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Brew Hoop Mailbag - Giannis, Knight, and a team with no fight

How will Giannis Antetokounmpo's offense evolve? What is Brandon Knight's future position? Does Gary Neal just paint pupils on his eyelids and sleep on the bench?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks are 8-36, dead last in the NBA, and often look like they're just going through the motions on the court. They're also in the driver's seat for top odds in the NBA Draft lottery and they've got an electrifying rookie on the roster. So it's a mixed bag. Some fans are mad, fed up, and making their frustrations known. Others are glad that a significant rebuild now seems assured and more than happy to take some lumps on the way. Thankfully, interest is still high here at Brew Hoop, high enough to fill my inbox and Twitter feed with questions! Let's get started.

Sorry if your question isn't answered. Many people asked similar questions so not all are included. There will hopefully be many more mailbags with plenty of opportunities to submit questions.

@RyanKilde: I like Giannis Antetokounmpo's vision, passing, and instincts for the game, but will he ever be able to shoot?

That's a pretty critical question as it relates to Giannis' superstar potential, since wings typically have to be able to knock down jumpers to reach such a level. His three-point shooting hovered in the low/mid-30% range in Greece, and most scouts say his form is solid. Shooting is something that most players improve on with age, so hopefully Giannis will at least match those numbers with more NBA experience.

Zane: It's fun to talk about who the Bucks may draft in the early 1st round, but what about some of the other players who are projected to fall somewhere in the late 1st/early 2nd that we may have a shot at? Zach LaVine's stock has dropped, and what about Aaron Craft as a much-needed leader for our young team?

Lots of people asked about the Bucks going after another 1st round pick. Getting another lottery pick seems highly unlikely, and would probably require parting with a player like John Henson at the very least. It's possible they could swap a veteran or some of the numerous 2nd-round picks for a late 1st, but teams have gotten wise to the big value of cost-controlled young players. It's possible, but don't expect anybody to just give away even a late pick.

DraftExpress's latest mock has LaVine going 29th overall, and there's some talented guys in the early 2nd as well. Mitch McGary and Spencer Dinwiddle were both projected as mid-first picks, but have fallen due to injury. If they make full recoveries they could be steals in the 2nd round. Then there are the productive-if-unsexy guys like Russ Smith and, yes, even Aaron Craft. Regarding Craft, he's as tenacious an on-ball defender as you'll see in college basketball, but I'm of the opinion that point guard defense is too unimportant to make up for Craft's complete lack of offensive production.

David: Do you think the NBA will demand the Bucks build or move?

They basically already have, even if relocation hasn't been explicitly stated as a possible consequence if the Bucks' arena issue isn't addressed. When push comes to shove, I think an arena deal will get done because Kohl still has a lot of goodwill in Wisconsin, and I think he'll spin an eventual sale of the team (and generous donation to the cause) into significant positive energy. Taxes can be pushed through regardless of public opposition, and there are financing options that don't rely as heavily on public money. I'm confident, perhaps foolishly, that if pressure builds on the city, people will choose to keep professional basketball in the state.

@Stevevonhorn: Do you think Brandon Knight will ever become an above-average starter (PG/SG/Whatever)? Why, or why not?

Alex: Do you think Brandon Knight is a point guard, or shooting guard, or something in between? Ideally, how do you think he fits into a good team?

To Steve's question: Maaaaybeeee. Until recently I probably would have said no, but he's grown on me throughout the year. I mean, many of the tools are there. He's athletic, has good size (for a PG, not necessarily SG), shoots 3s pretty well and can get to the rim. You can make a pretty good guard out of those ingredients. He's still not very efficient, but it's obvious the guy desperately needs help. I'd really like to see him play with a good scoring wing player who could take some of the pressure off.

As for his eventual position, the nice thing is I'm not sure it's really important. Get enough talent at the other positions and the nominal point guard basically just has to be able to dribble and maybe make some shots. If I had to choose though, I'd say point guard, simply because I think it's more likely he'll improve his skills for that position than suddenly grow three to four inches and become a viable SG/SF defender. But his limitations (so-so vision in the half-court, turnover problems) lead me to believe that if he's going to be a PG, it's going to be a ball-dominant 2nd-unit guy. Not to say he's going to be a bench gunner, but I just don't think his skills will be maximized if his primary focus is creating good, efficient shots for other players.

@marcrumpff: Lots of talk on trading Ersan. With Henson and Sanders proving they can't play together, isn't Ersan an asset, for now at least?

It's too early to say Sanders and Henson have proven they can't play together. They've only played 52 total minutes together, and at times have actually looked pretty good, particularly (and predictably) on defense. If we knew for sure the pairing didn't work, then Ersan could still be an important piece for the Bucks, but right now nothing works for the Bucks, so it's hard to use positive team impact as justification for keeping Ersan. If Milwaukee's timeline resets with a rebuild, Ersan might not line up with the rest of the roster. So it's important for the Bucks to figure out the long-term viability of Sanders and Henson, since that has implications for so many other roster decisions.

