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Woelfel: Bucks in Love?

Up until now there's been a void of actual information regarding who the Bucks might like at the eighth spot in the June 26 draft, as no one seems to have any clue which direction John Hammond might go. Thankfully Gery Woelfel has been working the phones and is naming some names:

While Bucks officials have been coy about whom they'll work out at their training facility in St. Francis, it's generally assumed forwards Anthony Randolph of Louisiana State and Kevin Love of UCLA and guards Eric Gordon of Indiana and Russell Westbrook of UCLA will be among them.

There have been some whispers the Bucks are keenly interested in the highly-skilled and highly-motivated Love - even though they already have two talented young power forwards on their roster in Yi Jianlian and Charlie Villanueva.

The Bucks are apparently enamored with Love's mental and physical toughness.

We should probably start by noting that the draft is still four weeks away, which is a long time given that prospects can't work out for teams until next week and GMs are by nature rather fickle creatures. Still, there's nothing better than rumor and innuendo at this time of year, so let's cast aside our skepticism for a moment and consider the case for Love. While his athleticism and conditioning have long been questioned, Love's skills and basketball IQ are almost unheard of for a 19-year old big man. And though scouts will insist he doesn't have the superstar potential of Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley, his productivity at UCLA was simply stellar. Love led the nation in pace-adjusted rebounding per 40 minutes while scoring 17.5 ppg with a true shooting percentage of 66%--better than any other lottery-projected prospect. Not only does he score inside at a high clip, but he's also shown solid range on his jumper (.354 from three) while also converting from the line at a high rate (.767).  And that's not even mentioning his accuracy from 94 feet. So it shouldn't be too surprising that Love was the leading vote-getter in our lottery poll last week.

The real question is whether Love's body will ever catch up to his brain. Chad Ford reported last week that Love looks to be in great shape thanks to the work he's doing with trainer extraordinaire Joe Abunassar. He's already lost 13 pounds and appears more explosive without the added weight, which is exactly what scouts and GMs will want to hear. The next test comes this week in Orlando when Love's measurements, leaping ability and quickness will be put under the microscope. If Love tests well in Orlando then the Bucks' interest will likely be academic, as logic would suggest someone will roll the dice on Love before the Bucks get a chance. Jonathan Givony at DraftExpress reported yesterday that Kevin McHale is already a big fan of Love and could take him when Minnesota picks fifth. That's not to say there's any type of consensus though, as current mock drafts have Love going everywhere from 3rd  to 14th.

As for the Bucks, Charlie Villanueva's expected departure will likely leave them short up front, and there's no such thing as having too many good big men. While Love won't ever be a defensive force, his rebounding, shooting and overall court savvy could still make him a very good complement to Andrew Bogut. The main question is whether he can hold is own defensively, as his lateral movement and lack of lift could cause him trouble. Love should however benefit from the NBA's trend towards smaller, more skillful centers, as he will be able to play the pivot at times in spite of probably being about 6'9". Nevertheless, if Love is to become a quality big man he'll need to use all his savvy and skill to outwit the superior athletes he'll frequently face on both ends.

Selecting Love would also no doubt raise major questions about Yi Jianlian's future in Milwaukee. Hammond has thus far sounded extremely positive about Yi's future, but he's far from a proven NBA commodity. There's also the possibility that agent Dan Fegan might try to push the Bucks for a trade, the likelihood of which would certainly increase should the Bucks bring in some high-profile PF competition like Love.