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2012 NBA Draft Workouts: Meyers Leonard, Tyler Zeller And Fab Melo Highlight Big Day In Milwaukee

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Speaking of leapfrog...
Speaking of leapfrog...

With just 10 days to go before the 2012 NBA Draft, the Bucks spent Thursday kicking their draft preparations into high gear with the first of five workouts in seven days.

As for Thursday's focus? "Size" would be a fair way to sum it up.

We've spent much of the past week debating the merits of Illinois sophomore Meyers Leonard (7'1.25" in shoes, 7'3" wingspan, DX #20) and North Carolina senior Tyler Zeller (7'0.5" in shoes, 7'0" wingspan, DX #12), so it was certainly good to see the pair of lottery hopefuls in Milwaukee and joined by two more big men in Syracuse sophomore Fab Melo (7'0" in shoes, 7'2.5" wingspan, DX #23) and Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn (6'10" in shoes, 7'4.75" in shoes, DX #40). The possibility of seeing them all up close in the same gym together shouldn't be underrated, either. While it's always a bit concerning to see players impress more with workouts and interviews than on-court performance, the reality is that college centers rarely face off against the kind of size and skill they're likely to see nightly in the NBA. So considering the inherent guesswork involved in the draft, you have to think that watching them match up with one another in the same gym would provide some rather helpful insights.

It's unclear how things went down behind the Cousins Centers' closed doors, but we do know that Leonard has leapfrogged Zeller in most mock drafts after turning heads on and off the court at the Chicago Combine, with most mocks projecting him somewhere between the Pistons (#9) and Bucks (#12). I'm not sure Leonard has the requisite maturity, experience or polish to impact the Bucks' near-term fate, but his combination of physical talents and developing skills aren't common in 20-year-old big men, either. That leaves the Bucks with some major questions should he be on the board when they pick on June 28. Is Leonard fundamentally talented enough to select ahead of more experienced and productive players like Zeller and Jared Sullinger, or for that matter wings like Terrence Ross and Jeremy Lamb? And even if he is, how long will it take for him to realize all the potential that has made him such a hot commodity?

Over at Bucksketball, Jeremy questioned how selecting a player like Leonard could be reconciled with the Bucks' focus on winning now, a question the Bucks are no doubt debating internally as well. But in that sense I'd find it rather encouraging for the Bucks not to simply pick the guy they think will help the most right away. After all, most of us don't actually want the Bucks to go for broke with a half-baked win-now strategy, and while college productivity is unquestionably a good thing, drafting in the NBA is a marathon, not a sprint. Zeller may well be better than Leonard now and in five years, in which case the choice would be easy. But I'll gladly take the guy who will be a quality starter five years from now over the guy who immediately tops out as a solid role player. The latter might be the best the Bucks can realistically expect in the late lottery, but gambling on upside is something that teams like the Bucks have to do at times.

As a result, I'd hope the Bucks don't approach the draft as a way to band-aid the present at the expense of the future, even if Herb Kohl has John Hammond and Scott Skiles pushing for a playoff berth at all costs. And while the franchise's urgency has only increased following two 9th place finishes, their draft history suggests the Bucks will be open to rolling the dice on June 28. In case you've forgotten: Brandon Jennings was a long-term gamble in 2009, Larry Sanders was considered a project in 2010, and Tobias Harris was the second-youngest player selected in the entire draft a year ago.

Odds and Ends

  • The Bucks announced Friday that they will have additional pre-draft workouts Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. As usual, the Bucks won't officially announce attendees until the morning of each workout, but French forward Evan Fournier (DX #24) is expected on Saturday, while Terrence Ross (DX #16), Perry Jones III (DX #8) and Quincy Miller (DX #17) are all expected to be in Milwaukee at some point before the June 28 draft.
  • Talking to the Big Show crew at WSSP, Gery Woelfel and Sparky get the feeling that--for better or worse--the Bucks will end up with a big man.
  • Woelfel also notes the Bucks expressed interest at the combine in Memphis wing Will Barton (DX #38), who could be available when the Bucks pick in the 2nd round (42nd overall). A wiry athlete who measured out at just 174 pounds in Chicago, Barton put up excellent numbers as a sophomore at Memphis (18.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.9 apg, .509/.346/.749 shooting) but most project him as a bubble first rounder at best.
  • Over at FS Wisconsin, Ryan Kartje writes that the Bucks aren't trying to hide their interest in a big man.
    "Given our lineup right now, you always want to look at a guy at No. 12 who can come in and play a little bit," McKinney said. "The opportunity for them to play is here in terms of us requiring a natural center. Drew Gooden did a fabulous job playing the center position, and the other guys filling in as not traditional centers did a great job. If we can get a guy at 12 that can come in and fill some moments in as a center, that would be great."
  • Charles Gardner has a bit more from the Leonard and Zeller workout.
  • Austin Rivers interviewed with the Bucks in Chicago, but Milwaukee is not one of the five cities Rivers has selected for pre-draft workouts. The former Duke star has already worked out for the Hornets (#1/#10) and was in Toronto (#8) yesterday, with upcoming visits planned with the Cavs (#4/#24), Wizards (#3) and Blazers (#6/#11).