clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2015 NBA Draft Preview: Bobby Portis, Kevon Looney among big men who could be in play for Bucks

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks' desire for another big man has been a recurring theme of the draft rumormill over the past six weeks, and the departure of Ersan Ilyasova two weeks ago has only intensified speculation that the Bucks will look to make at least one addition to their frontline this summer.

Of course, much of the recent talk has revolved lately around Milwaukee's purported interest in free agent centers Tyson Chandler and Brook Lopez, though the Bucks' first chance to add depth to the front line will come during Thursday night's NBA Draft. Following up on our previous primer and focus on point guards, below you'll find a cheat sheet for every big man the Bucks' might consider drafting in the first round. Note that Myles Turner and Frank Kaminsky are all but guaranteed to be gone by the time the Bucks currently project to pick at #17, though in the interest of covering our bases we'll keep them in the discussion as well -- you know, just in case everyone's wildest dream comes true and the Bucks actually manage to trade up in the draft.

Myles Turner

Turner's combination of defensive instincts and shooting touch could make him the unicorn of this draft: a rim-protecting defensive anchor with the perimeter skills to stretch defenses out to three point range. Those perimeter abilities proved something of a double-edged sword for Turner as a freshman; he had the highest three point rate of any big man in our sample, but only converted a subpar 27% from deep. Though he often played power forward for a big Texas team, Turner blocked more shots and pulled down more defensive rebounds per minute than anyone else in our sample, and he trailed only Towns in total rebounds per minute. That's in spite of an awkward running style that has led many to question whether he's athletic enough to be a top-ten pick.


Turner's become a late-lottery favorite of Bucks fans because he projects to do the three things Milwaukee theoretically most wants in a big man: shooting, rebounding and rim protection. Presumptive #1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns is the only other guy in this draftvwho can claim to have that combination going for him, and while Turner might not be the athlete or complete package to become an all-star, his combination of skill, size and youth still leave him plenty of upside.

Frank Kaminsky

Kaminsky was nothing short of phenomenal last season, piling up the gaudiest offensive stats of anyone in our sample and racking up virtually every player of the year award en route to leading Wisconsin to the NCAA championship game. From a pure productivity standpoint, he's one of the best college bigs we've seen in the past decade, though his age and lack of elite physical tools figure to put him into the mid-to-late lottery.

By now you probably know what makes Kaminsky so dangerous, but it's worth reiterating: No big man in the draft is a better perimeter shooter (41.5%), and with advanced ball-handling skills and a full bag of moves and counters in the post, Kaminsky was also a terror as both a post and face-up guy. He had the highest assist rate of anyone in our sample (3.3/40) while also maintaining one of the lowest turnover rates, further reflecting his combination skill and high IQ. Defensively he was middle-of-the-pack in terms of shot-blocking, though he quietly ranked second in defensive rebounds per minute and might have been more impactful had he not been so focused on avoiding foul trouble.


Kaminsky's advanced skill level should make him capable of at least a Kelly Olynyk-type role as a quality rotation 4/5, and he could be a fair bit better if he continues to add strength and finds the right situation. That would be especially intriguing for a team short on floor stretchers like the Bucks, who could put Kaminsky to good use as a perimeter shooter and high-post passer next to the likes of Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Moreover, while he's not the elite rim protector that Bucks fans might want in a starting center, his mobility and smarts should make him at least a passable defender at the big spots, especially if he's not having to guard the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan.

Bobby Portis

Portis has become a popular option for the Bucks thanks to his combination of high post skill, two-way motor and defensive versatility. Of all the guys who could slip to 17, he's also probably the one most capable of sliding in immediately and providing minutes, due in no small part to the fact that he's seemingly big enough (6'10.5" in shoes, 7'2" wingspan, 246 pounds) to defend both fours and a fair number of fives. Offensively he makes up for his lack of vertical explosion with good finishing, a willingness to crash the boards and some promising skill out to the high post; that versatility is important because he's not likely to be more than a complementary scorer.

The downside for Portis is in large part his lack of obvious upside. Though he's still on the young side (he turned 20 in February), he's not a phenomenal athlete, and his somewhat awkward stroke may not readily stretch out to NBA three point range. His advanced projections perhaps fittingly range from mediocre to solid, though still suggesting that he's worthy of a late lottery selection. None of those things doom him as a prospect of course, but for better or worse he's not the kind of boom-bust type that many people might like to gamble on.


