Mitchell: OK, Adam, let me hear it: what are the big problems with the Milwaukee Bucks picking Donte DiVincenzo at 17 in last night’s NBA Draft?
Adam: *inhales deeply* For me, it’s more contextual than anything else. I was enamored with Lonnie Walker IV or Zhaire Smith, at least one of which was going to be on the board for Milwaukee. The fact the Spurs selected Walker after the Bucks only made me more sick that Milwaukee passed on him. DiVincenzo the theoretical player seems totally fine, competent, a fine fit next to Giannis, yada, yada, yada. It seems like Milwaukee settled for someone “safe” and the draft is such a crapshoot, I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “safe” pick. I’d rather they chose someone who seemed to have upside if there’s a 50/50 shot anyone could really turn into a bust.
Mitchell: I’m glad you brought up “context.” I think, in the fuller context of how the Bucks have built their team, I am less upset about Donte being the pick because of how much safer he is compared to other prospects.
Consider this: three years ago, the Bucks took a shot on a player with higher upside. Rashad Vaughn is essentially out of the league. Two years ago, the Bucks took a shot on a player with enormous upside. Thon Maker has shown flashes, but ultimately has a long way to go to convince anyone that he’s for real. Last year, the Bucks took a guy who maybe didn’t possess great upside, but had some interesting tools and favorable measurements; the jury is still very much out on D.J. Wilson (although it doesn’t look good).
Three years, three picks that haven’t panned out. Sometimes, you gotta go for the option that presents the least risk, even if their upside is as low as anyone on the board at that time.
Adam: All fair arguments, but my issue is who else was left on the board. Every team has their guy, and while we were both content with Elie Okobo clearly plenty of other teams weren’t given how he slipped. I think I will come around to your reasoning, but it’s hard to think of DiVincenzo as a “value” right now given he seemed like someone more suited to the latter stages of the first round. If DiVincenzo is safe, and contributes more than the baseline zero expectations Bucks fans have for a first round pick, then his “value” at draft time won’t make a difference.
But I think perceived value matters for this Bucks team, and they seem to have made a collection of moves that created a team with little value on its roster. From John Henson to Tony Snell to Matthew Dellavedova to this “safe” draft choice, I don’t think any other team would look at the Bucks and be wowed by the value they’ve accrued from their front office decisions.
Mitchell: I can’t disagree with you there. In a vacuum, each of these moves makes more sense than they do as a whole. Henson’s extension was roughly market-value at the time, and he’s just never fully lived up to it. Snell’s extension was also market-value, and he has (thus far) lived up to it, but he’s a limited guy. Delly’s deal was probably the most misguided, but also came during the Cap Explosion of 2016, so while I don’t forgive it I can at least understand it.
I do wish that the Bucks had traded down, or bought a second round pick, or did something in order to walk away from Thursday night for more than DiVincenzo. I did prefer other players at 17, specifically Kevin Huerter (19 to Atlanta). I do think that there was value that may have been extracted by Bucks GM Jon Horst, and that didn’t come to pass.
But then again, we don’t have the entire landscape that was known at the time. Horst and the front office made the best decision based on their existing preferences and the information they had available at the time. What if the only takers for a trade resulted in Milwaukee missing out on all of their preferred guys, and while you could have ended up with two prospects instead of one, you don’t have confidence in what those prospects are going to end up as?
This isn’t to defend the result of bad process. If the Bucks were truly locked in on DiVincenzo as the “best player available” and none of the other prospects were on their radar, then I would have more serious reservations with the pick. We may never know if that’s the case or not, but what we DO know is that DiVincenzo is an NBA-level athete, a player who both can shoot and will shoot, and understands how to contribute to a successful offensive system. That’s worth something.
Adam: Agreed, the concept of trading down to still draft DiVincenzo is something far easier in theory than in reality. I’m sure they had some takers for 17, but in the heat of that moment, it’s probably hard to extract much value and feel comfortable with who’ll be left on the board as you said. The process seems fine, but I still feel pretty dubious of DiVincenzo’s skill level. Yes, the athleticism is there, but I don’t know if his jumping out of the gym ability is all that helpful to this Milwaukee team. It’s great he can leap for tip-ins, maybe catch the occasional dunk, but I didn’t see that athleticism on display much on the offensive end going to the hoop and I’m not sure he’ll be a staunch defender.
Setting that aside though, the willingness to shoot is reason for optimism. I like that he can pull up off the dribble in tight spaces, I like that he attempted over seven threes per game for Villanova last year. I also know he was a bench player who went off in the NCAA tournament, was a fringe first round candidate and then vaulted up draft boards after his individual workouts. To me, that seems like a recipe of shortsightedness that leaves you with a player who, while safe, has plenty of question marks over whether he can prove those skills translate to the next level.
Mitchell: Enter Mike Budenholzer.
The Bucks are not a bad team. Last year, they were not a bad team despite poor coaching. Like DiVincenzo, the hiring of Budenholzer may not have been inspiring, but it did offer a certain level of certainty and security. Bud’s track record in Atlanta and San Antonio suggests that he can implement strategies that leverage the skills and talents of the Bucks’ roster, and we all know that plus-shooting from the guard positions help support that goal. As a plus-shooter, DiVincenzo fits the archetype of what the Bucks need and appears to be ready to hit the ground running and not need extended development time before his introduction to the NBA.
Perhaps DiVincenzo isn’t an NBA starter, or never is an NBA starter. But at Villanova, he proved that he could handle competitive minutes and produce at a level that sustained winning. When you put that around Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, as well as the other talents on the Bucks’ roster that were far from maximized under the previous regime, I think that you start presenting some unsolvable problems for opponents.
Adam: Sure, and I think there’s certainly something to his contributions within the team concept at Villanova. He seemed like a willing passer who also wasn’t afraid to take the big shot. There’s value in that selflessness and confidence, but I’m also fearful he’s just a souffle. Outwardly appealing without much substance within. I believe in Bud’s development abilities wholeheartedly, it’s part of why I was such a strong supporter of his hiring. It’s also why I think Milwaukee should’ve picked someone with more potential upside that could’ve been molded in Bud’s system.
Mitchell: I think that your opinion of DiVincenzo depends very much on whether you classify him as a shooter or a gunner. Is he a guy that’s going to space the floor, or a guy that’s going to hoist up shots? Will he make the right reads or insist on imposing his will on the game, damn the consequences? Is he Anthony Morrow with more upside, or Nick Young with a higher floor?
The ingredients for both outcomes are there. I guess we have to wait for the Las Vegas Summer League to get a hint as to which direction it might go from the start.
Adam: I tend to think he’ll trend more toward the shooter part of that equation, but if he wound up as the next Anthony Morrow, I’d honestly be content. If there’s one thing that’s working in DiVincenzo’s favor, it’s that the bar for Milwaukee’s first round picks is low.
Mitchell: You got that right. :(