Four of the last five first round selections made by the Milwaukee Bucks all had a similar theme surrounding them: low-floor, high-ceiling potential. No player exemplifies that theme better than Giannis Antetokounmpo, and we all know how well that has worked out for the Bucks. Other than Giannis, the last three raw potential picks have been, to put it nicely, underwhelming.
Rashad Vaughn was selected 17th overall by the Bucks even though he showed up in mock drafts consistently as a late-first round pick. Taking a risk on Vaughn made sense for the franchise in 2015, though. Giannis had shown flashes, but had yet to fully grow into the player we know him as today. Khris Middleton was coming off a season where he shot 40.7 percent from three and Vaughn could be a great bench piece to spell Middleton without losing too much production.
Vaughn obviously did not work out, but he was a risk worth taking considering the franchise’s state in the pecking order of the Eastern Conference. Vaughn’s selection signaled that the Bucks were ready to add a perceived three-point threat as the league began to rely on the three-point shot more and more. The plan was for Vaughn’s threat to grow with the core, unfortunately his growth was stunted upon arrival.
Despite being mocked as a very late first round pick and a likely early second round selection, the Bucks made waves by selecting Thon Maker with their lottery pick. Due to being selected tenth overall, a lot of pressure was placed on Maker and the team’s player development folks (and in a weird way, Kevin Garnett too) to live up to the hype that comes with being a top-ten selection. The rationale makes sense for selecting Thon when they did though. When the chance to add a mobile seven footer that has the ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc and grow alongside a young, budding all-star is there, you take that chance. Before the 2016 season, the Bucks did not have a lot to lose by selecting Thon.
In my mind, it is still too early to write Maker off in the same vein as Vaughn. Looking past his inability to cleanly catch an entry pass and his ability to trip over his stilt-like legs, he fits in the modern NBA and with the roster. The calculated risk the Bucks took in selecting him so much earlier than his skill set deemed is a risk that needs to not make a repeat performance on Thursday night, but one that fit two years ago.
This brings us to the most recent draftee, D.J. Wilson. Wilson’s selection was a different kind of reach than Vaughn’s and Maker’s were. Drafting a redshirt sophomore that was maybe the third best player on a middling Big Ten team was the byproduct of the mess that Jon Horst’s hiring created. Horst was hired just a few days before the draft and selecting Wilson felt more like a reach out into the void rather than a reach for future potential.
Wilson was mocked as a probable late-first round pick and a definite second rounder, but in keeping with tradition, the Bucks took him anyway at 17th overall. With the combination of no more Jason Kidd meddling and Horst and Co. having a full year of scouting and evaluating under their belt as a cohesive unit, hopefully selecting not NBA ready players is a thing of the past, because it absolutely needs to be as we gear up for the 2018 season.
All-Stars rarely come outside of the lottery, and at this point in the franchise’s championship chasing window, there is no need to keep trying to find that rare player if it means said player is unplayable in the short-term. The margin for error when it comes to drafting the right player has shrunk with each passing year.
The front office does not need to mortgage the roster’s short-term depth to try and find a player that maybe has a chance of becoming an impact player in the league a handful of years down the road. With core pieces up for contract extension in the coming years, finding a playable youngster on a cheap contract is paramount to Milwaukee’s chances of making the leap to Eastern Conference contender.