It's easy to see Portis sliding into the Bucks' big rotation as a rookie; Arkansas' pressuring defense was an ideal training ground for the sort of switching, pressuring scheme he'd be asked to play under Jason Kidd, and on paper the Bucks really don't have a versatile 4-5 hybrid like Portis currently in their rotation. Offensively he's more dangerous from the elbows than any of the Bucks' current centers, and defensively he's stronger than anyone the Bucks might currently project as a power forward. At 17 his perceived lack of upside is also less of a worry -- finding a high-floor guy at that stage doesn't feel as unambitious as it would a half dozen slots earlier, and it certainly seems like Portis' energy and work ethic will make him more likely to achieve whatever his ceiling might be. Still, the odds of Portis even lasting to 17 are looking increasingly unlikely. While most mocks suggest the Bucks are his floor, he's become an increasingly popular option for the Suns (13), Hawks (15) and Celtics (16).

Trey Lyles

Statistically, Lyles is easily the least impressive of the big men vying for first round status. He didn't score much, he collected the fewest rebounds (9.2/40p) and blocks (0.8/40p) of anyone in our sample, and his shot distribution suggested a guy who tried to shoot threes (21% of his shots were threes) but couldn't actually make any (just 13.8% from deep). "Deuce" might be a more apt nickname at this point, eh?

It's not surprising then that most projection models take a rather pessimistic view of his NBA future, though the story goes that Lyles also has the best alibi of anyone in our sample. Because he frequently played out of position while sharing the court with lottery prospects Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, Lyles' had a more understandable penchant for drifting outside, which also provides some explanation for his underwhelming performance as a rebounder and shot-blocker. Still, scouts have always pegged Lyles as an unimpressive defender, and his lack of steals and blocks at UK are consistent with his prior performance in high school and internationally.

The upside? Well, the tape also reveals a smooth (if not explosive) big with the ability to shoot, put it on the floor and make plays for others off the catch, a skillset rarely found in a guy Lyles' size. Lyles is thus something of a tradeoff guy -- perhaps not physical enough to ever be a full-time center and unlikely to ever be better than average defensively, but smart and skilled enough to be a major weapon from the high post.


All those excuses make projecting Lyles a bit of a chore from a statistical standpoint, though it's not without reason that he's a considered a lock for the top-20. For everything he didn't show statistically last year, he's also got decent-but-not-great size for a 4/5, solid athleticism and encouraging fluidity, good skill level for a big, and he's Canadian...hey, that's cool right? He also still has plenty of time to get better (turning 20 in November), though we probably know enough to have concerns about his two-way upside. That matters for a Bucks team which figures to have more defensively versatile options on the board at 17, though his skill level would also be a welcome addition to the Bucks' big men ranks. As for the odds of him landing in Milwaukee? Well, it's worth noting that Lyles wasn't interviewed in Chicago and didn't workout for the Bucks in Milwaukee either. Thus, the Bucks are either disinterested in Lyles...or EXTREMELY INTERESTED IN LYLES. I'll guess the former, but nothing would surprise me if Portis is off the board.

Kevon Looney

Just a year removed from a standout career at Milwaukee Hamilton, Looney is on the younger and rawer end of the prospect spectrum. Though he's not a phenomenal athlete, the 19-year-old former UCLA star has the sort of freaky frame (7'3.5" wingspan) and defensive versatility that would seem to fit well with the Bucks' switching defense, though at 6'9.25" in shoes and 222 pounds he's more of a 4/3 than someone you'd expect to see bodying centers anytime soon.

Offensively Looney is much more of a work in progress. Starting with the bad news, he had the second-lowest scoring rate (14.3/40p), worst finishing rim-finishing rate (61.7%) and lowest true shooting percentage (53.4%) of anyone in our big man sample. That's not good. And despite some really encouraging perimeter shooting numbers as a freshman (41.5% from deep), he also showed relatively poor touch at the line (62%) and on non-rim two point shots, which might make us a bit skeptical of his surprising (and lower volume) touch from deep. Still, his combination of age and productivity mean there's a glass half full with Looney, and it's one that most advanced models suggest will grow fuller in time. He has the ability to handle the ball better than most NBA power forwards, he's a terrific offensive rebounder, and he looks like a guy who could eventually be able to stretch his shot out to the NBA three point line.


