The Milwaukee Bucks control three picks in the 2016 NBA Draft, scheduled for June 23rd in Brooklyn, NY. With the 10th overall pick, there feels like a number of different possible directions to go, but don't you forget about the two second rounders (36th and 38th overall). Even if the Bucks don't want them, someone else will!
Holding off on addressing "who" for the moment, the Brew Hoop Staff wanted to first discuss the "what" and "how" as we get ourselves ready for the draft. Every team comes into the draft with a strategy, and hopefully has a few contingency plans prepared if things go nuts (which they frequently do!). So what should the Bucks' strategy be?
How do you feel about trading up or down in the draft?
Eric N: The Bucks shouldn’t trade up unless it is for Simmons or Ingram. The Bucks likely can’t get #1 or #2 without giving one of the Big Three. Therefore, the Bucks shouldn’t trade up. I’m sure we’ll have more on this going forward, but there is probably a drop to a third tier in draft prospects after eight. Once you get to nine, I think you start to get into an area with a number of players whose attractiveness is completely dependent on your own preferences as a drafter. I would say that group of players probably extends to around 18. I would think it would be best to be at ten and have your choice of those eight to ten prospects, but would understand trading down if you think you can still get "your" guy at the bottom part of that tier.
Mitchell: I agree with a lot of what Eric said; regardless of whether a draft class is "strong" or "weak", there’s usually a top tier of players (usually between 1-3, considered the "can’t miss" prospects of the draft), a second tier of players who aren’t considered top prospects for one reason or another, and then the third tier of guys who are definitely valuable additions, but have one flaw or another keeping them from rising any higher. Since there’s no guarantee that Simmons and Ingram are better than any of the Bucks’ current Big Three, what’s the point of moving up for one of them? And of the teams picking between 3 and 9, which of them are willing to take anything less that the Bucks can offer than Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton, or Giannis Antetokounmpo for their pick? Trading up is a fool’s errand, given where the Bucks are at, and trading down would be nearly as foolish. Just take the guy you like the best at 10 and be done with it!
Eric B: Simply put, I don’t like trading down out of the top 10. The Bucks did well the last time they did it with Tobias, but it’s just not a strategy I understand from their position. I agree with Eric about the target of trading up, but I just don’t find it really possible. "Hey other team? We’d like to take the player at your spot. We like him. You shouldn’t like him or take him, though. Only us. Let us move up," is a tougher pitch than I think a lot of people understand. Really any scenario where the Bucks trade up seems like they’d sacrifice significant value for a chance at someone being really good, and I’m not thrilled about the idea of that. I vote to stay put. Ten is a good-not-great position, and a talented player will be available. I’m not concerned about that.
Brett: It’s hard to really say in general the team "should" move up or down without knowing the team’s board, and their tiers of guys in specific ranges. It’s hard to see them trading up, as outside of the Big Three, the players left are still unproven mysteries (Rashad Vaughn, Tyler Ennis, Damien Inglis) or a whole bunch of ‘meh’ (John Henson). If a deal presented itself in which Henson could be used to move up, I’d be all for it -- I just don’t see many teams ahead of the Bucks filling a need with Henson. As for moving down, it’s the same philosophy for me -- if the price is right (as is typically the case with these discussions), and the team has their on somebody that should fall, then pull the trigger. But I’m generally with Eric B in that you don’t typically see teams that are still young and in talent acquisition mode trading down, and probably for good reason.
Frank: I’m sure many people are reading this and thinking, "But I want Buddy Hield! Or Jamal Murray!" And I can understand where people are coming from; Hield and Murray do one of the big things that the Bucks don’t (shoot) and you probably talk yourself into the idea of either playing alongside the Bucks’ big three of Giannis, Jabari and Khris. Still, the data suggests that elite shooting and scoring surprisingly doesn’t translate as reliably as skills like rebounding and shot-blocking, so I can’t help but think that trading up for a shooter could backfire given the talent drop-off from three to 15 might not be significant. The other obvious question is what it takes to move up or the value provided by moving down; given that guys like Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams could help teams immediately, it’s possible a team like the Pelicans could be interested, but for the most part those guys probably appeal more to teams picking behind the Bucks. Either way, I don't think the Bucks give up an asset like Monroe to move up a few spots, and I'm not sure offering less (like second round picks or one of the non-core young guys) is enough of a carrot for another team.
If you’re the GM, do you feel even the slightest need to address fit at #10?
Eric B: If the board shakes out a certain way, maybe a little bit. But in the top 10 (barring "sure things"), I think you gotta go for the highest potential on the board. I don’t see the benefit in selling yourself even a little bit short just to satisfy a need. It’s a high-risk move, sure, but the other part of that phrase is high reward. Take a shot at that. Get busy living or get busy dying, or whatever.
Mitchell: I actually am going against my usual mantra of touting BPA over everything and arguing in favor of fit. Teams should go BPA when they don’t have a solid core, or if the core hasn’t realized it’s a core yet. The Bucks, though, have a core of three players that are young, talented, and primed for major strides forward. Taking a player that fits with those three is more valuable to me than taking a guy who checks off an additional box or two (relative to other draftees), even if having those boxes checked means he is objectively "better" in the short-term.
