The NBA season is officially over with the Denver Nuggets becoming champions after beating the Miami Heat in game five of the finals. With that in mind, it’s time for everyone’s favorite part of the off-season: rumor season! We already saw the Bucks themselves in the mix for All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal. However, it doesn’t end there, with Sam Vecenie reporting last week that Milwaukee has explored trading up into the late first or early second round of the draft.
The Bucks, Suns and Cavs have explored potential opportunities to move up into the late 20s and 30s, sources tell @Sam_Vecenie.— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) June 15, 2023
Why? Due to the depth of prospects on the wing and potential NBA-ready, older rotation players.
2023 NBA Mock Draft ⤵️https://t.co/DeBrunuyVB
It makes sense for the Bucks to be looking to move up in this draft. There is a bevy of older college players who could fit in right away as rotational pieces for the Bucks as they look to retool this roster. Now with that in mind, it would have to take current rotational pieces for the Bucks to make a move, especially if they were to move into the first round. Guys like Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton to the other two players of the Bucks’ “Big 3:” Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
Regardless of who they trade, there are players in the draft who could make a difference right away for Milwaukee. Let’s go through five potential targets for the Bucks if they were to trade up between picks 25 and 40.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper (Ranked 33) - 6’8” Forward - Marquette University
I went in-depth on “O-Max” in my last draft article, so if you want a deeper dive into him, I would head on over to that article. To keep this short, Prosper is the modern-day NBA “3 & D” wing. Good size at 6’8” and 230 pounds and has the ability to defend guards as well as wings. It was the Montreal, Quebec native’s job to defend the best player Marquette saw every night and almost every night Prosper shut them down.
During the Golden Eagles’ run to the Big East Tournament title, they had to face two potential future first-round picks in UConn’s Jordan Hawkins and Xavier’s Colby Jones. In a 24-hour period, Prosper put both of them on lockdown as they put up a combined 12 points on 5-for-22 shooting (22.7%), 1-for-11 from three-point range (9.1%), and three turnovers.
With Jae Crowder probably gone, Joe Ingles’ age, and the lingering health concerns with Middleton, Prosper could slot in nicely as a top 8 rotation player as soon as he sets foot on an NBA court.
Andre Jackson Jr. (Ranked 32) - 6’6” Guard - UConn
Keeping it in the Big East, we’ll go to a player who is coming off a national title win in UConn’s Andre Jackson Jr. The junior is yet another combo forward that can handle the ball and is a great defender. Jackson is also a great athlete with good speed and great bounce in him. While Jackson is a bit lanky, he makes up for it with his explosiveness and length on the court. Jackson has been known to go up for some nasty dunks on quite a few occasions.
The main issue for Jackson is his jump shot and the numbers back that up. While he has been a consistent 41% plus shooter from the floor, the three-point percentage has varied wildly throughout his three seasons in Storrs, Connecticut. After shooting 36.1% from beyond the arc his sophomore season, his shooting dipped to 28.1% this past year. There are mechanical issues with his jumper as well, with Sports Illustrated writing “he’s got a bit of a hitch and the load up is interesting. Jackson has a high release, but it’s seemingly far away from his body and is more of a push than a shot. This is visible both from beyond the arc and even the free throw line.”
While Jackson will never be a 20+ point per game scorer in the NBA, he makes up for that by being a great passer. Every season his assists have been going up while limiting his turnovers by putting up an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.35.
I don’t know if his jumper will ever translate to the NBA, but the rest of his game is already at that level or will be in short order. If you have been noticing a theme with my picks (outside of Prosper), the Bucks need guys who can handle the ball and create for others, especially off the bench. There is no one on this Bucks roster off the bench who can do what Jackson can do with the ball in their hands. Adding another defensive player, a winner, and someone who can help run your offense off the bench is seemingly a perfect selection for the Bucks.
Kobe Brown (Ranked 41)- 6’8” Guard - Mizzou
While I was traveling to New York City for the Big East Tournament back in March, I was able to catch some of the SEC Tournament that was happening in Nashville. Everyone was expecting Alabama to win the whole thing, which they ended up doing. However, they almost didn’t make it because of Mizzou and the efforts of Kobe Brown.