@CanadaBucks: If Detroit offered Charlie Villanueva straight up for Ersan, do you take it right now?

No, I wouldn't do that. He's my thing with Ersan: his career 2pt/3pt percentages are 47.0/36.8. He's currently shooting 41.9/24.7, and people are acting like this is his true talent level. The guy was one of the most accurate 3pt shooters in the NBA the last two seasons, and now all of a sudden he's obviously garbage? Even if he's not actually as good as he was the last two years, he's also not this bad. Yes, Ersan is a mess right now, but his biggest problem is that he just shoots too damn much on a team with absolutely no hope on offense. I think better days are ahead and I'm not in a big rush to dump him for just an expiring contract.

I got a lot of other questions about trades and such, too many to address individually. For the record, if I had to bet on individual guys being dealt, I'd bet on the following players: Luke Ridnour, Gary Neal, Ekpe Udoh. None of those guys are returning a first-round pick in any reasonable package unless the Bucks take on salary in exchange. I don't think anybody else is particularly likely to be moved, but very little would shock me at this point.

@joelsar32: I know expectations are low but is Drew's job safe? Shouldn't he have to beat a team over .500 or win back-to-back games?

@bwpngold: Folks have been highly critical of Larry Drew. Can John Hammond really fire Larry Drew at season end?

It's probably not fair to place heavy blame on Larry Drew for the team's terrible record. This is just a terrible team. But it's absolutely fair to criticize him for his team's frequently low energy, lack of definitive strategy, and crapshoot player rotations. Drew has been handed an extremely difficult job, but he hasn't handled it particularly well either.

Still, he's not getting fired during this season and probably not this summer either, unless John Hammond leaves (which I also think is unlikely). I think he'll be given at least one more season to try to get things back on track, and then the Bucks will reassess things after that. Question is, even if things get better, how far can we expect Drew to lead this team?

@djdroop262: Am I wrong to feel the Bucks front office were insulting my intelligence saying they expected to be in the playoffs with Zaza and Del3no?

It's pretty crazy at this point to think this team had serious designs on competing for the playoffs. I mean, the East is an absolute disaster, and the Bucks are TEN GAMES BACK of the final playoff spot. But in fairness to the folks in charge, most of us thought the Bucks would be right in the middle of the pack as usual, chasing a low playoff seed with a win total in the mid/upper-30s. But a lot of stuff has happened that was totally unreasonable to expect. O.J. Mayo has only started about half of Milwaukee's games. Larry Sanders got in a fight and missed a big chunk of time. Every single veteran fell down a long flight of stairs or something. It wasn't supposed to be this bad! I will say that, while people are still rightfully upset at how poorly this roster/season was put together, the Bucks seem to have accepted their fate and are (mostly) acting and speaking as such.

@WhalesLarry: What's Giannis' eventual contract extension looking like? Anyone cutting into his potential $$$?

The only player under contract for 2017/2018 when Giannis' maximum contract extension kicks in is Larry Sanders, who will be in the final year of his four-year, $44 million extension. What? The Bucks haven't signed Giannis to a max extension yet? What are they waiting for?!?

Tanner: Let's say we plotted a "2013-2014 Expectations" spectrum scale. One end is "Exceeding", the other end is "Failing" and in the middle we have "Meeting." Based on this spectrum graph, who's the biggest outlier on the "Exceeding" side? Who's the biggest outlier on the (assumedly very crowded) "Failing" side? Is there any player that's truly neutral and meeting the exact expectations we had planned for them?

Fun question. Let's graph it out!


Giannis has obviously blown away expectations: most people predicted he'd barely be a functional player in his rookie season, not a must-see tornado of awesome. Even if his production doesn't blow anyone away, he's clearly far more NBA-ready than we thought. Wolters and Raduljica have also far exceed expectations, but neither has inspired wondrous daydreaming of the future the way Giannis has.

Knight, Middleton, and Henson have all been pleasant surprises. Henson is a bit lower on the spectrum because we expected him to improve this year, but he's made big strides on defense in particular.

Udoh is the Man of Legend who exactly meets expectations: he's a guy who does stuff when other guys are unavailable to do stuff. He probably won't (and shouldn't) be on the team in a month.

Ridnour, Neal, and Pachulia have mildly disappointed, but not much was expected of them anyway.

Mayo and Butler have mostly been awful, though both still have useful elements to their games. Sanders is still defending at a high level, as expected, but his other stats have slipped and he GOT IN A BAR FIGHT.

Ilyasova is a mess. Many predicted his role would be reduced as Henson's grew, but few expected him to be so ineffective when he did play.