Kentavious Caldwell-Pope works out, Van Exel among new assistants, Ayon option picked up?

Jamie Squire

Draft workouts, free agent speculation, new coaches...yep, it's June in the NBA.

FS Wisconsin: Bucks hope Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is available in draft
Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (let's just call him KCP, eh?) headlined Saturday's action at the Cousins Center, as the Bucks continued their draft preparations with another guard-oriented workout that also featured first round hopeful Ricky Ledo. Head over to Bucks.com for Jim Paschke's video interviews with KCP, Ledo and Billy McKinney.

Cal's Allen Crabbe was unfortunately a late scratch due to a foot injury that forced him to leave a workout in Brooklyn on Tuesday, though FS Wisconsin's Andrew Gruman reports that McKinney still hopes to have Crabbe in Milwaukee at some point before the June 27 draft. That left KCP and Ledo as the primary points of interest, with Southern Miss guard Dwayne Davis, Oklahoma forward Amath M'Baye, FSU guard Michael Snaer, and Dakota State guard Tyrone Gordon rounding out the group. Via Gruman:

"When looking at his game, one of the things he does really well and something he takes a lot of pride in is his individual defense," McKinney said. "People know him as a shooter and a scorer, he was the most valuable player in the SEC this year, but I think defense is one of his strengths."

Like Terrence Ross last year, KCP has the athleticism to play above the rim on both ends, but his penchant for settling for jump shots is a commonly-cited concern that may ultimately limit his upside. The good news is that he's pretty good from the perimeter, but his perceived lack of creativity off the bounce explains why he's a late lottery/mid-first round type and not a lock for the top ten.

At #15 he looks like a very solid option for a Bucks team in desperate need of backcourt depth, but it's worth remembering one thing about shooting guards: most of them don't really matter. Yes, Bradley Beal (#3 last year) and Dion Waiters (#4) showed signs of developing into very good pros as rookies, and Klay Thompson (#11 in 2011) figures to be a long-term starter in Golden State despite some surprisingly underwhelming numbers overall (12.7 PER last year...woof). But other than that the crop of shooting guards from the past few drafts is pretty uninspiring. Despite the affection they may have drawn from fans leading up to their respective drafts, Ross, Austin Rivers, James Anderson, Alec Burks, and Jeremy Lamb have all either disappointed or played too little for us to draw any conclusions.

As for Ledo, he never played for Providence due to academic reasons but his diverse scoring ability made him a top-30 recruit two years ago. Whether workouts will be enough to catapult him into the latter half of the first round...well, your guess is as good as mine. For more on KCP and Crabbe, check out SB Nation's scouting reports:

JS: Nick Van Exel and Bob Bender joining Drew in Milwaukee
As expected, the Bucks officially informed assistant coaches Joe Wolf, Bill Peterson, Sidney Moncrief, Anthony Goldwire, and Chris Gilmartin this week that their contracts would not be renewed--and thus the final chapter of the Scott Skiles era has been closed.

Larry Drew's arrival made the old staff's departure all but assured, with two of Drew's assistants from Atlanta--Racine Kenosha native Nick Van Exel and Bob Bender--flying to Milwaukee this week to assist in draft workouts. They figure to be part of Drew's new staff in Milwaukee, though we've yet to hear anything announced officially and it's also not clear if former lead assistant (and one-time Buck) Lester Conner will also be making his way north. Van Exel's arrival is of particular interest given the comparisons many have made between Brandon Jennings and the former Cincinnati star, who played 13 seasons in the NBA and made the all-star team back in 1998.

Bucksketball: Gustavo Ayon option picked up
South of the border, Televisa Deportes reports that Gustavo Ayon (himself!) has confirmed the Bucks will pick up their $1.5 million team option on him for next season. Declining the option could have freed up an additional $1 million in potential cap space, but Ayon's a solid big--if you actually play him. Speaking of big men who don't play...

SI.com: Which players could be released via amnesty clause this summer?
SI takes a look at possible amnesty candidates, and for the Bucks there's really only one name that matters: Drew Gooden. The one-time starter completely fell out of favor with Scott Skiles last season and it worked out pretty damn well: Larry Sanders finally had the opportunity to establish himself as one of the game's best defensive big men, while Ersan Ilyasova eventually got his game in order and had a strong second half as the team's starting power forward. With two years and $13 million remaining on his current deal, Gooden isn't quite the albatross he once was contract-wise, but that's still an awful lot of money to be paying a guy who doesn't seem to have a real future in the Bucks' rotation. Gooden figures to find minutes up front hard to come by with Sanders, Ilyasova, John Henson, Ekpe Udoh and Luc Mbah a Moute around, though trading away some of those guys could change the equation. I really doubt Herb Kohl wants to eat the remaining $13 million of Gooden's contract, but if he wants to load up on big name free agents he might be willing to bite the bullet.

The tricky part is that players can only be amnestied during the moratorium (July 1-9), which also happens to be the major free agent feeding frenzy--though deals can only be officially announced starting right after the moratorium. So here's what will presumably happen. The Bucks will see if they can do anything to trade Gooden over the next few weeks, which won't be easy considering his trade value is fairly negative at the moment. Maybe a team with a surplus of guards and a need for big man depth could be a useful trade partner, but that's been true for the past year and nothing has happened. His salary size could make him a useful piece to equal out salaries in a larger deal, but again he's not going to be sweetening a deal or anything. So if no trade happens, the Bucks will start hunting for free agents on July 1 with a Gooden amnesty move as a trump card in their back pocket. If they line up a couple of big deals, they may need to amnesty Gooden in order to open up cap space to make the moves--especially if they elect to keep a cap hold for Brandon Jennings (nearly $8 million), whose RFA status may lead his situation to take longer to sort out.

ESPN: Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller rank as top projected prospects by the numbers
Bradford Doolittle serves up his annual statistical projection of this year's top prospects, with some surprises both at the top and the bottom. While Noel and Zeller top the charts, potential Bucks targets Caldwell-Pope and Larkin score poorly. As always, consider it an interesting data point rather than a be-all, end-all--here's his column on last year's draft for reference.

Latest draft mockery/chicanery:

  • SI/Chris Mannix: Caldwell-Pope over Sergey Karasev (18) and Shane Larkin (21).
  • DraftExpress/Jonathan Givony: Dennis Schröder.
  • NBADraft.net: Kelly Olynyk over Schröder and Shabazz Muhammad. This one makes no sense to me at all.
  • Bucks.com: Alex looks back on the past three drafts and wonders how the Bucks might have played things differently.
  • Sportando: Latvian swingman Janis Timma (DX #81) will work out for the Bucks and four other teams ahead of the draft
  • ESPN/Chad Ford: The latest from Ford says Alex Len is surging up draft boards, because it totally makes sense for an injured guy to be helping his stock.
Latest free agent news and notes:
  • Yahoo!: Andre Iguodala is turning down the nearly $16 million the Nuggets owe him next year in order to become a free agent. So could the Bucks make a run at Iguodala? Maybe, but it likely won't be cheap to acquire the 29-year-old former Sixer--think eight figures annually. That's pricey for a guy who's strictly a complementary player, but you won't find many better third bananas on the free agent market this summer.
  • Woelfel: The Bucks are among several teams apparently interested in former Nets point guard Jordan Farmar, last seen plying his trade for Turkish club Anadolu Efes (aka Ersan Ilyasova's old club). Solid option as a backup point guard.
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