Don’t expect a superstar.
Those are my words of advice to anyone curious about who the Milwaukee Bucks will end up drafting with the 10 pick in just over a month. In prepping my expectations for Milwaukee’s pick, I’ve gone through every draft since 2000 to try and get a feel for what becomes of the number 10 pick. In the above chart, I measure performance of every guard or wing pick since 2000 by PER. I’m sticking with guards and wings for now, as every indication seems to point to Milwaukee going after a two or three (or maybe a tweener four) with its first pick.
The highlight of the past decade? Joe Johnson. Johnson started off in a bit role in Boston, moved to a larger role in Phoenix and now leads an annual playoff team in Atlanta. Sure, his contract is going to bite back on the Hawks in a few years, but he’s still performing at a high level for now and gives them someone to turn to at the end of the game. He’s as close to being a superstar as anyone on this list and someone the Bucks would absolutely love to get at the 10 spot.
The lowlight of the past decade? Luke Jackson. Don’t let that high-water mark in his first year fool you, his NBA career never got off the ground, partly due to back surgeries in each of his first two seasons. In only one of his four seasons in the league did he shoot better than 40%.
If this season’s draft is as weak as many are saying, Milwaukee will likely be dealing with a player much closer to Jackson’s end of the spectrum than Johnson’s. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get a player that can provide something.
The lack of athleticism on the wing in Milwaukee last season was startling at times, and rarely was it more evident than on the fast break. Two-on-ones and three-on-twos were regularly botched as the Bucks lacked a player that could rise above the opponent and finish strong at the rim. Milwaukee was relying on timely passing and fakes to create open looks where other teams simply made a single pass and went hard to the rim. Watching the Miami Heat take on the Chicago Bulls often looks like a clinic on fast break finishing. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose needn’t so much as consider any unnecessary pass on a break. With their athletic abilities, defenders bounce off and fall short of them with regularity.
Milwaukee didn’t have that type of finisher very often last season. Larry Sanders had his moments trailing the break, but he’s hardly the guy a team wants handling the ball in the open court. Corey Maggette filled the finisher role better than most on the team, but he forced so much offense elsewhere that it was difficult for him to find consistent minutes. Milwaukee will likely look to shore up their athleticism problems by finding a player who has some athletic gifts, but is willing to pick his spots and learn where he can be effective in Milwaukee’s offense. That’s what Milwaukee seems to have on their hands in Sanders.
He may take the mid-range jumper a bit much for the liking of many, but Sanders always appears eager to learn and willing to work. Match those traits with game changing athleticism and Milwaukee has to ultimately be pleased with where last season’s first round pick is heading. The Bucks could do a lot worse than the wing version of Larry Sanders in this year’s shallow draft pool.
But history shows that chances are, they won’t do a lot better.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook (to the right).