are probably more ready to contribute than Sanders.
Moreover, the Bucks aren't done with their own workouts and the rumor mill suggests they like a number of other guys who might be around at #15. Gery Woelfel mentioned on WSSP today that Xavier Henry and Hassan Whiteside are expected to be in on Monday, and when asked which guys the Bucks are focusing on he didn't mention Sanders. Instead he named Gordon Hayward (who's long been linked with the Bucks), Luke Babbitt (not surprising given he's worked out twice already), and someone named "Damion Jones." At least that's what it sounded like he said, though I'm not sure if he's referring to Damion James or Dominique Jones. Go figure.