Bucks Draft Prospect Tiers and Analysis

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This is the first time in a couple years that I’ve really had time to sit down and dig into the draft. With the Bucks either making a deep run or having no 1st rounder, it didn’t move me. This year however we have the #24 and a conveniently deep draft.

I’ll start out with my draft philosophy for the Bucks. 1st and foremost: anyone the bucks are not paying a vet min contract to has to be able to stay on the floor in a high leverage playoff series. On defense, they can’t be 2 of short, slow, slow, or skinny. You can be deficient in one and the other 2 can help mask it. Versatility is a huge added value. On offense, they have to have a way of punishing the guy that will eventually get hidden on them. The Big 3 are all going to get the best defenders on them. How can this guy punish the weak link? I don’t need this guy to be a *great* 3 pt shooter because the big 3 will end up taking most of the shots against good teams. They just need to be enough of a threat from there that they’ll confidently take an open kick out. Next, I value size. Basketball can be a simple game sometimes: big strong dudes with big arms and big hands tend to make a difference. The Bucks are a bully ball team and I want to lean into it. Finally, I love smart guys who have a feel for the game. How big is their decision tree when they get the ball on a kick out? Are they able to make decisions in space? Can they defend in a team concept? Next, can they play right away? The whole point of a 1st round pick for the Bucks is having a cost controlled contributor. If you have to waste 2 years of that waiting for the guy to be able to play, it’s kind of a waste of a pick. I also don’t like spending years developing a guy just to finally have to pay him once he’s ready to contribute. Finally, part of it comes down to gut instinct. Some guys you watch and you can just tell "that guy is gonna be a dude". With all that being said, it mostly eliminates PGs or Cs. The Bucks don’t need anyone under 6’5 and they already have a 3 big rotation at the 5. Plus there just aren’t any good players at those positions in this range.

With this framework, I’ll dive into my prospect tiers. I’ve left off anyone who wouldn’t be realistically available. I’d take Jabari Smith if I could.

My absolute favorite player in the draft and our prayers have been answered tier:

Jalen Williams

Great pick and would be an immediate impact player tier:

EJ Liddell

Dalen Terry

Marjon Beauchamp

Reaching for fit but the fit is good:

Justin Lewis

Really meh regular season minutes eaters:

Christian Braun

Wendell Moore

Has 1 elite skill and a whole bunch of red flags that would take time to iron out:

Blake Wesley

Patrick Baldwin

Bryce Mcgowens

Wild Card I like as prospect, just not sure on the Bucks:

Jaden Hardy

Guys I’m specifically out on:

Nikola Jovic

Jake Laravia

I’ve seen this guy mocked to the Bucks and I’ll light myself on fire tier:

Walker Kessler

Let’s dive in a little more detail what I like/don’t about these guys. For the record, I’m doing this for free so I’m not going to include specific stats or clips. Google exists.

Jalen Williams: he’s awesome. He’s 6’6 with a 7’2 wingspan. 7’2!!! He’s a freaking pterodactyl. At that size, he’s a natural PG. He’s at his best operating the PnR and is probably the best playmaker out of it in the draft. He can throw almost every pass at a variety of angles with either hand. This might be my favorite thing about him. Giannis was really unlocked when he embraced being a big and started screening. This would be another guy to really unlock the best version of Giannis and get him easy offense. As for his own scoring, he’s really good at getting his man in jail on his back and working at his own pace. From inside the arc he's comfortable pulling up, has a nice floater game, and is able to finish at the rim using his ridiculously long arms. The great thing about him is his floor is he’s a *great* shooter and will be a floor spacer day 1. On defense, he’s not an explosive athlete, but he’s freaking huge and strong. His long arms allow him to recover when trailing and hold his own against bigger players. He’s a very high IQ player so at worst he’ll be a positive team defender with his tools. This would be such a home run pick with a high floor/high ceiling guy at a position of need.

EJ Liddel: though he’s a bit short for a 4 at 6’7, he’s got 6’11 arms, he’s quick, is strong as an ox, and is an extremely high IQ/feel guy. On defense, I’d feel comfortable with him switching 3-5. His help defense is really, really good and another versatile shot blocker would help unlock some versatile lineups without giving up paint protection. On offense, he was tasked with being a primary scorer/engine for Ohio St and he was really good at it. However, a lot of the stuff he does like posting up would be mostly cut out on the Bucks. He became a 40% 3 pt shooter in his junior season and he’d be very good spotting up. The thing I like about him being a primary guy is he knows what to do with the ball and playing a tilted defense will be a lot easier for him. I could see him having low end production stats but lineups with him would always pop with the glue guy things he provides on both end.

Dalen Terry: at first I thought he was a wing but he’s actually a giant guard. He’s 6’7 with a 7’.75 wingspan. Again, that’s huge. He’s an awesome POA defender getting around screens and using his long arms to bother the ball handler as a trailer. Off ball, he has great feel and IQ and is able to jump passing lanes and disrupt plays as a help defender. He can switch 1-3 right now but will need to add more bulk to size up past that. On offense, he played on a stacked Arizona team so his production doesn’t jump off the page. However, his feel and playmaking really stand out when you watch him. His shot is the question mark but I’m not overly concerned about it. He’s the kind of player who’s worst game would still have like 4 rebs, 4 assists, and a steal/block. His high floor makes him a really valuable role player with room to grow into a core piece of his shot making develops.

