Drafting the Bucks in two, Part I

Last year Alex Skov and I tried out an Bucks-themed mental exercise with hilariously disastrous results:  we drafted the Bucks into two distinct teams.  As a quick recap, there were only two rules:

1) The draft was a snake draft, so one team got the first pick, the other got picks #2 and #3, the team with the #1 pick made picks #4 and #5, etc…

2) The goal was to make the most viable and competitive playing rotation possible with half an NBA roster for one season.  It was not a keeper league, if you will.  After a year, the two halves of the Bucks were theoretically reunited.

The stupendous choices Alex and I made for 2012-13 are listed below.

  Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 9.44.41 AM

Highlights included:  The two of us ignoring Larry Sanders until the penultimate #13 pick.  One of us (me) picking five power forwards on a seven-player team (though I partially blame John Hammond for that).  Another one of us (Alex) getting stuck with the three most hapless Bucks — Samuel DalembertDoron Lamb, and Joel Przybilla.

And since one of that trio had to be on the court at all times, I’m taking the last hilarity as the reason that I won handily.  (Sorry, Alex.  I crushed you.)

This year, I’ve recruited Mitch Vomhof to pick with me.  Hi, Mitch. Welcome to this bizarre game.

Mitch: Hi K.L., thanks for having me. We are right in the middle of fantasy football draft time, so I’m primed and ready to go. Do we have keepers? Is it an auction? How many points are touchdowns worth?

*rereads the introduction*

Oh. Right. Well… anyways, let’s get down to it!

It seems like this year’s Bucks Draft might be particularly tough to do, what with 11 new players joining the team this year. The questions abound: Will O.J. Mayo produce like he did in the first half of last year in Dallas? Can Brandon Knight be a successful point guard? What are the Bucks trying to do here, anyways? Can I even name everyone on the Bucks’ roster at this point? We’ll find out!

Anyways, I’ve taken the liberty of preparing for this event by skimming through the record of yours and Alex’s draft last year — twice! — and I feel like I’m prepared to create the best team consisting of half the Bucks’ roster that anyone’s ever seen. So let’s get down to it! How do we decide who gets that coveted #1 pick?

K.L.: I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 100, one of the most jaw-dropping numbers of the Bucks’ offseason. Is it even or odd?

Mitch: Odd!

K.L.: No, it was 64.  Giannis Antetokounmpo said that he chose jersey number 34 because his father is 63 years old and his mother is 64 years old.  Giannis is 18 years old.  His brothers are 21, 15, and 11 years old.  (Short mental math pause.)

Screen shot 2013-09-03 at 9.36.57 AM
Antetokounmpo and his parents (right of Giannis) pose with Greece’s prime minister (far left) and other officials. (Photo credit: Twitter/DimitropulosFCM)

If his parents are in their mid-60s, they are the handsomest older married couple in world history.  I’m 41, falling apart, and can barely haul my exoskeleton out of bed each morning.  And his 60-something parents look like this?!?

Of course, there’s also a possibility that there’s a language issue in play.  (And that’s obviously not a criticism because — to no one’s great surprise — his English is 1000 googol times better than my Greek.) Did he mean to say they were 53 and 54?  Did he mean that they were born in 1963 and 1964?  Regardless, the purported age of the beautiful Mrs. Antetokounmpo was the most shocking number I saw this summer, even more than the amount of money the Bucks gave Zaza Pachulia.

Mitch: Boy howdy, both of those numbers sure are surprising! (Especially when you consider where Zaza’s likely to fall in this little exercise of ours.) But you’ve won the right to the first overall pick here, so have at it! I suspect I know who it is… and now I see John Hammond stepping to the podium with the card.

“With the first overall pick in the 2013 Bucks Civil War, KL selects…”

K.L.: Larry Sanders?

I’m guessing that you guessed correctly. (Hey, meta-levels of guessing!) But the choice wasn’t as clear cut as I would have hoped.

Sanders is an immense talent, and the Bucks made the right move in extending him, but there is still a decent dose of risk mixed in — both for the Bucks over the next five years and for me in our theoretical exercise.

