Drafting the Bucks into two, Part II

Mitch Vomhof and I started drafting the Bucks into two halves yesterday and we have each made our first two picks.  Read Part I to see how I ended up with Larry Sanders and John Henson while Mitch landed Ersan Ilyasova and O.J. Mayo.

Now comes the tricky part.  I have the fifth pick, and Mitch has the two after that.  Should I prefer someone from the small forward pairing of  Carlos Delfino and Caron Butler?  Is the better point guard Brandon Knight or Luke Ridnour?  Is it time to take Gary Neal?

Since none of those choices leapt off the page as a clear favorite, I decided to look at the numbers — and it made my head hurt.

The per-36 minutes scoring numbers for the Bucks perimeter players are:

Mayo:  15.6
Neal:  15.6
Butler:  15.6
Knight:  15.2
Delfino:  15.1
Ridnour: 13.7

How does this impossible degree of clustering exist?

To confound things just a little bit more, the defensive numbers on Butler and Delfino are nearly identical.

In a real draft, this is the type of pick where you trade down, get something extra, and take whoever falls to you later on.

In this draft, though, I have to make a pick, so let me try the next best thing to trading down.  I’m going to gamble on Giannis Antetokounmpo being productive this year. Then I’ll hope that the difference between your next two picks and my next two picks is negligible.

I still subscribe to the theory that being tall in basketball is a good thing. Giannis is tall for sure, and he flashed a nice handle at the Under-20 European Championship.  Can he defend right away?  That’s the real gamble.  I don’t think he can — not against forwards at least — but his physical tools lie so far outside the norm, even for NBA players, that I’m willing to take a chance on it anyway.

Mitch: Wow, that’s a bold strategy. Taking Giannis so high represents a lot of faith in him to produce this season, especially when a lot of the dialogue surrounding his pick focused on the future, not the present. Props to you for taking the high risk/high reward option.

With the sixth pick I’m going to select Brandon Knight to run the point for my team. Look, he hasn’t been a point guard in the traditional sense in his short professional career (11.7 shots and 3.9 assists per game), but he’s still young (only 21 years old!) and he should have more teammates to shoulder the scoring load in Milwaukee than he did in his first two years in Detroit. And I believe in the tutelage of new Bucks assistant coach Nick “The Quick” Van Exel. While Knight was prominently featured in what were perhaps the two most embarrassingly memorable sequences of last season (having his ankles broken by Kyrie Irving in the Rising Stars All-Star Game and being violently murdered posterized by DeAndre Jordan), he showed that he can hang in the league during his first two years. The next two to three will determine if he can thrive.

With pick #7 I’ll take Carlos Delfino to be my starting small forward. He and Caron Butler are virtually identical (statistically) at this point in their careers, but I’ll give the edge to Delfino for being younger (31 vs. 33 at the start of this season) as well as the more selfish reason that Delfino was one of my favorite Bucks during his last stint with the team. It’s looking more and more like he won’t be recovered from a broken foot in time for the beginning of the season but I’m willing to wait for Del3no! to get back.

K.L.: Well done.  I like your picks, especially Knight.  You’re right about him needing to play more like a traditional point guard, but I think he will be a pleasant surprise on defense.  He won’t be the best defender in the league, but after four years of watching Brandon Jennings, he may just look like it to us.

I think it’s time for me to address some positional needs at this point.  First off, let me take Caron Butler with the eighth pick.  As we’ve said a few times now, the numbers on Butler and Delfino matched up nearly perfectly.  I’m happy to get Butler because he’s healthy and he’s home.  I worry too that Delfino’s numbers were weirdly skewed by Houston’s unholy fast pace last season, and I don’t think Butler’s will suffer the same fate when switched over to Milwaukee.

If Aaron Rodgers loved Drew Gooden’s midrange game, then he’s going to be stalking Luke Ridnour in the near future.  As described at Grantland this summer,

Luke Ridnour is one of the most underrated jump shooters in the league. Out of the 45 NBA players with at least 350 midrange attempts this season, Ridnour ranks first in efficiency, hitting 49 percent of his shots. He was unbelievably accurate from the right baseline, where he made 56 percent.

