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Bucks GM John Hammond talks Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo, wait for Larry Sanders extension continues

The Bucks appear increasingly ready to live with the on-court consequences of a largely unproven, youthful squad.

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WSSP | Bucks' GM John Hammond Joins Chuck and Wickett (mp3)
We heard John Hammond's take on the new-look Bucks earlier this week at the Brandon Knight/Khris Middleton presser, and his appearance on 1250 WSSP's morning show with Mike Wickett and Chuck Freimund later in the week offered some further hints at how the Bucks currently view their roster--and their future. Some nuggets:

  • Your starting five right now is (unsurprisingly) Knight, O.J. Mayo, Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders. There have been plenty of questions about Knight's starting point guard credentials after two mediocre seasons in Detroit, but Hammond has been adamant this week that Knight is his guy at the point (...for now).
  • Meanwhile, the Bucks realize their lack of depth/talent at small forward is an issue, but Hammond left little doubt that he views Delfino as his starter until something changes. As discussed previously, a small-forward deal involving Ekpe Udoh would be the optimal way to rebalance the roster as it currently stands, but it doesn't seem like there's anything imminent on that front.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is heading to long-time NBA assistant Tim Grgurich's camp in Las Vegas this week, which will mark his first extended exposure to NBA talent and coaching. The Bucks have a history with the camp, having sent Sanders there as a rookie in 2010 and John Henson and Doron Lamb last year.
  • Here's Hammond on the new look of his team:
    "I think we're in a good spot. I love our youth, I love the youth that we have. I love the fact that we/ve got Brandon Knight at the one at 21-years-old, O.J. Mayo at 25, we've got John Henson at 22, we've got Larry Sanders at 24 years old, and I keep on talking about that old crusty veteran that we have in Ersan Ilyasova that just turned 26 a couple months ago, one of the best stretch fours in the league, along with other pieces like Ekpe Udoh..."

    "Most importantly I like our youth, and we talked about that yesterday, I think we need to move forward with the youth and start talking about building a championship-caliber team. And I think for us to do that, as I said yesterday, we know what's going to have to happen. Somebody's gotta step up, somebody's gotta step up in this group and become an all-star.

    "And the one guy you notice I didn't mention is Giannis Adetokunbo. And Giannis is 18 years old, and you know could Giannis be that guy someday? I hate to put that kind of pressure and talk about that with a young kid like that, but I know he wants it, I know he wants to be great. I know Brandon Knight wants it, I think Larry Sanders wants it, a guy like John Henson...I think they have the potential to do special things in this league, and most importantly they really want to win and they'll sacrifice what it takes to win as a team.
  • As for Antetokounmpo's playing time next season, Hammond still hopes to see the 18-year-old on the court, but he's not exactly making any guarantees:
    "We want to expose him but not overexpose him. Anytime that Larry Drew can find a way to get him on the floor, sneak in minutes for him, get him out there but not put him in too uncomfortable a position early on. But we'll see how things go in training camp, how things go in exhibition season, really see what he's capable of doing. "
  • On Antetokounmpo's potential physical growth:
    "They looked at his growth plates on his physical, and they said with the makeup of his body and where he's at right now, our docs think he can grow another inch or two fairly easily."

While I don't doubt that the Bucks would like to once again compete for a playoff spot again next year, it does seem significant that the once-typical talk of making the playoffs this year has been replaced with vaguer notions of contending for a championship...sometime. In that sense, Hammond's general tone reiterated the shift that we first heard from the Bucks' GM on Tuesday, one that most of us have been hoping to hear for some time.

It's not that the Bucks will set out to lose (a la Philly), but it increasingly seems as though they're OK with gambling on their young talent and seeing where it takes them. If the Bucks' youngsters fall flat, that means a high lottery pick in the stacked 2014 draft. And if they deliver, another run at one of the final three playoff spots in the East seems likely. Either outcome could be seen as a glass half full--an improvement on the emptiness of April, but nothing worthy of celebration just yet.

