The week of the draft is upon us, and if the past is any indication it could once again be a busy one for the Milwaukee Bucks. Though he doesn't have any incentive to say otherwise, Billy McKinney did go out of his way this week to say the Bucks were happy to keep their pick AND had received high level interest from other teams. Fair enough. However, during his latest chat, Chad Ford suggested the Bucks could once again be active around draft time:
I've got my eye on the Bucks as well. For the last two years they've made big trades on draft night. They kept their pick both times, but this year might be different. The team thinks that they're a 45- to 50-win ball club if they're healthy. Adding another veteran to the mix might help push that along.
If history is any indication, Ford and McKinney could both be right. John Hammond has pulled off a big deal in the days leading up to the draft every year since arriving in 2008, and none of them have involved the Bucks' first round pick: trading for Richard Jefferson in 2008, dumping Jefferson in 2009, and acquiring Corey Maggette in 2010. It's also worth noting that Ford was seen sitting next to Hammond in Treviso last week during the EuroCamp, though that's hardly a smoking gun indicating a blockbuster is on the way. Aside from the much-denied Brandon Jennings chatter, there's been little buzz about the Bucks looking to make a big move, but that probably shouldn't mean much. The Bucks have been very good at keeping their dealings on the down-low, so odds are if the Bucks do cook something up we won't know about it in advance.
But what could the Bucks actually do in the way of trades? No one's going to be interested in John Salmons, Maggette, or Drew Gooden, not without giving up something valuable and/or taking another poison pill back. And you could argue it's an especially bad time to try to deal Salmons and Gooden anyway. Their value can't get much lower, given their struggles last year, remaining dollars owed them and the CBA anxiety many teams are feeling. I'd argue Maggette is probably worth moving even if it's just for another bad contract, if only because the Bucks can't afford to let $10 million rot on the bench. If Scott Skiles doesn't think Maggette can give him 20-25 minutes a night then it's important the Bucks find a better fit for both sides, even if they just end up with another overpaid guy.
As far as assets go, things obviously start with Jennings and Andrew Bogut, but I'd be surprised if they moved Jennings and utterly shocked if they dealt Bogut. There was a rumor this morning from Minneapolis of Bogut to the Wolves for the #2 overall pick (h/t RealGM), but no suggestion that the Bucks would have been the ones offering. As much as I like Derrick Williams, I don't think it makes much sense a Bucks perspective, and it would be rather inconsistent with the Bucks' stance on their current roster. On the flip side it makes a ton of sense if you're Minnesota, which has been rumored to be shopping its pick for weeks and is desperate for a center to pair with Kevin Love. So you can probably guess how that started.
As Ford notes, the Bucks' brass doesn't seem to think a blow-up is in order, and they're not well-positioned for that anyway. Blowing it up generally means trading productive but high-priced/aging veterans for expiring deals and picks, but the Bucks simply don't have those kinds of assets. Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders have some appeal, whether it's for another player or to acquire a mid-to-late first rounder. My bet would be on Ilyasova as the most likely to go, given he's cheap, young and could easily plug into almost any team's rotation. That also makes him useful to the Bucks, but with just one year left on his deal it's anybody's guess if his long-term future is in Milwaukee.
That leaves the Bucks' draft picks, both the 10th and 40th picks this year and whatever they end up with in next year's purportedly strong draft. Hammond has yet to deal a first round pick, and there's a strong argument against swapping cheap upside for more proven but costly veterans. While the Bucks are unlikely to get a star or even an impact player at number ten, there's at least a chance--which you can't say about their hopes in free agency. Moreover, talented youngsters on rookie deals typically play major roles in getting superstar deals dones; see the deals that landed the Nets Deron Williams and the Knicks Carmelo Anthony. An easier deal to pull off could involve other teams' younger players, among which there are a number who would likely make much more of an impact than anyone they could draft: O.J. Mayo, J.J. Hickson, Jordan Hill, Jason Thompson, etc. Still, building a good team on a reasonable budget almost always requires getting things right in the draft, not simply pawning off picks for shorter term help.
Lastly, the Bucks could stay in the draft but move to trade up or down. Jonathan Givony tweets that the Knicks are apparently looking to trade up from their #17 slot for a chance at Bismack Biyombo, pegging the Warriors at #11 as the team they might need to jump. If Detroit passes on Biyombo at number eight, then the Bucks would fit the bill. Odds are at least one or two of the guys the Bucks have worked out falls as far as the Knicks--Alec Burks, Marshon Brooks, Jordan Hamilton, and Tristan Thompson the most likely--so it would then come down to whether the Bucks have a strong preference and how much they want to risk letting a guy they like slip. The other alternative is looking to add another first to scoop up another prospect who slips. While this draft isn't considered strong up top, many like the depth of the draft once you get outside the top ten, and the Bucks have worked out a few guys likely to be available after the 15th pick, including Markieff Morris, Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Honeycutt.
Personally, I'm still fascinated by Biyombo as well, but I wonder if the Bucks are willing to gamble on another raw young big given their struggles scoring. Biyombo is meeting with the Raptors, Pistons and Knicks in the days leading up to the draft, though only Detroit is considered likely to pick him ahead of the Bucks. Moving up is probably less likely, and may not be worth much given the uncertainty over everyone after the top two and the high price it would take to snag Minnesota's pick.