Eric B: I disagree. I feel like those concerns can be addressed in free agency or in places other than 10 in the draft. This may not be a clean example, but look back to last year at 10. Miami has Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and Gerald Green at guard/forward spots, yet they select Justise Winslow. Granted he fell into their laps and those roster guys are up there in age, but it seemed pretty obvious that that was the right move, right? I don’t know, I feel like sometimes fans get a little afraid of having too much talent on a roster. I’d rather have good problems for a change, y’know?
Mitchell: I’m sorry, I think the Miami Heat are a bad example of how BPA can work out. You said yourself; the Heat’s trio of wings are getting older, plus the Pistons goofed by taking Stanley Johnson (who’s OK) instead of Winslow, who was widely-regarded as one of the more "NBA ready" prospects in that draft. So a smart franchise takes advantage of other teams’ choices and drafts someone who helps fill in the void Father Time created on their roster? Good for them. The Bucks are in a different place, and have nothing but time on their side, so I’d rather see them use that to get a homegrown role-player for our own trio of wings, who are 24, 21, and 20.
Brett: I think this is a really interesting discussion, and one I’ve thought about quite a bit lately. I’m typically all for the BPA strategy, in general. But how often does a team find itself in a situation as specific as the Bucks? Their core seems all but set in stone at this point AND they all play right next to each other positionally AND a specific one of those players looks like he’s going to need to be sort of built around defensively AND two still have at least significant long term question marks as far as shooting. Ultimately, I probably still say go with the best potential talent on the board -- if he ends up being good enough to stick around but doesn’t quite fit, having too much talent doesn’t seem like all that big of an issue -- but I’d be lying if I said this particular situation didn’t give me significant pause.
Frank: I think it’s a mistake to reach for a guy just because he fits your roster -- see my concerns about Wade Baldwin -- but I also think it’s silly to ignore fit when a group of guys are similarly skilled (ie the tier approach). For me, a lottery pick should be a guy who will one day start for you, and if a guy is completely duplicative of your existing core then it’s tough to ignore it. This may sound kind of defeatist, but I’m kind of hoping Jaylen Brown and Marquese Chriss are taken ahead of the Bucks’ pick just so they’re not in a position of having to pass on them. Of course, the hard part is parsing overall talent with any precision, which I think people often take for granted. The appeal (and problem) with fit is that it’s way easier to gauge a guy’s fit than how good he’ll ultimately be, which is probably why teams so often get things wrong in both directions. Remember when the Hawks picked Marvin Williams on talent over Chris Paul and Deron Williams, both of whom would have filled a huge hole? They were trying to do the "right" thing! Remember when the Sixers picked Jahlil Okafor over Kristaps Porzingis, despite the latter being the only one who could have played with either of Philly’s previous lottery picks? Drafting is hard.
Mitchell: Set yourself free from the BPA Shock Collar, Frank! Embrace the delusion that Wade Baldwin can magically fix all of the Bucks problems in one year! But seriously, I wouldn’t worry about taking anybody who needs significant development, upside be damned. We already have two players; one has the highest upside you can imagine, and the other is just a step below that. And that’s completely disrespecting Khris Middleton by not mentioning his own considerable talents. I say focus your development around them, and around the complementary skills of the specific pieces that fit with them.
Eric N: **pastes Layne Vashro piece from last summer** We have no idea of who will be on this team in three years. We may think we know who our core three will be in three years, but things could drastically change. Talent wins. Don’t select someone you feel is less talented just because the more talented guy doesn’t "fit". I love my BPA Shock Collar and would like it turned up to its highest intensity.
Frank: When it comes down to it, Giannis is probably the only guy I'd really bank on being here three years down the road. I mean, I'm not expecting Middleton or Parker to be shipped out anytime soon, or even suggesting the Bucks be looking to move them. But "cores" tend to be far more fluid than fans like to admit, and it's certainly possible we feel differently about the Bucks' current trio in 12 months time. On the plus side, the Bucks realistically aren't more than one guy deep at any position other than center right now, and even that's considered an area of need by most of us. So while the two through four spots are seemingly locked up (again, I'm speaking from a you-are-what-you-guard perspective), anyone with talent is going to have a chance to play moving forward.
What do you think will happen with the two 2nd round picks (36th and 38th overall)?
Eric B: They’re high enough to have standalone value, so I’m not going to be surprised or discouraged if Hammond selects some stash guys. However, there’s some interesting players in that fringe first round area (Diallo, Maker, Stone, etc) that the playoff teams might be too impatient to develop, so I’ll predict that Hammond and the squad crack back into the first and select one of those guys.
Mitchell: I think one gets traded away, somehow. I think the other will be used on a player who ultimately doesn’t do much in the league, but STILL beats out Damien Inglis for playing time next season.
Frank: Even if they waive both JOB and Inglis, I don’t think the Bucks have the appetite to carry three rookies on the roster next fall. So I think the big question is whether you try to package them both together to move up in the late first, draft an international guy for the purpose of stashing them, or just trade one of them to a team that’s short on picks (like the Knicks or Nets) for a future pick or cheap, vaguely useful player. The Bucks have never taken the stash route under Hammond nor have they ever trade up for a second first round pick, so I’ll guess that they use one of them in a draft night trade -- either as part of a deal for a vet or just as a punt for a future second.
Eric N: I like Frank’s suggestion of one of them being used in a draft night trade, so I will take that and use it. The remaining second rounder will be used to select a big man.
That does it for Part One of this staff preview. Part Two will actually focus on some prospects, so stay tuned!