Among the many interesting nuggets from Zach Lowe's terrific Grantland piece on the Bucks this week was this line from GM John Hammond:
"You either sell winning or you sell hope, and we’re selling hope," Hammond says. "We all get caught up in the moment. When you’re in the trenches, like the players and coaches, you want to win every game. We want to win, but everyone understands the young guys need the opportunity to play."
The upside for Milwaukee is that the young guys are indeed getting opportunities, and those opportunities are providing plenty of hope for the Bucks to sell. A pair of recent rankings of the league's best young players would seem to agree: ESPN's annual "Top 25 Under 25" ranked Giannis Antetokounmpo (9th), Brandon Knight (20th) and Jabari Parker (25th) all in the top 25, while Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders named Parker (#3) and Antetokounmpo (#5) on his list of the NBA's top ten players 23 and under. The Bucks and Jazz were the only teams with three players on ESPN's list and two in Duncan's top ten.
These types of lists are by definition highly subjective and speculative, so we could spend all day debating them (hey, that's why we have that comments section, right?). The criteria for the ESPN list was production over the next "several" seasons (three-year WARP projections are provided), so it's not exactly a referendum on long term potential. If it was you'd certainly expect to see someone like Parker rated more favorably, though the fact that Jabari was rated below fellow rookies Julius Randle and Exum among others struck me as a bit of a head-scratcher. If a bunch of smart basketball people would rather have Randle than Parker that's news to me, though that's true of any number of players ranked ahead of Parker on the ESPN list.
Perhaps more interesting is Knight not only making the ESPN list, but also being ranked ahead of Parker. Good luck finding a Bucks fan on board with that view. Still, it's a nice statement about the strides Knight has made over the past year; needless to say he was nowhere to be found on the 2013 version of ESPN's rankings, which featured Giannis at #18 and John Henson (remember him?) at #25.
As always, let us know in the comments what you think. Who was ranked too high or low in each list? Is there anyone out there who views Knight as a better prospect than Parker? And how fantastic is it that we can be talking about this to begin with?