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Jamaal Franklin visits, the Paul Pierce thing, draft day nears

Draft week is upon us, which in Milwaukee means last-chance workouts with Jamaal Franklin and Allen Crabbe, as well as all the usual trade rumors (Paul Pierce, wha?) and mock draft fever leading up to Thursday's main event.

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Harry How

FS Wisconsin: Jamaal Franklin visits
The Bucks held a regular group workout Monday morning--I won't even bother going into that--but the real story was the visit from first round prospect Jamaal Franklin (DX #23). The do-it-all wing from San Diego State hasn't been able to work out while recovering from an ankle injury, but the Bucks understandably still wanted to bring him in for interviews and some light shooting--which happens to be the one thing he really can't do, bum ankle or otherwise. Thankfully for Franklin, he can do a bit of everything else, which is what you'd expect from a guy who led his team in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals last season. Andrew Gruman reports:

"He really gets after people," McKinney said. "That's one of the things we noticed about him as we watched him play throughout the year. Not only that, he's tough-minded. One of the things that we are looking to do as we continue to move forward with our team is to add some mental and physical toughness."

Jim Paschke has video from Franklin's visit, while you can check out a more detailed DraftExpress video scouting report of Franklin below. As much as it pains me to entertain the notion of drafting another brick-laying guard, Franklin's versatility and athleticism give him a chance to carve out a long-term niche in the NBA even if he never develops a reliable stroke from distance. Still, his obvious shortcomings as a scorer also underscore the challenge of finding a sure thing in the middle of the first round. In short, these are the flawed options you're left with when you're the last team to make the playoffs.

The Bucks expect to have another light individual workout on Tuesday when Cal shooting guard Allen Crabbe (DX #28) comes to town; like Franklin, Crabbe has been nursing a foot injury that forced him to miss an earlier scheduled workout in Milwaukee.

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The Paul Pierce Thing
So does all the loose talk about the Bucks showing interest in Paul Pierce make any sense at all? As always, the answer is...kinda. Pierce's expiring $15 million contract isn't cheap, but there's no long-term risk associated with it and he showed last year that he can still play at a high level. Even at 35 years old, Pierce was vastly more productive than either Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings were a season ago, and you'd guess that a motivated Pierce still has at least one good year left in his tank.

And so considering the Bucks will inevitably try to use their cap space in order to stay competitive next year, you could argue that in theory an expiring Pierce makes for a better, safer cap value than a cap-busting mega deal for even someone much younger like Josh Smith. Pierce really doesn't move you closer to finding a sustainable winning formula, though, which begs the question of what the Bucks are really hoping to accomplish by sacrificing any assets for him. But...well, you know how the story goes. And come July when the new cap kicks in, the Bucks could swing a deal for Pierce without shipping equal salary back to Boston by renouncing a number of their Bird free agents (namely the $25 million in cap holds attributable to Ellis and J.J. Redick) and using their space to absorb Pierce's salary.

Of course, the "motivated" part is where it becomes tricky for a team like the Bucks. While I don't foresee Pierce walking away from $15 million in order to play golf, it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which Pierce is excited to pack his bags for Milwaukee. While a departure from Boston--the team that drafted him way back in 1998--seems increasingly likely, you have to think Pierce will strongly push for a move to a contender and that the Celtics will try to accommodate that. And it should be in their best interests, because even if teams like the Cavs and Bucks have registered interest, Pierce's biggest value should come to a team with a chance to make major noise in the playoffs. That also means a contender should be willing to pay the highest price for his services, especially given the possibility that Pierce might play hardball and refuse to play for a lesser team like the Bucks or Cavs. In other words I wouldn't consider the talk to date as a reason to panic, nor would I expect teams like the Bucks to be offering any of their prized assets (Larry Sanders, John Henson, 1st round picks).

WSSP: Woelfel talks Finals and draft rumors
Talking to Ted Davis and Sparky on Friday, Gery Woelfel says that the Bucks might move up a few spots, but in all likelihood will be picking from the 15th spot and end up selecting a shooting guard. And while the Bucks (and most us rooting for them) might love the idea of selecting Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, it's looking increasingly likely that he'll be off the board by the middle of the first. If that's the case, Woelfel floats Franklin as a leading possibility.

Woelfel also wrote over the weekend that ESPN analyst and former Blazers exec Tom Penn could be an option to replace departing assistant GM Jeff Weltman, though the Bucks will also likely consider internal options Billy McKinney and Dave Babcock. I'll cast my non-existent vote for bringing in some fresh perspectives from outside the organization. Woelfel also writes that there's increasing buzz that Monta Ellis ends up in Sacramento, which makes perfect sense given they already have a million guards on their roster already.

Nick Van Exel happy to come back home
The more I listen to Nick Van Exel, the more I like him...and the more I think Brandon Jennings is likely to be back next year. I'm not altogether excited about the latter, but if Ellis can find it in his heart to turn down the Bucks' massive extension offers then it can't be all bad, right?

"I hope Brandon comes back because I think he has a lot of talent," Van Exel said. "I think we are similar in a way as far as we both take wild shots.

"Me being a coach, I don't coach that style of play. My thing would be for him to get that shooting percentage up to about 45%, which he can.

"I can envision myself in him. Me as a player, I said, 'Shoot, every shot I take is going in.' And that's how he is. He has that mentality. He has that killer instinct and that's the great thing about him. Now it's just getting a player like him to channel it a little bit and know when to take over.

"It's just a matter of him seeing it and once the game slows down for him, he'll figure it out."

Boeder: Drew on the Draft
So what does Larry Drew think about the draft? Alex talks to the man himself about his own draft past and how he's fitting into his new team's draft planning. Spoiler alert: he knows what Synergy is!

Stein: Israeli PG free-agent sleeper no more
Tracking the Israeli national team seems like one of Marc Stein's favorite pastimes, so it's not surprising that he was the first to report on the Bucks' interest in Maccabi Haifa point guard Gal Mekel a couple weeks back. Now Stein is reporting that the Bucks are hoping to bring Mekel with them to Vegas in July after getting a first look at him last week during their free agent minicamp.

Mekel had an eye-opening workout last week with the Milwaukee Bucks, according to sources close to the situation, and will audition Monday for the Dallas Mavericks. Sources told that the Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, are the latest team to express interest in Mekel, who has made major progress since his days at Wichita State from 2006-2008 and increasingly appeals to NBA teams thanks to his size, ability to read the game and, most of all, his pick-and-roll proficiency.

Worth noting: my favorite Israeli hoops blogger Noam Schiller is still skeptical of the the 6'4" / 200-pounder's NBA credentials, so don't go penciling him into your Bucks' regular season rotation quite yet.