Brown, along with D’Moi Hodge and DeAndre Gholston, helped bring the Tigers all the way to the SEC Tournament semi-final against Alabama. They were able to make it there after taking down No. 17 ranked Tennessee, with Brown putting up numbers of 24 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Through that run, I really became a fan of Kobe Brown’s game.
While listed as a guard by ESPN, he operates more as a combo forward after he played point guard in high school. Brown can run the offense and can use his size and frame to bully smaller defenders on him.
What also makes Brown an intriguing option is the boom in his shooting percentages this past season. Prior to the 2022-23 season, Brown never shot over 50% from the field and 30% from three-point range. However in his final season with the Tigers, the Huntsville, Alabama native shot 55.3% from the field and 45.5% from three on a career-high 3.3 attempts per contest. It will be up to the scouts to determine if that shooting explosion was a fluke or was the real deal.
This entire off-season I have been clamoring for the Bucks to find another ball-handler to relieve pressure from Giannis and Jrue, so Brown seems like a natural fit for that position. Brown won’t be playing lead guard most of the time, but as Sports Illustrated puts it, he can certainly run the offense and sees the floor well. With a new wave of larger guards taking up the point—guys like Lonzo and LaMelo Ball, Ben Simmons during his 76ers days, and others—it seems like a forward-thinking pick if the Bucks are able to trade up.
Marcus Sasser (Ranked 36) - 6’2” Guard - Houston
Let's head back to a more traditional guard in terms of size, with the 6’2” Marcus Sasser out of Houston. Another more veteran player at nearly 23 years old, Sasser saved his best for last as a senior in the Lone Star state. The Dallas native averaged 16.8 points, 3.1 assists, and 1.6 steals per contest with a shooting line of 43.8%/38.4%/84.8%.
Sasser is a true versatile scoring combo guard. He can create his own shot, he can shoot on the move and he can be a very good catch-and-shoot guy. While not the worst at getting to the paint, there is still work that needs to be done in order for him to get better, but with his shooting, I think he’ll be just fine.
Sasser is also still a solid player on the defensive end, with a longer wingspan at 6’7”. He combines that with quick hands, moving side-to-side well, and has really good footwork on the defensive side of the ball. Whether he can translate that to the NBA will be interesting to watch with the increased size and athleticism in the NBA compared to college.
As for his fit with the Bucks, I think I could see him as a bench-scoring guard that can find some open players from time to time. Sasser isn’t the floor general or passer that some of these other players are, but he can certainly make a pass if he has to. Any sort of scoring punch is welcome for a Bucks team that seemed to operate very awkwardly at times. Sasser could help alleviate some of those concerns with his dual-scoring abilities.
Keyonte George (Ranked 11) - 6’4” Guard - Baylor
This is my bold pick for these draft targets. In almost every other mock draft, George is ranked as a lower-end lottery pick, seemingly well out of the range of any trade-up the Bucks could be part of. That is unless George drops in the draft. There is always a random drop for a prospect that no one sees coming in almost every draft and George could be that one who drops.
In Vecenie’s latest mock draft, he has George falling all the way to no. 27 to the Charlotte Hornets via the Denver Nuggets. In his piece, he says that while George is talented, he has some decision-making issues and isn’t the most consistent on the defensive end. I have personally seen that with George. When Baylor came to Milwaukee to take on Marquette in November 2022, the Lewisville, Texas native had one of his worst performances of the year. George put up 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting and four turnovers.
George seemingly struggled in games versus ranked opponents all season long. Against ranked teams, George averaged 13 points and three turnovers while shooting 34.2% from the field. That’s not to say that George didn’t have great games against good teams, but George needs some coaching on both ends of the floor to get more consistent. If you can get consistency out of George, you have a potential star on your hands.
With the likes of Giannis and Khris Middleton being able to mentor him, I think George would be in good hands with the Bucks.