Midrange!   I needed a point guard, and hopefully Luke uses his uncanny ability to pull up when defenses don’t overplay him in the pick-and-roll.

Ridnour had to play out of position at the shooting guard for the Timberwolves last season, but he’ll smartly shift back over to the point and run the show — with Giannis ready for spot duty when needed.

Mitch: You sure are high on Giannis, aren’t you? That’s all right. I like optimism and I like Giannis (he’s so adorable!), so it makes perfect sense. And yes, I will continue to use irrational/non-basketball-related arguments to support the young rookie. I can’t help it.But anyways, on to my next pick. To this point I’ve taken offensively-minded players in an attempt to outgun the opposition. It’s time to shore this team up in the middle with Zaza Pachulia. There are plenty of descriptors you wouldn’t use for Zaza – dynamic, graceful, and easy on the eyes all come to mind – but he’s big and not afraid to stand his ground in the paint. One of the main arguments against the Bucks’ frontcourt in recent years has been their inability to hold against powerful forwards who could bull their way into the paint and through the team’s long and lean big men. While we can express our disdain at the logic of spending $16.2 million on a player whose primary basketball skill is being big, Zaza provides heft and a willingness to body up with the league’s stronger players. While he’s no Larry Sanders in the blocking game (0.4 blocks per game in his career) and not the kind of player you can rely on for offense (6.8 PPG), Zaza is a tough interior defender that brings some frontcourt physicality that the Bucks have been lacking.

With my starting roster filled out, I’ll take Gary Neal to be my backcourt reserve. As you noted earlier, he’s awfully similar offensively to the rest of the Bucks’ guards. But if your reserve shooting guard (who can be an occasional ballhandler) can shoot worth a darn (43% career, 40% from three), you’re in a pretty decent place. Not that we should necessarily expect those numbers going forward – the Spurs finely-tuned offensive machine does wonders for a player’s ability to find open shots – but Neal can be counted on to score points in short bursts and shouldn’t be prone to ineffectiveness and turnovers like some Bucks reserve guards last year. Eliminating the massive dropoff from starters to reserves will be one key to making the Bucks more consistent this year than in the past.

K.L.: Your starting frontcourt has me wondering: Even though Zaza is from Georgia (and that’s not a Hawks reference), he started his professional career as a teen in Turkey.  Does this mean that he and Ersan can use Turkish to shout out “secret” directives to each other?  Please say yes, even if it helps your team against me.

I too like Zaza as a player and hate $16.2M as a number.

For my next pick, I’ll take Ekpe Udoh.  Despite the absence of any boxscore glory on his part, the Bucks rarely play worse with him on the floor. He’ll box out his man, alter shots in the paint, and make every rotation required of him.  I’d gladly take him as the backup big man on a 12-man roster, let alone my shortened 8-man squad.  Expect his impending restricted free agency to propel him even further this season.

Your selection of Neal leaves me in a bit shorthanded at guard, since I still need some help there and the options are narrowing.  Between Giannis and Caron Butler, it looks like I’m going to be playing some big wings.   When either of them needs a spell, I’m going to slide Khris Middleton in at small forward.  Middleton may not hold a regular spot in the rotation this season, but he showed a feathery touch in the paint for Detroit last season and he made over 40% of his corner threes.  He’s a little bit, dare I say, Tobias Harris-y, even though he’s on the wrong side of age and muscularity when compared to Harris.

Did I mention that I picked Tobias last year too?

Mitch: Well, KL, it appears as though we’ve come to the end. There are but two Bucks left to pick, so I’ll be rounding my team out with two of the biggest unknowns on this roster: Nate Wolters and Miroslav Raduljica.

Wolters was an impressive scorer in his career at South Dakota State, averaging over 20 PPG in his three years as a starter for the Jackrabbits. He’s a big (6’4″) point guard – think the Bucks tired of having an undersized backcourt last year? I’m not saying he’s a young Luke Ridnour… (but he does look like a young, taller Luke Ridnour).