Marjon Beauchamp: 6’6 with a 7’0 wingspan and has made NBA body already. This dude has all the tools to be defensive menace. Hyper athletic, long, and committed at that end gives him a baseline of at least a *very* good defender. He’s not the highest feel guy as he relies a lot on his tools and is foul prone but I think that can be ironed out. On offense, his athleticism really pops in transition and his athleticism really translates functionally allowing him to play above the rim. He’s a good cutter but I don’t value that a ton because I can’t remember the last time the Bucks hit a live cutter. His shot is a question mark but I don’t see anything wrong with his form and think he’ll be good enough from 3. I’ve really come to like guys from the Ignite program because they’re forced to round out their game, learn to be pros, and have experience playing against older guys. I think guys who come out of there are going to be better than their production because they’re forced to do things that they aren’t good at to get better.

All the guys above are barely in the Bucks range IMO and it wouldn’t surprise me if they all came off the board literally right before the Bucks. I am preparing for this maximum pain scenario.

Justin Lewis: this is my reach pick. He’s 6’7.5 with a 7’2 wingspan and has Kawhi sized hands. To top it off he’s built like a tank at 234. This dude is huge and built like Kawhi and OG. However, the reason why he’s not a lottery pick is he lacks their explosion and foot speed. This makes him more of a natural 4 than a 3. However, I think defensively he has enough to switch onto big wings capably. Think how PJ Tucker made up for his lack of foot speed because dudes would get stoned on contact with him. Plus, most of the wings we would need him to guard in the playoffs are of the power/deliberate types rather than speed. On offense, he drastically improved from 3 going from 21% on 1.5 attempts to 35% on 5.2 attempts. That’s a huge improvement to improve his percentage while increasing his volume that much. I think his percentages will get even better as he won’t be asked to pull up and mostly be a c&s shooter. Inside the arc he really throws his body around and likes to go through guys on his way to the basket (similar to Jrue). However, he hasn’t shown great touch around the rim once he gets there. I kind of envision him being what Pat Williams is right now but slightly less dynamic. He’s a projected 2nd rounder but I think the Bucks are uniquely suited to use his strengths and hide his weaknesses. I’m willing to bet on a physical specimen like him and hope he develops enough to round out his game.

Wendell Moore/Christian Braun: these guys are similar to me in that they’re perfectly *fine* wings. They do a little of everything but aren’t great anything. They aren’t small but aren’t big either and don’t have outlier physical traits. They’d be perfectly ok on the Bucks but I don’t see them regularly making an impact. They’ll have long careers and any time a team sign them their fans will get excited that they finally got a 3&D wing for relatively cheap but are left always wanting more. Just kinda blah to me. I wouldn’t light myself on fire if these guys got picked but I wouldn’t be excited. If these are the guys I’d rather try and trade back and get them there.

Blake Wesley: elite speed and ability to pressure the rim. He’s 6’3 but has a 6’9 wingspan. Smaller than I’d like but Derrick White is that height and has shorter arms and he does fine. He’s super lean right now and will probably take a year or two at least to get to where he needs to be. He doesn’t shoot the ball well from anywhere really. He’s ok as a playmaker. Really just banking on him building his game out of his ability to just get to the rim which to be fair is extremely valuable. However, I think he’d be a better fit on a team that doesn’t need him to be an immediate playoff guy.

Patrick Baldwin: elite shooter for a 6’10 guy. However, he had some of the worst combine numbers and doesn’t project as a passable defender or a plus playmaker. I’ve seen Teletovic before on the Bucks and I don’t need to see it again.

Bryce Mcgowens: elite foul drawer. Has *potential* to be a 3 level scorer but I don’t think he’d get the opportunity to find out on the Bucks. Nwora comes to mind. Also like Nwora, he is a traffic cone on defense. I’ve seen Nwora on the Bucks and I don’t need to see it again.

Jaden Hardy: 6’4 with a 6’9 wingspan, he’s solid size for a 2. However, his defense is bad as is and you’d be happy if ends up neutral. The thing that intrigues me is he’s a legit shot maker from everywhere. Like I said earlier, the ignite force guys to develop their game and he was forced to grow as an on ball guy after being primarily an off ball guy. That really helped him and you could see the progression of him learning how to read a defense and make plays. I think he’s be PG13-esque on offense and a legit weapon. However, I’m not sure if it’s worth betting that his defense comes around on his first contract, and he’s the archetype that gets paid so you’re probably developing him for someone else.

Jovic/Laravia: pure 4s who are too small/slow for their position to size up or down. I’ve seen Mamu on the Bucks and I don’t need to see it again.

Walker Kessler: he’s just not good. Please god no.

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