This was my 22nd draft as a fan of the NBA, and honestly: I can't say I can recall a zanier one. Anthony Bennett at number one? The number one going number six? Bebe Nogueira's hair? The Bucks taking a Greek kid with an impossible name, the potential of an all-star and a highlight reel that looks like it came off a VHS tape?
And I still can't figure out if all this weirdness is in spite of or because of the hyper-exposed, hyper-analyzed nature of the modern draft. Back in the day everything just seemed so much simpler. Twitter didn't tell you who was being picked and traded before the guys on TV knew (seriously, can someone clue the ESPN crew in?), there weren't a million blogs that gave you every angle you ever wanted on ever player, and Youtube highlight reels weren't around to make everyone an expert.
Hell, I don't consider myself that old (32, y'all), but two decades ago when I started watching the draft the internet wasn't even a thing.
With my dad having just picked up season tickets for the first time--you can thank him for inspiring the existence of Brew Hoop all these years later--I went to my first draft party at the Bradley Center waaaaay back in 1992. The two of us strolled down 4th Street to the BC on June 24, 1992 to watch Shaq go number one and the Bucks select future immortals Todd Day and Lee Mayberry. It was far more exciting than it should have been, and in that sense some things never change. Whether you're a fan or "expert," odds are you've been wrong a lot over the years. I was pumped for the Glenn Robinson era, kind of annoyed when the Bucks dealt Marbury for Ray Allen, excited when they got Shawn Respert, and crushed when they missed out on Al Horford. Strikes and gutters. And so it goes.
As for Giannis Antetokounmpo, a man who wasn't even born the first time I watched the NBA draft? Well, there's definitely reason to be excited, both because of his all-around potential and the philosophical reasoning behind it. We all know the reality of the draft: the only way to find future stars at #15 is by gambling, and that's almost all we can say about this pick for now. Antetokounmpo is a gamble because of his tender age and the minimal competition he's faced up until now, but that speaks more to uncertainty than fundamental flaws in his game. Which as far as gambles go is probably a good thing. Finding a solid contributor at #15 is generally all you can hope for, and even John Hammond will admit that he passed on a number of safer, lower ceiling options--Sergey Karasev, Shane Larkin, et al--to select the youngest player in the draft.
So while I won't begrudge anyone their knee-jerk reactions, the reality is that it will be years before we know how to judge this pick. No one selected after him will turn into a star next season (or likely ever), and odds are none of them would have offered a big boost to the Bucks immediately anyway. But the adjustment that Antetokounmpo will be facing on and off the court is massive and should seriously temper any expectation that he be a real contributor next season, and possibly even the season after. For the rest of the summer we'll scramble to find bootleg internet video of his exploits with the Greek under-20 national team, all the while looking for those snippets of "wow!" that reinforce the good things we hope of him. But let's be real: this is an 18-year-old kid who hadn't even left Greece until a month ago, let alone faced anything remotely resembling NBA competition. The size, speed and pressure of playing at the highest level will likely overwhelm him initially, just as it does many older and more mature rookies. How he and the Bucks can manage all the pressure and expectations will be a major part of his development, but so will thousands of hours in the gym working on his game. Listening to Hammond and Larry Drew try to contain their excitement about Antetokounmpo late on Thursday night, you can tell this wasn't a casual risk. They think his star potential is real, and that alone is something to feel good, if not completely assured, about.
In the second round, the Bucks snapped up--in circuitous fashion--South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters, who in many respects is the anti-Giannis. Wolters' four-year domination of the Summit League made him a favorite of analytical draft models, most of which peg him as a sure-fire NBA contributor. With the Bucks' backcourt basically a blank slate heading into free agency, Wolters fills an immediate need and may well find an immediate rotation spot because he has the skill and size to steal minutes at both backcourt spots. Playing at a small school certainly didn't help his draft stock, but he proved on a number of occasions that he could compete with and at times dominate top-level collegiate competition. And while his lack of top-shelf athleticism explains why he lasted as long as he did, last season's backcourt offers a good example of how overrated raw athleticism can be in the NBA, particularly for guards on the defensive end. It's easy to see a glass half full with Wolters, but just make sure you remember it's only half full.
In the end, the Bucks turned the 15th and 43rd picks into the 9th and 26th-rated prospects on the DraftExpress Top 100, so until we know if these guys can play NBA basketball...well, that's a nice thing, right?
Bucksketball: Giannis Antetokounmpo is everything we’ve asked the Milwaukee Bucks for
Jeremy wanted this pick, and his explanation for why is probably the best thing I've read about the Bucks' draft.
The Argus Leader: Whirlwind night for Wolters ends with Milwaukee
Nate Wolters got his wish and then some Thursday night, being selected by not one but three NBA teams.
The mystery surrounding the player known as the "Greek freak" was one of the big stories headed into the draft. He’s an 18-year-old who played on a second-division team last season. Six months ago, few knew he was. At No. 15, he’s a gamble that could pay off big for Milwaukee down the road.
Give the Bucks credit: They aren't afraid to take a chance. It may be several years before we know whether the Bucks wasted their pick or struck gold with Antetokounmpo. While he is a skilled, athletic point forward, he has the body of Kevin Durant and very little experience playing against other talented players. Also, he's expected to come to the NBA now, meaning that the Bucks will spend millions of dollars for a player who is likely to play in the D-League for a couple of years. But could the investment be worth it down the road? Yes. As for Wolters, he was one of my favorite second-round picks, a Jimmer Fredette type with better court vision and much less hype. I could see him getting minutes right away for Bucks.
It's a position move for Milwaukee and it helps them out considerably in that area. He's 18, but this kid is talked about as being ready right now. With his athleticism, he's got a great chance.
USA Today: 2013 NBA draft grades (note they wrotes this up before the Ledo/Wolters deal was done)
No team swung for the fences quite like the Bucks. In five years, Antetokounmpo and Ledo may be two of the 10 best players from this draft. Antetokounmpo has huge upside, as much as anyone outside the top seven. He also was the youngest player in the draft and probably is two or three years away from coming to the NBA. The Bucks may have drafted him with the intent of keeping cap space open for free agency, but for a 2013 playoff team with big holes to fill, the choice seemed strange. Ledo could be a contributor next season, though. He's mostly an unknown because he was ineligible to play last season. Look back at these picks in five years, when a clearer picture is formed.