The 2015 NBA Draft is over, and now we start to make sense of it all. Milwaukee made two independent moves last night, and both caught fans a bit by surprise. First, the Bucks sent the #46 overall pick and the Los Angeles Clippers' lottery-protected 2016 first-round pick to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for point guard Greivis Vasquez. Then with the 17th overall selection, Milwaukee drafted UNLV shooting guard Rashad Vaughn.
Both moves defied expectations. While Milwaukee was rumored to be active on the trade market, most of those whispers suggested they might look to move up in the draft and grab a high-level prospect. Instead, Milwaukee spun a pair of draft assets into a player to help them right now. And while Vaughn wasn't an enormous reach by any means (he was pegged at #22 in DraftExpress' final mock), his name wasn't frequently mentioned among Bucks draft targets.
But other names on the board when Milwaukee's pick rolled around were frequently listed among possible draftees, including Arkansas power forward Bobby Portis, Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker, and Georgia State shooting guard R.J. Hunter. We can only speculate on the true motives of John Hammond & CO...and that's exactly what we're gonna do.
Why they passed: Because the general consensus is that ten years from now, even if Portis has a long, productive career, people will look back on him as "just a guy." He's not a "wow" player in any single regard, and while high-energy, versatile players like him are always valuable, they don't move the needle the way stars do. And that slightly-above-average production can hurt by keeping teams in NBA purgatory--i.e. the Bucks don't necessarily need more "guys." They need stars.
Will they regret it? You could make the case that Rashad Vaughn has greater upside than Portis given his youth and scoring ability. But he also lacks the two-way ability that Portis brings right now, and shooting guards can be had on the cheap in free agency. Vaughn could definitely develop into a valuable bench scorer, but he's absolutely a riskier pick than Portis would have been. And for what it's worth, Portis' fit with the Bucks' roster and style of play could hardly have been better.
PLUS HE WENT TO THE BULLS INSTEAD BECAUSE OF COURSE HE WENT TO THE BULLS.
Why they passed: John Hammond may have betrayed his "Best Player Available" mantra a little bit, saying that the fit of a Bucks-Dekker pairing wasn't ideal for either party given the presence of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Or maybe that's just a veiled way of saying they didn't think Dekker was the BPA. In either case, I think it was the right decision. I'm a believer in Dekker's skill, and I think he'll do well in Houston, but he's hard to slot in Milwaukee. Dekker doesn't need the ball in his hands to contribute, but he'll be best with playmakers surrounding him. Milwaukee's best playmakers in the long-term figure (hopefully) to be Giannis and Jabari, the players who would presumably be playing in front of Sam. I just don't think anybody's value would be maximized in such a situation.
Will they regret it? If Dekker becomes a star, of course. Whether that's likely to happen is up for discussion. I don't think Dekker will ultimately develop the on-ball skills needed to achieve true superstardom, but I do think he'll be a good player. Even if "Best Player Available" is a worthy mantra on draft day, I think the concerns over fit were entirely reasonable in this instance. The more likely scenario for future Dekker-yearning is if one of Giannis or Jabari doesn't pan out, in which case sadness and misery will consume us all anyway so who cares.
Why they passed: Because they already have an R.J. Hunter and his name is Khris Middleton? The fit question comes up here as well, though to a lesser extent because it's hard to have too many knockdown shooters. But the difference between Vaughn and Hunter is that Vaughn looks comfortable commanding possession of the ball and creating his own offense everywhere on the court, whereas Hunter relies almost exclusively on his jump shot. Middleton also proved his mettle as a defender last season, and while Hunter's defensive metrics and length bode well for his defense in the NBA, a known quantity is always easier to plan around.
Will the regret it? Probably not. Hunter looks like he could be a solid player, but there are guys like him in every draft. It's also fair to be a bit concerned about a supposedly elite shooter who didn't actually shoot that well in college, and Hunter has other offensive limitations. Again, he might be a slightly safer pick than Vaughn because he seems better suited to a complementary role, but if both guys would have been asked to function as go-to scorers on a second unit, Vaughn may be the superior option.