A Milwaukee Bucks 2010 NBA Draft Preview: Athletic Projects

When David Stern steps to the podium on June 24th and says, “With the 15th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select …” he’ll really be announcing something different when he says the lucky player’s name.

He may be saying, “an athletic project” like he did with Joe Alexander two drafts back. Or perhaps he’ll be saying, “a guy that’s big, so we know he’ll rebound and block shots, and we hope to see him learn how to do something else one day,” like he once did with Joel Przybilla.Certain players should have him saying, “a player that played pretty well in college, but we’re not sure how he’ll translate to the pros, everyone better hold their breath and hope he does though.” And then there’s the always enjoyable, “a guy whose skeleton is infused with upside, making his ceiling impossible to project and upside irresistible to talent scouts and general managers.”

While nothing is set at this stage in the draft game, aside from John Wall going first and Evan Turner going second, we can probably being to make some safe assumptions.

1. The Wall/Turner locks.

2. DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Greg Monroe and Wesley Johnson will be gone by the time the Bucks pick. These six are either too talented, have too much upside or too much polish to fall to 15. Had the Bulls cooperated and missed the playoffs so the Bucks could be picking late in the lottery, we may have something to discuss, but alas, they did not. So wave goodbye to each of these fine young men, unless Milwaukee is able to trade up.

3. Milwaukee will take the best player available. This draft isn’t about filling a need for the Bucks, simply because they have too many needs to be filled. If Cole Aldrich some how slips to 15, I get the feeling he’ll wear a Bucks jersey. If Patrick Patterson slips, he could be a Buck. The Bucks need a dynamic scorer, a power forward, a backup center, potentially a backup point guard, more shooting, slashers, you name it, the Bucks probably could use some more of it.

With that being said, let’s delve into this and get a core group that the Bucks could be targeting at number 15. Advance kudos to DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net for their constant updates and projections. For fun, I’ve broken it down into the categories I listed above.

“An athletic project”

Simple enough. No one is projecting the next Kobe Bryant or Tracy McGrady out of an athletic project, but there is the potential that they could fill multiple roles and pan out pretty well. Think Tony Allen or Mickael Pietrus. Candidates at 15 that fit the athletic project mold would be Paul George, Damion James and Stanley Robinson.

Each have their strengths and flaws.

  • Paul George

Current DraftExpress.com Mock: 22 Portland Trail Blazers
Current NbaDraft.net Mock: 17 Chicago Bulls

The go-to scorer on a blah Fresno State team, George did some nice things last year in putting himself on the map as a certifiable first round pick. He saw his free throw percentage rise from roughly 70% to nearly 91% and increased in points per game, rebounds per game and assists per game. At 6’8” and 210 pounds, George has the size to match up with other wings in the NBA and as a career 39.6% 3-point shooter in college, appears to have the touch to keep defenders honest as well. He has just enough touch, that it almost becomes a flaw. DraftExpress.com explains further:

George attempts 5.8 3-pointers a game, 6th in our database amongst all small forwards. At least one or two a night is of the settling nature – either an attempt early in the shot clock or a quick look in transition with no teammates in position to rebound.

While Milwaukee needs more skilled offensive players, they certainly don’t want anyone coming in chucking. I wouldn’t expect anything crazy from a rookie surrounded by quasi-veterans in Milwaukee though. George wouldn’t be in a position to come down and pull on a playoff tested Bucks team the way he was as the star on a bad Fresno State squad. But once players get a taste for the 3-point shot, it can become hard to ween them off of it. DraftExpress has some further troubling notes in his profile.

… it would be nice to see George getting to the line more, and there are several reasons as to why he’s not doing so at a higher rate in his current state of development. Most glaring are his limitations as a shot-creator. He has average stationary ball handling skills and is capable of dribbling the ball on the perimeter at the WAC level, but when it comes to exploding by his man and getting into the teeth of the defense – he presently lacks that skill set.

If we’re solely thinking about skills that fit the Bucks as constructed, a spot up shooter helps. But if the Bucks are looking to progress and view their draft pick as a piece towards progressing, someone who lacks the ability to explode by his man isn’t as useful. That’s not to say George could never develop a move to free himself or learn the tricks he’d need to get to the basket and free throw line, but it certainly places him more into the project category as he learns those things.

George will reportedly be in on Monday working out with Craig Brackins, so we’ll have more on him after that.

