Bucks Director of Scouting Billy McKinney recently noted that workouts have not yet been set up with the top 2014 NBA Draft prospects (Joel Embiid, Jabari, Parker and Andrew Wiggins), but what the Bucks do with the No. 2 overall pick is still the question everyone wants to ponder. The mock draft scene reflects the uncertainty at the top of this draft.
You can definitely find the answer you're looking for if you review enough mock scenarios. Jeff Goodman of ESPN projects Embiid to the Cavaliers, Parker to the Bucks and Wiggins to the Sixers. Chad Ford of ESPN sends Wiggins to the Cavs, Embiid to the Bucks and Parker to the 76ers. At DraftExpress we find yet another permutation: Wiggins in Cleveland, Parker in Milwaukee and Embiid in Philadelphia. The four-man panel at Basketball Insiders produced four different takes on the top three picks, and Dante Exum even sneaks in at No. 3 in Steve Kyler's mock draft after the Bucks select Joel Embiid. The trio of experts at CBS Sports shuffles between Embiid and Wiggins with the first two picks and drops Parker firmly in the No. 3 slot. You get the idea. If there's something you want to see happen on draft day, somebody out there agrees with you.
To further complicate matters, we now know that Marc Lasry and Wes Edens intend to weigh in when John Hammond presents them with the necessary information and the Bucks prepare to select a player. In the latest mailbag podcast, Steve von Horn and Frank Madden take on questions that touch on the best pick for arena momentum, the best prospect to fit with the roster and the cascading effect Wiggins and Parker could have on Giannis Antetokounmpo. Part one of the mailbag series is available here, and you can check out part two below.
Derek Bodner of DraftExpress and SB Nation's Sixers blog, Liberty Ballers, recently had me on to contribute to their mock draft series for the No. 2 pick, and if you missed that post I've included the reponses below. Derek watches a ton of college basketball and is incredibly sharp about these things, and he wrote that the Bucks should take Wiggins No. 2 overall:
I tried to convince myself that Andrew Wiggins and Giannis Antetokounmpo couldn't co-exist long term. I read every report -- and there are many out there -- that says the Bucks may legitimately prefer Jabari Parker. In fact, yesterday we mentioned a report from Chad Ford that Wiggins isn't in the top 2 of the Bucks current big board.
But this series isn't meant to be a prediction on what the Bucks will do, but on what *we* would do.
And, no matter how much I try to convince myself that the Bucks will pass on a player because of fit withGiannis, I just can't. Sure, the two of them may not have the shooting to work as a perimeter pair right now, but both of them will only be 19 years old when the season starts next year, and Wiggins and Giannis have both shown enough improvement over the last 12 months for optimism. And the defensive potential of that pairing is tantalizing.
But, most importantly, for as much fun as Giannis Antetokounmpo and as much enthusiasm as there is surrounding him, you just don't pass on a prospect that you have rated higher because of him. And, for my own personal big board, I do put Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker on different tiers, so he's the guy I'm taking 2nd overall if I'm picking for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Milwaukee isn't one good offensive player away from being a contender. They need a great player, one who get in the paint, force defenders to help, and generate shots for his teammates. Despite Jabari being far more advanced offensively at this stage, I think the player who has the best chance to become that player is Andrew Wiggins. There's a fair amount of projection there, and that handle is going to have to be improved significantly for him to get there, but if his handle is improved, combined with some shooters around him, andNBA spacing and NBA rules, the sky is (almost literally) the limit.
They also need defenders, as despite a roster that includes Giannis, John Henson, and Larry Sanders (for part of the year), they finished last in the league in defensive rating. The defensive potential of that group with Wiggins is potentially devastating. Imagine putting him on the opponent's best offensive player, then havingGiannis and Henson there to provide weakside help defense? It's no secret that I've been highly critical of Jabari Parker's defense, and I don't think that can be overlooked. I'm just not a fan of drafting a guy, presumably to play 35+ minutes per game and build an offense around, who you have to hide defensively. And I think Parker, despite good combine measurements, will always be somebody who you have to worry about on that end of the court.
I offered my take on the situation for his piece, and I happened to go with Parker for Milwaukee. Here's what I had to say:
As a Bucks fan, I'm scared right now. It's hard to shake the feeling that a healthy version of Joel Embiid may be the only man left standing in top tier of prospects. All of the remaining guys face serious questions at the next level.
- Can Wiggins improve his ball handling and finishing skills (which currently manifest as concerns about "assertiveness") when the athleticism gap closes in matchups against NBA talent?
- Is Jabari Parker quick enough to defend players on the perimeter and/or explosive enough to excel as a scorer against NBA length (can he shed the dreaded "tweener" label)?
- Can Dante Exum shoot well enough and/or create opportunities efficiently enough to justify dominating the ball, or will his skill set make it difficult to transition to an off-ball SG?
I have Wiggins, Parker, and Exum in tier two on my board. What terrifies me is that I can't definitively say any one of them will have a better career than Marcus Smart. Despite my uncertainty, I believe the Milwaukee Bucks should select Jabari Parker with the No. 2 overall pick.
We can all mumble "BPA or GTFO" until we're blue in the face, but when it comes down to comparing incomplete players on the second tier it's the little environmental things that can make a big difference. It's either that, or I don't understand why we bother to do tiers at all.
The only long-term fixtures on Milwaukee's roster figure to be Sanders, Henson, and Giannis. That trio offers insane length, excellent rim protection, and even a potential ace perimeter defender in Giannis. What that trio does not offer is reliable offense of any sort. That's where Parker comes in.
In building a legitimate core group, the Bucks eventually need to invest in offense. Parker shouldered a heavy usage rate and scored efficiently at Duke, and his offensive skills are more refined than anyone else in the draft. As the mid-range zone expands and Jabari gets to escape the short corner more often, I expect him to perform well with new angles of attack to exploit. With Giannis capable of taking the quicker/more potent SF or PF on defense and Sanders/Henson around to protect the rim, Parker would have the help he needs to neutralize the tweener concerns as well. His strengths would be accentuated and his weaknesses would be minimized by other core players as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. I believe this combination of environmental factors makes it more likely that Parker could reach his fabled Paul Pierce / Carmelo Anthony ceiling.
Wiggins is probably a safer pick due to his defensive potential, but I've seen how the NBA values perimeter defense on the open market. Tony Allen isn't getting rich, Luol Deng isn't demanding a king's ransom on the trade market even in the prime of his career, and Andre Iguodala wasn't close to enough on his own to bring back the second-best center in a three-team deal. Hell, the Bucks gave away Luc Mbah a Moute for a bag of basketballs. I'm ready to take the bigger risk and bet on Parker becoming an offensive star in the right environment.
This is all enough to make your head spin, isn't it? The draft can't get here quickly enough.