For all of his premium defensive talents, Larry isn’t a great offensive player. He’s also a bit undersized at center, so he needs maximum health.  In other words, if a minor injury robs him of part of his athleticism, it can have a major impact on his effectiveness.  He can’t fall back on being an effective jump shooter, a low-post maestro, or a massive-bodied rebounder.

Risk aside, I’m still excited about this pick.  When he was healthy and rolling along early last season, there was a point at which he had a block percentage of 10.0% — he was blocking 1 out of every 10 shots that the other team attempted.  (He finished at 7.6%.)

For obvious reasons, I hope I’ve drafted that player.  Players who block that many shots (and deter so many others) are an amazing asset to have.

Enjoy picks #2 and #3, Mitch, and please leave me a decent offensive player or two in the leftovers.

Mitch: You are correct that I’m correct that you picked the way I guessed… oh, never mind. You get it.

(Photo credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Mark Hoffman)
Ilyasova and Sanders face off in a 2012 intrasquad scrimmage. (Photo credit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Mark Hoffman)

Anyways, on to my picks. Now that the Bucks’ “face of the franchise” is off the board, the parameters of the challenge come into play again. If this draft was based on future potential or our assessment of a player’s entire career, I would definitely be considering selecting Brandon Knight or the Greek Freak, Giannis Adetokunpo. If Larry is the current face of the franchise, then those two are the most obvious faces of the future for the team. However, if we’re talking about one season only, my second pick in this draft is Ersan Ilyasova.

I haven’t made much of a secret in the past of the fact that I’m an Ersan supporter. But he was arguably the Bucks’ second-best non-Swag Twin last year after Larry. Ersan presents perhaps the only lineup mismatch the Bucks can exploit as a stretch power forward who can draw one of the opponent’s big men out of the lane and correct some of the spacing issues that plagued the poor-shooting Bucks last year.

Granted, he’s a sieve defensively, relying on the skills of his backcourt mate *coughLarrycough* to erase some of the mistakes he makes going up against offensively skilled big men. But you have to appreciate a big man that shoots 44% from three-point range and Ersan is the most offensively ready big man the Bucks have for now.

With the third pick, I’m going to start building my backcourt with O.J. Mayo.

And no, I didn’t JUST pick him because he’s wearing #00 this year. But that may have been a significant factor.

I had to look twice at Mayo’s career numbers while researching this article as I didn’t realize that he’s entering his sixth NBA season. Though he’s only 25 (closer to 26 when the season starts), O.J.’s seen a lot of NBA action. In his three full years as a starter (two with Memphis and last year with the Dallas Mavericks), he’s averaged over 16 points per game on 44% shooting. He’ll be counted on to provide some scoring punch for the Bucks with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings gone as well as for my team as I’m going to have to shift my focus to shoring up my defense in my next turn.

Back to you, K.L.!

K.L.: I know that we’ve said that this draft isn’t about anything beyond this season, but I have to pick John Henson with the fourth pick because I think he will break out in a huge way soon.  I’ll slot him in at power forward and let him do his thing next to Sanders.  Henson didn’t do the greatest job of reading defenses and rotating with help last season, but he looked like he was making strides in that area during Summer League — and as an added bonus, he looked physically stronger too.

I also foresee the continuation of two trends from last season.  First, expect his go-go reach and innate timing to help him rebound on the offensive glass at an elite rate.  Second, expect another disaster at the free throw line. His form in Vegas was shaky.

All in all, though, I’m thrilled Henson is available because I think he’s going to catch the defensive bug and start playing more on that end like his partners in arms: Sanders and Ekpe Udoh.

Now it’s time for the fifth pick.  Oh, the fifth pick.  If I had to split up the Bucks into tiers, then Sanders would sit alone on the top tier, with Henson, Mayo, and Ilyasova sitting a tier below him.

As a result, this pick confounds me in a way that my first two didn’t.  In my eyes, those were no-brainers; this one is a too-much-for-my-feeble-brainer.

Do I want Delfino or Butler?  Do I want Knight or Ridnour?  Is it time to take Gary Neal?

Okay Mitch, let me think about it and I’ll get back to you when we tip off Part II of our Bucks Draft.

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