  • Damion James

Current DraftExpress.com Mock: 16 Minnesota Timberwolves
Current NBADraft.net Mock: 19 Boston Celtics

A four year college player, and not necessarily by his own choice, James is certainly not much of a mystery. He’s a good rebounder, he can throw down some nice dunks, make some highlight reel blocks and occasionally step out for a three. He’s much less prone to taking threes than Paul George, but also less capable of hitting them as often. He absolutely has one thing working in his favor according to DraftExpress:

James’ biggest strength clearly revolves around how hard he plays

The talent of self-motivation is often overlooked, but few teams value it the way the Bucks do. Players willing to dig in and work hard are going to get an opportunity with the Bucks. If it turns out they’re above average players too, then that’s all the better and will earn them major minutes. Best of all for James, he combines that effort with exceptional athleticism.

James tested out at last year’s combine with a 30 inch standing vertical and a 37 inch max vertical. To put that in perspective, DeMar Derozan, one of the best dunkers in last season’s rookie class, had respective numbers of 29 and 38.5. This bodes well for James ability inside to keep tipped balls alive and score on putbacks.

James’ size may be a bit of an issue, he’s 6’7.5”, but he makes up for it with a wing span that’s nearly 7’1”. Given his effort level and above average athleticism, James seems to have the makeup of a prominent defensive player. The question becomes is that valuable enough to the Bucks at the 15th pick to make him the selection? Would they rather have a more polished offensive player that is willing to make the effort to become a better defensive player? James probably is what he is on offense. He’ll hit an occasional shot, but don’t ask him to create much off the dribble or set up teammates. He’s probably going to be a very good defender and rebounder at the three, but in the Bucks offense, he’s likely going to split time between being a three and an undersized four.

  • Stanley Robinson

Current DraftExpress.com Mock: 20 San Antonio Spurs
Current NBADraft.net Mock: 35 Golden State

Here’s a fun little game, try and figure out from these DraftExpress scouting reports which one of these players is Robinson and who the other player is.

Player A.
Physically, there’s not much new to add about Player A from our previous reports, as he remains an elite athlete with outstanding length and good size for the combo-forward position at XX. He’s added a good amount of strength in his time at school, but his wiry frame can probably hold a little bit more bulk if he wants to add it, though that won’t be much of an issue at the next level, as his effortless athletic abilities should translate quite well. It’s not difficult to project him developing into a reliable spot-up three-point shooter in the NBA.

Player B.
A world class athlete, lightning quick and an unbelievable leaper. One of the most exciting dunkers in all of college basketball. Plays above the rim, gets off the floor in the blink of an eye, which helps him throw down monster alley-oops and ferocious put backs. Runs the floor extremely well, and will often beat his man up the floor. His back to the basket skills are much more developed then his face up game, and he will really need to be matched up with a Power Forward that compliments his skills on both ends of the court to be most effective. Needs to bulk up significantly, since he isn’t a perimeter threat just he’ll probably need to go inside to cause damage in his first couple of seasons in the NBA.

Player A is Stanley Robinson.
Player B is Hakim Warrick.

I asked a friend who invests loads of his time into watching Big East basketball about Robinson and the first name he came back with was Warrick. There seems to be some prospect of hope that Robinson can surpass Warrick as a perimeter threat on DraftExpress, but his strengths are very similar. Warrick has turned himself into a capable 3-point shooter, but as is often the case with players who develop a shooting touch as they go on, relied on it far too often in his short stay in Milwaukee. If Stanley Robinson is the pick and he’s doing anything other than launching wide open shots or dunking, he’s doing way too much.

At 6’9” 225 pounds, Robinson does have the size to split time between the three and the four with more success than most. His ball handling skills would probably limit his time at the three in Milwaukee though. Defensively, it’s not hard to project Robinson excelling in guarding two or three positions if he puts his mind to it, but it may be difficult to count on him putting his mind to it often.

He missed some time his junior year after having his scholarship revoked due to a private situation Coach Jim Calhoun wouldn’t discuss. Robinson had to get a job at a steel mill and earn his way back onto the team as a walk-on paying his own way. There are red flags regarding his character, focus and how he’ll be able to handle the NBA lifestyle.

Sometimes guys can turn things around though. If you read Chad Ford’s draft blog from Vegas, you’ll see that Robinson may have just done that in these past two years.

If Robinson really has turned it around, he’s a heck of a talent. But still, he projects as a role player. A versatile role player, but still a role player. Of these three, I’d say he’s the least likely to be a Bucks player in two months … unless he drops all the way into the early second round as he’s currently being projected on NBADraft.net. In that case, it would be simple to envision the Bucks taking a flier.

Categories: Draft Talk

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