Twitter | Sanders switches agents

Sanders' recent switch from Miller (who also reps Serge Ibaka, Ersan Ilyasova, Jeff Teague, and Carlos Delfino among others) to Fegan (Dwight Howard, Amar'e Stoudemire, Nene, DeMarcus Cousins, Drew Gooden) is interesting at a minimum because of its timing--you know, right before Sanders is about to sign his ever-important big extension. I won't bother to speculate what triggered the move, but I will say that Fegan (unfortunately) has more overpaid clients than Miller.

Speaking of Sanders, as we wait for his apparently inevitable extension to be finalized, I'll peg the over/under on his extension at $12 million per year. That's not cheap, but unfortunately premium interior defenders don't come cheap. Up-and-coming young centers have made a habit of nabbing at least $10 million per season in recent years:

  • Joakim Noah: five years, $60 million (Oct 2010)
  • Marc Gasol: four years, $58 million (Dec 2011)
  • Roy Hibbert: four years, $58 million (Jul 2012)
  • Serge Ibaka: four years, $49 million (Aug 2012)
  • JaVale McGee: four years, $44 million (Jul 2012)
  • DeAndre Jordan: four years, $43 million (Dec 2011)
  • Tiago Splitter: four years, $36 million (Jul 2013)
  • Omer Asik: three years, $25 million (Jul 2012)
Value-wise, Sanders would seem to slot in above the McGee/Jordan cluster (more consistent and better defensively) but below the Gasol/Hibbert grouping (who bring much more to the table offensively). Ibaka is certainly more talented offensively, but slightly less capable defensively (and more of a PF at that) and thus he seems like the most likely comparable in terms of contract-size.

Of course, this isn't just about the money for either side, which is precisely why a deal is so likely. Inking Sanders to a big-money extension is the obvious final step in Sanders' 12-month evolution from Milwaukee's foul-prone fan-favorite to best player and face of the franchise. And though not a true franchise player, he exists at the uncommon intersection of youth, productivity and likability. Consider him the best remedy to Swag Twin fatigue.

Woelfel | Knight anxious to show off his abilities
Gery Woelfel's latest is mostly focused on Knight's hopes of making a leap next season in his new digs, but he also has a bit on the Bucks' attempts to complete their coaching staff.

Drew wouldn’t reveal the name of the individual or the names of anyone he has interviewed for the position. The Journal Times has learned, though, that Drew has interviewed Jim Cleamons, who has extensive coaching experience including being Phil Jackson’s assistant with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.

Drew has also interviewed Dean Demopoulos, another respected longtime coach, who most recently assisted Vinny Del Negro with the Los Angeles Clippers.

A long-time assistant of Phil Jackson in both Chicago and L.A., Cleamons had a cup of coffee coaching the Mavs in 96/97 but has spent the last couple seasons coaching in China.

Meanwhile, Demopoulos has been mentioned as a possible head coaching candidate for some time, but he was not expected to return to the Clippers even before Vinny Del Negro got the axe. Prior to L.A., Demopolous was a long-time lead assistant in Portland and Seattle under Nate McMillan and spent 17 years assisting John Chaney at Temple.

Quick Hitters:

  • Getty | Rookie picture time!  Now if only they could give poor Nate Wolters a number.
  • | Alex Boeder's Q&A series with Larry Drew shifts their attention to Bucks head coach's NBA playing days.
  • TrueHoop | Over at the rookie photoshoot, Henry Abbott gives Giannis, Wolters and other recent picks a rookie of the year history quiz. (part 2)
  • | For over a decade the Bucks played on art: the Mecca floor. On August 23, there's a very cool event at US Cellular Arena (aka the Mecca) featuring the famed floor designed by renowned pop artist Robert Indiana.
  • Bucksketball | Ian Segovia delivers the best terrible schedule analysis ever.