The downside of actually having a respectable basketball team? The draft isn't quite as much fun.
Even so, the Bucks will be hoping to add another rotation player when they pick 15th overall on June 24th, and they also have the 37th (from Philly) and 47th picks in the second round play with. The Bucks' needs at this point seem fairly obvious: anyone who can complement their two young cornerstones at center and point guard. And the good news is that this draft seems to have a clear bias to those needs. The point guard position is extremely weak outside likely #1 John Wall, and Cole Aldrich is the only true center likely to go in the top ten. Given Kentucky freshman Eric Bledsoe (PG) and Daniel Orton (C) may be the only mid-first round prospects at those positions, the Bucks can probably satisfy both a need and take the best player available at the same time. Good times.
Of the Bucks' needs, the most glaring in my book would be an athletic 4/5 who can both play next to Bogut as well as get burn at center when the big fella is resting or...gulp, hurt. Plenty of guys roughly fit that bill in this year's draft, though the best big men--DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Ed Davis, Greg Monroe--figure to be gone by the time the Bucks select. Still, it's a deep draft for big men and guys like Ekpe Udoh, Patrick Patterson, Larry Sanders, Donatas Motiejunas, Hassan Whiteside, and Kevin Seraphin could still be around.
The Bucks could also use a young wing scorer (or two), more so if they're unable to retain John Salmons. Evan Turner and Wesley Johnson seem to be the only stud wings guaranteed to go in the top ten (or top three in Turner's case), and beyond that you've got a broad assortment of intriguing yet flawed choices: James Anderson, Xavier Henry, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, et al. We'll try to offer more on all these guys as the process evolves, but we'll start by surveying the current mocks at DraftExpress, Ridiculous Upside and NBADraft.net. Chad Ford doesn't have a mock beyond the lottery at this point, but he does have Henry as #15 in his top 100. Regardless, the draft has taught us to expect the unexpected--remember, no one thought Joe Alexander and Brandon Jennings would end up in Bucks uniforms when the draft process started in '08 or '09.
DraftExpress: Xavier Henry, SG/SF, Kansas, 19 years old
For better or worse, Henry looks a lot like the Bucks' current options at the 2/3 spots. He doesn't seem to bring the explosiveness or scoring creativity to be a star, but he's a responsible defender, excellent shooter, and willing passer. Of all the swingmen likely to fall in the 10-20 range, he could be the best-suited to being an immediate rotation player, which would obviously be appealing to a Bucks team looking to win games now. Still, his one year at Kansas didn't offer much hint of whether he could be more than a quality role player or solid starter. At #15 that may be enough for the Bucks, who don't have a history of patience with their draft picks in the Hammond/Skiles era. DX's Joseph Treutlein offers his thoughts on Henry's future:
Looking forward, Henry clearly has two NBA skills in his three-point shooting and passing, while his team-oriented approach will certainly be appealing to teams, but with only a year spent in college and not much to show for it in terms of shot creating abilities, teams will have a tough time gauging his learning curve to see if that’s something he’s likely to develop down the road. Henry’s attitude and approach to the game are definitely reassuring in this regard, but if he only projects as a role playing wing who can’t create his own shot (and there are questions about which position he is best suited to guard), teams may be hesitant to draft earlier than the later portion of the lottery at best, though there are likely many playoff teams who would be happy to see him fall.
Ridiculous Upside: Donatas Motiejunas, PF/C, Benetton Treviso (Italy), 19 years old
Scott and the gang at RU have their first mock draft up today, pegging the Bucks to take Lithuanian big man Moteijunas with the 15th pick.
The Bucks need a power forward to play next to Andrew Bogut because Ersan Ilyasova just really didn't get it done. I'm not sure Motiejunas would be able to either (though he can at least handle the offensive end), but he is the best available 7-footer and he's been compared to Toni Kukoc - both of which are never a bad thing on a team trying to build a championship roster.
I'm wary of any seven footer who has major question marks as a rebounder and defender, but I suppose we should remember that Motiejunas doesn't turn 20 until September and he's already a solid contributor with Italian stalwarts Benetton Treviso (yes, the same club that produced Kukoc). However, it doesn't sound like he has anywhere close to the passing abilities of Kukoc (who does?), and for what it's worth DraftExpress compares his best/worst case scenarios to perimeter bigs Andrea Bargnani and Channing Frye. I'm not a big fan of either of those guys (soft bigs who don't rebound...blech), but next to someone like Bogut those deficiencies could be somewhat masked. More worrying is that Motiejunas looks far too weak to bang with NBA big men anytime soon, though he should get stronger with age.
Motiejunas would need a buyout to play in the NBA next season--he has one year left on his deal with Benetton--so the team drafting him might need to wait a year. Remember that NBA teams can only pay $500k of a player buyout, so the rest has to come out of the player's own salary. That's especially problematic for first round picks, whose first four years of salary are locked in by the CBA. Given Motiejunas' contract and physical limitations, my immediate reaction is that he's a poor fit for the Bucks' current plans--besides, I'd rather not have to type his last name ten times a day.
NBADraft.net: Hassan Whiteside, PF/C, Marshall, 20 years old
Whiteside is a perfect prospect for the YouTube generation: an athletic dunker and finisher, ridiculous shot-blocker (5.4 bpg!), and even capable of sticking a midrange jumper, White has undeniable upside. In other words, you'll be really excited about him when you watch his sweet highlight reel on draft night. After that? Well, you may be facepalming yourself for years as he struggles to figure out how to actually, you know, play NBA basketball. I'll let the excellent Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress take it away:
"Immature" is the word you hear most often associated with Whiteside both on and off the court, as there will certainly be a large degree of hand-holding and coddling that whichever team drafts him needs to do in order to help him reach his full potential. There are major questions about his work ethic and intensity level, which is a bit concerning considering how far off he currently is from being able to contribute to an NBA team. We also need to keep in mind that despite his freshman status, he’s the same age as many college juniors, turning 21 this upcoming June. This obviously limits his upside to a certain degree.