Looney reportedly hasn't wowed in workouts, but his youth, length, productivity and likelihood of being available at #17 have made him a fairly popular option for the Bucks in mock drafts. There may also be a bit of a home-town factor in that given he's a local kid, though I doubt the Bucks consider that more than a nice PR selling point. Instead, he'd be more of a long-term project to add to the Bucks' swelling ranks of combo forwards, which is both good (he might be another versatile player capable of plugging into the Bucks' defensive system) and bad (he'd project to share minutes with the likes of Jabari, Giannis and Damien Inglis).

Montrezl Harrell

Harrell rose to prominence as a key member of Louisville's 2014 title team, and in theory he's the sort of tough, athletic finisher and rebounder that every team would like to have somewhere in their rotation. Sporting a monstrous 7'4.25" wingspan and a quick second jump, Harrell plays above the rim despite carrying 253 pounds on his 6'7" (barefoot) frame; his absurd 81% rim finishing rate led all players in our sample, and only Jahlil Okafor (66.4%) shot better inside the arc than Harrell (60.2%). If you want a big guy who will throw down lobs, hurt the rim on putbacks, and bear more than a passing resemblance to Thanos from the Avengers movie, Harrell might well be your guy.

Unfortunately, three years in the college hoops spotlight means Harrell's limitations are also quite clear. Despite his reputation, he didn't stand out in our sample as either an offensive or defensive rebounder, and despite his length he's not much of a shot-blocker (1.3 blocks/40p). Add those defensive limitations to his limited offensive skillset, and you have a guy most likely destined to be a role player -- albeit it a potentially high-energy one. Analytical models show a similarly mixed bag.


Harrell probably isn't skilled enough to be a major impact player, but he might be the strongest guy in the Bucks' range and every team can use a little bit of nasty. Ultimately his upside is probably more as an energy bench guy, especially given that his lack of perimeter skills will make it difficult to pair him with another non-floor spacer at center.

Christian Wood

Though the mock draft consensus has seemingly soured on him since Chicago, Wood remains one of the weirder, more intriguing options in the latter half of the first round. After playing just 13 minutes per game as a freshman for UNLV, Wood made huge strides as a sophomore, averaging nearly 16 points, 10 boards and three blocks per game. Despite a wiry frame carrying just 216 pounds, Wood used his tremendous length (7'3.25" wingspan) and athleticism to rank among the best defensive rebounders and shot-blockers in our sample.

Where things get particularly intriguing is on the offensive end, where Wood has shown the raw materials of a strong all around skillset. He moves well in transition, handles it well for a big man, can finish at the rim, and has shown at least some ability to step outside and be a threat with his jump shot. Like seemingly all UNLV guys he's attracted questions as to whether he's having to play catch-up in the "knowing how to play" department, though in all honesty I'm not sure even those concerns are good explanations for why he's slipped to the second round in a number of mocks. Whoever drafts him will need to teach him to play to a certain extent, though he's a full year younger than most sophomores and was very productive for a guy who is still prone to poor decision making.


Wood has referenced Giannis Antetokounmpo as a guy he's started to model his game after, and it makes a fair bit of sense (beyond just the PR benefits). To be clear, Wood doesn't seem to handle the ball like Giannis nor does he have the same natural feel for the game, so don't get too carried away. There's enough risk in his game that many decision-makers probably see more Anthony Randolph than anything else, and he wouldn't be the first long, athletic, skilled guy to fall flat on his face at the next level. In other words, within five years he could well be on his fourth team...or making us all wonder how he possibly slipped so far.

Bottom line: if Wood's head can catch up to his raw skills he's an easy guy to gamble on later in the first round. Advanced stat projections peg him as late lottery-worthy, though his lack of buzz since Chicago suggests teams probably haven't been too impressed by his interviews and workouts to date. Whether the Bucks would be among the teams interested in him at 17 is debatable; he fits their predilection for long guys with two-way potential, and for that reason alone I was glad to hear that he'd be working out. But no one seems to think he's a likely pick in the top 20, so even if he were someone the Bucks liked they'd probably be better off trading down to nab him.