The Klay Thompson and Alec Burks difference for the Milwaukee Bucks

The Klay Thompson Bandwagon appears to have picked up some steam in Milwaukee yesterday.

A new mock draft projection, glowing articles about how he compares to an NBA Hall of Famer and plenty of positive quotes about his workout in Milwaukee. That’s the upside of working out with a team, having the right information leak out and putting on a happy face when the media comes calling. But ultimately, it seems like the Bucks draft night decision may hinge on something else, assuming their choice boils down to the two swingmen that have often been discussed recently.

Is this squad more in need of versatility and shooting or athleticism?

In a nutshell, that’s the decision Milwaukee will be faced with if both Thompson and Alec Burks are on the board.

Thompson is everything you’d expect of a former ball player’s son. He can shoot from anywhere, he’s savvy and has great size for his position. The biggest draw back on Thompson is a lack of top flight athleticism. But he wouldn’t be the first player to succeed more because of his brain than his braun.

His size and ability to play a few positions makes up for his floor bound game according to Bucks Director of Scouting Billy McKinney.

“Klay has a little bit of an edge at some point because he can play the point guard position,” McKinney said on Wednesday when speaking about the differences between Thompson and Jordan Hamilton. “He handles the ball out on the floor a little bit, but having the size to defend some of the players that we face in the Eastern Conference, if you’re playing multiple positions is definitely a benefit.”

While Burks lacks the ability to play multiple positions like Thompson and isn’t very accurate from long range, he was able to get to the basket with regularity in college. Burks was third in the nation last season with 302 free throw attempts (Thompson attempted 185). Thanks to his athletic gifts, it’s difficult to imagine him ever having a problem finishing in transition or having to alter his shot frequently once he gets past his first defender in the half court.

The question becomes one of where the Bucks most pressing needs are. Is this a team that needs a shot in the arm from a skills and versatility stand point or does this team need some top flight athletes? Okay, you got me. The Bucks clearly need as much as they can get of both. At the draft lottery, John Hammond spoke about the multiple areas of concern his team must address this off season with

“That’s probably why we’re here—because we have multiple needs,” Hammond said. “We could add some shooting to our team. Who doesn’t need that? We also feel that we need to be more athletic—the old Jimmy Johnson rule, ‘Speed Kills.’ I think speed and quickness would be good for us. We do have multiple needs and we’ll see what we can address through this process.”

Fans who watched Bucks guards last season might be inclined to lean towards the speed and athleticism issues as more pressing. John Salmons and Carlos Delfino showed they can handle the ball and shoot the three, but how many times did Salmons beat his first defender, only to have to adjust and attempt some fallaway jumper once the help arrived? Salmons got to the rim quite a bit, but he wasn’t finishing with dunks or easy lay-ins regularly. He was battling the defense, drawing fouls and forcing up tough shots because he couldn’t quite find that extra gear all season the way he did in his first go around as a Buck. And while Delfino can surprise at times with a big block or dunk, he isn’t much of a consistent threat in the half or in transition to hammer home a play at the rim.

Not that either Thompson or Burks is going to come in and start over Salmons or Delfino. Those two seem fairly firmly entrenched in the starting line up for the time being, barring the unlikely occurrence of an off-season shake up. But Scott Skiles typically lets the cream rise to the top so to speak. If Milwaukee takes Thompson or Burks and they prove more capable than those playing big minutes, there will be minutes available.

While it may be too early to simply narrow the Bucks choices down to Thompson and Burks (they appear to have some interest in Bismack Biyombo, Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson as well), Milwaukee’s most obvious choice has been a swingman all along. If they go down that route, we’ll likely see whether versatility or athleticism is a more pressing need in the minds of the Bucks front office.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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  1. I vote for Burks, you can improve shooting for easier than athleticism. Once you are a certain age there is only so much you can do to improve athleticism. Burks developing an outside shot is more likely than Thompson becoming more of a slasher

  2. I wouldn’t break down Burks and Thompson as an athleticism versus skills and polish argument. I think you’re selling Burks’ playmaking and ballhandling skills short. They’re actually better than Thompson’s. While Thompson has the edge in point guard skills over Hamilton, Burks has it over him. He’s one of the best playmakers and ballhandlers in this draft. Thompson’s a really good passer off picks but as his athleticism is only so-so and his handle could use some tightening up, it’s remain to be seen how much of a playmaking threat he’ll be at the next level.

    Thompson’s a much better shooter than Burks, whose shot besides free throw shooting needs a lot of work. That’s what gives me pause. He’s an above average athlete and very fluid but not so explosive that it’s a given he’s going to be a dynamic and high-percentage finisher around the rim. He’s going to need a good, reliable jumper to be an above-average scorer.

    If I had to choose between the two, I’d take Burks. If he can improve his jumper, he has the diverse skillset and athleticism to be a borderline all-star player. With Thompson, I’m not sure he’s a starter on a championship contending team. As a SF, he lacks power and as a 2-guard, he might be too slow.