With a top four pick guaranteed in the upcoming NBA Draft, and a good chance at selecting in the top three, the Milwaukee Bucks should just about have their pick of the elite prospects in this year's class. For a team as terrible as Milwaukee was this past season, any talented young player is bound to have an impact sooner than later. In fact, teams often get themselves into trouble by focusing too much on team needs instead of prioritizing overall talent level or long-term value.
But what if we turn that question on its head a bit? What if, instead of thinking about the Bucks needs in isolation, we think about what the top prospects could provide to the Bucks and how much Milwaukee needs them? That way we're still coloring our decision with a bit of team context (a nice safe, small amount) while letting the abilities of the players themselves drive the process. Let's take a look.
What does he bring? All the size and athleticism a team could want in an elite wing prospect. He's got good height for the position (great height if he primarily plays SG) and can jump right out of the gym. His long wingspan and quick feet give him the tools to be a lockdown perimeter defender, when the effort is there. He's got decent range on his jumper and should develop into a solid shooter, but scouts point to his explosiveness as the skill that could truly set him apart in the NBA.
How bad do the Bucks need him? The Bucks 2013-2014 roster left plenty to be desired when it came to perimeter defense, so inserting a strong individual defender could be a big boost. They could also use another injection of athleticism on the wings (Chris Wright can only do so much, and Giannis Antetokounmpo evokes "smoothness" more than athleticism), like pretty much every team. If there's a problem, it might be the extent to which Milwaukee could utilize Wiggins' talents. Unless Ersan Ilyasova is raining threes, the Bucks can play a cramped style of basketball, and Wiggins doesn't yet possess the shot-creating ability Milwaukee desperately needs (yet being an important qualifier).
What does he bring? Polish and skill. An NBA-ready body and style of play. A great locker room presence and coachability. All things Milwaukee could definitely use. Parker might be the player most capable of instantly improving the fortunes of the club that drafts him, which may or may not hold some allure to Milwaukee's new owners. But the most enticing thing Parker brings to the table is his shot creation. He's got the sort of "something from nothing" skill that separates the elite players from the rabble.
How bad do the Bucks need him? So so so much. Milwaukee put up some strong offensive numbers in the second half of last season, but it was painfully obvious that the Bucks need more guys who can initiate sets and create decent shots for teammates. Parker is a guy who can do that. He'd take a ton of pressure off Milwaukee's primary ball handlers, allowing everybody to better fill the roles they can excel in. Brandon Knight could become more of a shooter. Giannis could become more of a playmaker. And Ilyasova could be more of a trade chip.
What does he bring? Interior defense, inside scoring. Embiid's versatility and balanced game make him a rare big man prospect. His refined game belies his lack of experience and makes people dream about what he could become in a few years. Embiid's got the measureables to go with it, a legitimate seven-footer with great length. But he's already given folks a scare with a back injury that ended his college career early, though there hasn't been much to indicate the ailment will linger.
How bad do the Bucks need him? Opinions will vary. With Larry Sanders' $44 million contract extension kicking in this summer, it's tough to rationalize casting him aside for a freshly-drafted replacement, especially when Sanders' defensive metrics continue to look so good. But after the year he just had, it's fair to wonder about Larry's future, and Embiid likely offers much greater two-way potential than Sanders in the long term. And you know what they say: you can never have enough size.
What does he bring? More size, explosiveness, and a unique style of play. Exum isn't much of a shooter, which has derailed plenty of otherwise talented players, but his ability to make creative plays off the dribble would be a welcome addition to a Bucks squad prone to stagnation. He can get to the rim with ease and create shots for his teammates thanks to strong ball skills and versatility.
How bad do the Bucks need him? Brandon Knight's improvement and the surprisingly strong play of Nate Wolters give Milwaukee a decent base at the guard positions, but Exum is a whole different animal. He could presumably play with either guy and give the Bucks more size in the backcourt. The shooting troubles are worrisome--remember that Wolters' effectiveness saw a big boost when he started hitting threes--but he'll have every opportunity to work through them. And don't overlook the "mystery" factor that comes with drafting an international player who hasn't been picked apart, for better or worse.
What does he bring? Assuming Randle declares for the draft, he'll have more college success on his resume than any other top prospect, having put together a fantastic run to the NCAA Championship with his Kentucky Wildcats. Randle was a nightly double-double threat who simply overpowered weaker defenders, and while he'll face much tougher opponents in the pros, don't think he's going to plateau as soon as he enters the league either. Randle was also one of the best rebounders in the country and got to the free-throw line a ton while hitting a solid 70%.
How bad do the Bucks need him? Rebounding was one of the Bucks' most frequently overlooked weaknesses. Milwaukee was the second-worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA, and all those second-chances really added up for opponents. Randle is the sort of guy Milwaukee could slot in and see instant improvement. He also provides an inside scoring punch that could take some pressure of Milwaukee's perimeter creators, a true back-to-the-basket player who offers some diversification to the offense. Defensively he's a bit of a question mark, but the same could be said of nearly every top prospect, and most of them aren't as far along offensively as Randle.