And finally, we get to Miroslav. If I thought Zaza brought some heft, the 7’1″, 280 lb Serbian brings ALL the heft to my squad. It’s hard to know what the Bucks will get out of him this year – he showed some scoring skill in high-level European leagues over the last several years, but it’s hard to know if his game will translate over to the NBA. In fact, you yourself wrote a good breakdown of what Miroslav brings to the table. Oh, and while we’re at it, he played for Anadolu Efes, Ersan’s former team in Turkey. So we could potentially have three players who can communicate in a language other than English, which has to be a tactical advantage for me, no?

And however well he fits in on the team, I knew from Day 1 he would fit into Milwaukee when he arrived to sign his contract like this:



Yessir, that’s a Harley-Davidson t-shirt and camouflage shorts. Are we sure he wasn’t actually born here?

K.L.:  Umm, yeah, I’m not a big fan of that outfit.

Raduljica’s ceiling as a player falls somewhere around what Pachulia has done in his career; expect this duo among this season’s mentor/pupil relationships. In addition to tutoring Miroslav in the paint, Zaza may also need to give the rookie some fashion tips (123).  He needs them.

When we agreed to this exercise weeks ago, the Bucks had 16 players under contract and we were going to split them up eight apiece.  Since then, the Bucks traded future Hall of Famers Ish Smith and Slava Kravstov to the Suns for Caron Butler.  Now I have just seven players, which doesn’t make for much of a rotation.

I think I need one more. (Let’s make the rules up as we go along!) Which of these options would make an amenable concession on your part:

  • Letting me have a minimum salary (projected), free agent veteran
  • Letting me have a Summer League Buck who hasn’t committed to an NBA team
  • Letting me have my pick of the Bucks assistant coaches (in his 2013-14 playing form)

The first option seems too generous; the last would be a stretch unless I put Nick the Quick through a punishing training regimen.  Would the second one be fair?

Mitch: As much as I would love to see you have to play the 41-year-old Nick “Formerly the Quick” Van Exel for 20+ minutes in your backcourt, I’ll concede and give you one of the Summer League Bucks. We hardly mentioned them after they left Las Vegas, which was a bit surprising considering some of the strong performances we saw there. But I suppose the mirages of the desert make us see strange things and wish strange wishes – and none of the Summer League players was even considered that strongly for the Bucks’ roster.

So, who is your pick? Will you stay local and select Marquette grad Junior Cadougan? The strong summer performance of combo guard Dominique Jones? The 3-point stroke of big man John Shurna? The luxurious ginger locks of Mike Bruesewitz? Someone else whose name I’ve already forgotten?

K.L.: If I had your roster full of marksmen, Mitch, then I would probably take Dominique Jones then harp on him over and over again to drive and kick.  In Summer League, he showed a knack for making his way to the rim by any means necessary.

But having drafted only seven players to this point, I’m a bit light on shooters.  So let me have John Shurna and his wildly effective “kids, don’t try this at home” jump shot.  As with Middleton, his natural position is more of a tweener forward than a true wing, so if I need him to play, I’ll again slide Butler over to the shooting guard spot to make it work even though I’m not terribly fond of it.

Mitch: That would be a good idea. For teams, I’ve got

Team KL:
Larry Sanders
John Henson
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Caron Butler
Luke Ridnour
Ekpe Udoh
Khris Middleton
Jon Shurna

Team Mitch:
Ersan Ilyasova
O.J. Mayo
Brandon Knight
Carlos Delfino
Zaza Pachulia
Gary Neal
Nate Wolters
Miroslav Raduljica

Overall, it appears we have two pretty even — albeit differently focused — teams. Your strengths lie in a deep frontcourt with a bevy of flexible wings that can overwhelm opponents with their length, but having only one real guard may hurt in the ball-handling department. On the other hand I have a wealth of guards and scoring wings but no real skill (apart from heft) in the frontcourt. It would be interesting to watch your supersized squad match up against the small-ball tendencies of my crew — in fact, we should probably just forward these lineups to Coach Drew so he can use them in a scrimmage (which we would, of course, cover. Generating site content, ladies and gentlemen!). Do you have any final comments, K.L.?

K.L.: No, I think that just about does it.  May the best team win.

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      • Last year France, this year Spain… sounds like a couple of pretty good gigs for John Shurna as consolation for not making the NBA, at least not yet. In other words, honing one’s game in Europe as a way of preparing for a possible shot in the NBA seems like a pretty sweet way to go.

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