From now until the NBA Draft on June 26, we'll be looking at the options of the teams picking based on their likely menu of choices, draft or trade. We continue today with the Milwaukee Bucks, seeking to rescue their franchise from the very bottom of the NBA with a transcendent superstar through the draft.
Draft Joel Embiid: The Bucks, honestly, need to hope Embiid goes No. 1. He presents a dangerous set of circumstances for Milwaukee. You can't pass on him because if he is what he looks like he is, he's better than Larry Sanders and honestly becomes the best player on the team, perhaps as early as the end of his rookie season. You can't be the team to pass up Embiid. But taking him means the Bucks would have to: (1) Move Larry Sanders, likely taking a bath on that deal; (2) hope he's healthy likely without having had their doctors examining him (reports are that Embiid's agent won't allow workouts or physicals with Embiid); and (3) hope he doesn't bolt in six to eight years based on the fact that he himself hasn't seemed thrilled with the idea of going to Milwaukee.
Now, that can change. You win games, he gets to be part of the community, he turns out to like the small-town atmosphere, these factors can change things. But it creates a dilemma for the Bucks which won't be easy.
Let's say they take him. You're basically immediately calling Dallas to offer Larry Sanders for picks and flotsam. You hope to get Brandan Wright and either Ricky Ledo or Shane Larkin... which still leaves you with a point guard logjam but you're the Bucks so you don't care. Your other option might be some move with the Pelicans, if they're willing to take a chance on the possibility of Eric Gordon playing for them.
You can try and play Embiid and Sanders in a twin towers combo, but there's a pretty substantial risk, there.
Draft Andrew Wiggins: This is both the most likely scenario and my preferred course of action for Milwaukee. Pairing Wiggins at the 2-guard with Giannis Antetokounmpo at the 3 gives them 14 feet, three inches of wingspan on the perimeter. That's just a ridiculous amount of arm. It won't make them a good team, but it will give them a lot of potential to become a good team, and make them an athletic and fun team. The physical elements do matter.
Wiggins in a potentially volatile locker room situation could be problematic, however. The Bucks have guys on roster who will be playing for their contracts. Larry Drew couldn't get them to play together last season. Larry Sanders' locker room situation is murky at best. There's a lot of question marks as to whether this is a good situation for someone who, at least right now, doesn't have an alpha dog mentality. That's the risk.
A lineup of underrated Brandon Knight, along with Wiggins, Antetokounmpo, a hopeful jump by Henson and a Larry Sanders with his head back on straight wouldn't win a lot of games ... but could at least look like a decent team going forward.
Draft Jabari Parker: This is an interesting idea. So Parker is most NBA-ready, and the Bucks need an NBA-ready player. He's substantially more aggressive than Wiggins, and could become a locker room leader within a few years.
Here's the big key. Parker can operate as a small forward offensively and needs to be a power forward defensively to protect against his weaknesses. The Bucks can put Antetokounmpo on opposing small forwards as he develops, using his length to combat speed. Then Larry Sanders protects against bigger power forwards tearing Parker up. For those games where they face superb stretch fours, the Bucks can use lineups with John Henson and Parker at the three. They would have a huge amount of positional flexibility to combat lineups. Again, this wouldn't be effective for a few years, but it lays a foundation.
The Bucks need a face of the franchise. Parker would undeniably be that.
Draft a reach: Julius Randle makes almost no sense. He fills the alpha dog requirement, and can score through doubles, but to take a reach on him you'd have to legitimately believe he's better than the top three, or the other reaches. That seems like a stretch. His wingspan issues could be mitigated by Sanders, but it also creates a logjam with Ersan Ilyasova and Henson. That alone isn't reason to pass him up if you think he's the best available player, but it's also not a reason to move in favor of him.
Dante Exum is where things get interesting. Brandon Knight was quietly decent last year and showed some good things along with, like all the Bucks, a lot of bad. There's debate on whether he can play point or not. So Exum provides a drastic reach at No. 2, but also might be the best fit. You can play Knight and Exum in a dual combo-guard spot and kill two birds with one stone. He can guard the bigger, longer players Knight can struggle with, and provide more of a traditional playmaking guard next to Knight.
Exum is the biggest wild card in the draft for a reason. If the Bucks wanted to get bold, he might not be a bad option. However ... do you really want to take a kid who clearly loves the Lakers and shares an agent with and an affection for Kobe Bryant, and put him in Milwaukee? Does that seem like a good plan, long-term?
Noah Vonleh makes no sense, unless they just love his interview. If they draft Marcus Smart, my head might explode. He could work in the combo guard spot with Knight, but it would be such a massive reach for a player with less upside that it could tear the fabric of the space-time continuum.
There's no reason to trade the pick. Any player worthy of trading this pick for wouldn't be available, and if he is, he wouldn't stay as a free agent as in, say, Kevin Love. Now, if they love Exum and he's going to be available at a spot they can trade down and get another pick or a player? That makes sense. But really, the Bucks need top-level talent. They need to stay put.