It’s NBA Draft day. One of the few chances in the impending five years where the Milwaukee Bucks actually retain their pick. With all the prospect hemming and hawing over the past few weeks, I’m anxiously anticipating how Jon Horst chooses to approach the evening. My bet is on them trading back, but this is the most accurate description I’ve seen of what the Bucks plan to do.
PRE-DRAFT UPDATE: Your team is having discussions about moving up in the draft, but also like where they are and might move down, or move out of it altogether for the right deal, if even they are in it at all, which, if they aren't, they are looking to be, unless they are not.— Mark Deeks (@MarkDeeksNBA) June 22, 2022
Anyway, we rounded up who the experts have Milwaukee taking on Thursday night, and I lend my take on each choice.
While Milwaukee hasn’t used a first-round pick for itself since 2018, the Bucks have their key players under contract next season and have a good opportunity to add some youth to the roster through this draft. Trading back could also be an option here. But developing a talented scorer like Hardy might be enticing and could give their backcourt a different dimension. His stock fluctuated heavily this year, but he ended the season on a positive note and has a lot to offer on the offensive end, particularly if he’s able to adjust his shot selection and become more efficient. He’s a talented shot-maker, he has a good frame at his size, and it should help that he’s already been tested by the G League. Once projected as a lottery pick, Hardy becomes a nice value play in this range of the draft, and there’s enough upside here that it’s worth finding out.
Why Walker Kessler is the most likely pick on the board: The Bucks know they still need to add help inside after their midseason trade for Serge Ibaka failed to yield it. Kessler would fit right in as a Brook Lopez protege for his huge frame and excellent shot blocking ability after his 19.1 percent block rate led college basketball last year. The shooting will be more difficult to develop, but Kessler did go 10-of-50 from deep last year, so there’s at least something to work with in regards to the shot.
Why Jaden Hardy is the best pick on the board: The Warriors once found the young scoring guard they needed to keep their dynasty alive late in the first round when they drafted Jordan Poole. Could Milwaukee get a similar injection of offense by taking Hardy? A former top-five recruit, Hardy was underwhelming with the G League Ignite before closing the season strong. His shot-making off the bounce is his calling card. The Bucks can always use someone capable of getting a tough halfcourt bucket.
My take: Personally, Jaden Hardy screams project to me, and I just can’t see this team pulling the draft trigger on someone like that. He has the pedigree as a top-five guy before last season, and the G League is stiffer competition, but I’m just not interested in gambling on a shotmaker at this stage in the franchise’s development who could potentially bust. Even with offense as the primary reason Milwaukee failed in the Playoffs, defense is the team’s calling card, and I’d rather have someone with a defensive acumen and potential offensive tools to sharpen.
I don’t think Kessler is worth snagging. Milwaukee clearly is not invested in building up a Big rotation beyond Portis-Giannis-Brook.
It would be a surprise to see LaRavia fall out of the top 35. He’s shot extremely well in pre-draft workouts and has convinced teams he can be a high-volume shooter who makes them. He tested well athletically at the combine and has the kind of confident mindset that tends to be successful at the next level among role players. The Bucks need shooters next to Giannis Antetokounmpo, and LaRavia has the kind of size and shooting intersection that would be a good fit. His range starts in the late teens.
My take: He seems like someone who can do the stuff Milwaukee likes. Pass, dribble, shoot and playmake. I’m wary of his defensive ability to stay on the floor though at 6’8”, could he really switch onto smaller players in lineups? He’d need to have a hyper-solid shot to warrant the pick in my mind, so I think I’d rather gamble on a wing like Beauchamp.
Milwaukee would be another great landing spot for Liddell; he’s gonna have a lot of fans in this stretch if the picks aren’t traded. Beauchamp is raw in a lot of ways, but bringing a high-energy forward off the bench might help goose the Bucks’ somewhat-sluggish second-unit play. Milwaukee doesn’t have any players in this size/position profile with a last name shorter than 13 letters.
Speaking of which, a Milwaukee trade of pick 24 to Orlando for picks 32 and 35 makes too much sense to ignore. The Bucks could take a stash player with one (such as Italian Gabriele Procida) and select a player with the other and sign him to a rookie-minimum deal, which would save about $5 million in salary and luxury tax for what is likely the team’s 14th and final roster spot. That savings would increase if the Bucks raise their tax bill further by shelling out to retain both Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton and using their taxpayer midlevel exception.
My take: I think Hollinger hits it right on the money with his thought about the Bucks trading back. Maybe not that exact swap with Orlando (although it could see something like trading back for 32, the Bucks get back the 2026 second they owe the Magic from the Jordan Nwora deal and another future second). Frank made the point on Locked on Bucks today, but barring someone like Terry or Liddell slipping to them at 24, I’d rather just move back and accummulate a few assets. The longer I stare at the players that seem possible at 24, the more I feel like I’m talking myself into them rather than them speaking for themselves. At that point, why not trade back and gamble on a second rounder who will save money, have slightly worse odds of succeeding and potentially enable you to snag assets that make trades possible this offseason and in-season.
Anyway, if they pick Beauchamp that’d be okay too.
The Bucks have a number of key free agents this offseason, including Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis. With Brook Lopez having just turned 34, it could be argued Milwaukee should target a big man here. I’ve had them select Walker Kessler in previous mocks. But you can easily make an argument for them to add a wing with 3-and-D qualities. Terry can also handle the ball and has the ability to attack off the bounce and pass off the dribble.
My take: Terry goes to the Bucks in O’Connor’s mock I think largely because KOC is lower on Terry than the consensus, ranking him in the mid-20’s on his big board. I’d be surprised if he lasted this long with his passing ability and rangy defensive tools. If he’s there and Milwaukee snatches him, huzzah!
UPDATE: In his latest Mock, KOC has the Bucks snagging Bryce Mcgowens. Dalen Terry is off the board to Memphis already. Here’s what he has to say:
Khris Middleton’s injury in the playoffs put the Bucks’ lack of shot-creation behind him into perspective. Jrue Holiday can only do so much to support Giannis Antetokounmpo. McGowens is a raw scorer who has never been asked to be a playmaker. But the flashes on top of his scoring ability make him an upside pick for Milwaukee at this point of the draft. Playing behind Middleton and learning how to thrive with Giannis could be the best thing to ever happen to him.
The Bucks are said to be exploring a host of options with this pick, with names including Andrew Nembhard, Jake LaRavia, Christian Braun and Ismael Kamagate bandied about and indicating the team is exploring “older” players who can help the team win now while its championship window is open. Rival teams say the Bucks have indicated a willingness to explore moving up in the mid-to-late teens portion of the first round, potentially targeting some of the draft’s best 7-footers like Mark Williams and Walker Kessler.
Beyond that, with several frontcourt players on expiring contracts or entering their final seasons, adding an All-American big man such as Liddell could be attractive. Liddell is a solid rim protector who can switch on the perimeter and improved his shooting significantly as a junior, giving him a high floor as a prospect. Liddell’s productivity and toughness make him a solid option at this stage of the draft.
My take: Again, another prospect that seems likely to be gone by this stage. I’d be thrilled if Liddell fell with his potential positional versatility to slot alongside Giannis in smallball lineups. The first names Givony mentions aren’t as interesting to me, maybe Christian Braun, but I’m not buying the move-up chatter. I smell some rotten kraut there.
So that does it for what the experts think, but we want to know what the true, diehard Bucks experts think. Yes, that’s you my fair readers. Vote in the poll below for how you think tonight will work out.
What will Milwaukee do on Draft Night?
This poll is closed
Make the pick at #24