Is Marcus Smart Milwaukee’s next point guard?

The Bucks are bad this season. A different kind of bad. The kind of bad that’s turned the average NBA fan in Milwaukee into a remote control savant on Saturday afternoons, keeping tabs on four or five college teams with potential high lottery picks. It’s been a while since this has happened, but damned if it isn’t a bit exciting.

Unfortunately, Bucksketball isn’t stocked with a roster of college basketball loving NBA writers. So we went searching the globe and found a couple of fellas who have a much better grasp on the current college landscape. This is the first post in a series from Greg Mason and Mike Gennaro analyzing potential Bucks draft picks from now until draft day.

– JS

Greetings from sunny Florida, Bucks fans! March Madness is less than a month away and in the weeks leading to the Big Dance we’re taking a look at the gems of this year’s highly touted draft class. We’ll start our journey by looking at part point guard part talking point, Marcus Smart. While Marcus Smart is no longer in the conversation as the potential top pick in this year’s draft, he could nevertheless end up in a Bucks uniform. Is this polarizing figure the right man for the Bucks?

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Where Does He Fit?

  • Imbalanced roster – too many tall skinny dudes
  • Uncertain future at point guard – Nate Wolters is likely more of a backup and Brandon Knight is still developing
  • Bad, but not crippling, contracts (OJ Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia, Larry Sanders (potentially))
  • Scoring – Near the bottom of the league in ppg. Is this a question of personnel, leadership, coaching, lack of a floor general/facilitator or all of the above?

Smart, while he’s turned into something of a walking controversy of late, could potentially bring more stability to an unstable point guard situation in Milwaukee.

Where Could Milwaukee Get Him?

The Bucks have positioned themselves to earn a coveted top-4 pick in this year’s draft. Assuming that they finish with the worst record in the league, they stand a 25% chance of landing the first overall pick. While this is by most accounts an absolutely loaded draft, no player has separated himself as the clear cut top overall player in the class.

Although Marcus Smart is no longer in the conversation as the potential top overall pick, we’ll debate why he may in fact be the best option for the Bucks moving forward. It stands to reason that it would likely create a firestorm if the Bucks were to use a top-4 pick on Smart, passing up on a guy with a higher ceiling in the process. But, would it in fact be in the best interest of a team with so many holes to leverage their sexy top-4 pick for Marcus Smart and additional assets? Additionally, three Bucks have earned a spot on Bill Simmons’ annual “30 Worst Contracts in the NBA” report.

Smart is projected by Draft Express to go sixth to the Celtics. It’s no secret that Danny Ainge would love to see Jabari Parker in green and gold. So, let’s say that Ainge offers Marcus Smart and the #19 pick plus Brandon Bass in exchange for Jabari Parker and OJ Mayo. This would provide an additional first round pick, fill Milwaukee’s most glaring positional need and add muscle and cap relief in the form of Brandon Bass.

This strategy has gone very badly in the past.

Just ask Portland, who missed out on the chance to draft Chris Paul in 2005 when they swapped the third pick in the draft with Utah for the rights to  the #6 (Martell Webster) and #27 (Linas Kleiza) picks. But for a team riddled with bad contracts and a severely imbalanced roster, practical considerations need to be considered. So the question is whether it is better to grab a less enticing but nonetheless very talented and NBA ready guy like Smart plus assets or swing for the fences with a potential-laden but unproven guy like Wiggins or Embiid?

Another question to consider moving into this draft is whether this draft contains any potential perennial all-first team NBA types; guys like Lebron, Durant, Duncan or Chris Paul whose presence alone gives you the chance to go deep into the playoffs season after season? If not, is selling high the way to go?

Marcus Smart Breakdown

So who is Marcus Smart? For those new to the college scene this year, he might just be the chair kicking, fan pushing, blog bashing, intense Oklahoma State guard that seems to be a character and personality risk at the next level. But is this the real Marcus Smart?

Smart’s freshman season with the Cowboys was better than expected. He averaged 33 minutes a game, scoring an average of 15.4 ppg with 5.8 rpg and 4.2 apg while swiping 3 steals a game.  On the flipside, he shot just under 29% from 3-point land and 40% from the field, while turning the ball over an eye-popping 3.4 times a game. Additionally, despite showing a knack for finding open teammates, especially in transition, his assist totals were relatively modest. But this was his first full-time stint at PG, a position that he wasn’t used to playing. What separates Smart from the other point guards in this year’s draft is his elite size (6’4” and 225lbs), his motor – he is a workhorse and his extreme competitiveness. When the road gets rough he will be the leader and carry the team on his back.

On the defensive end Smart can be very disruptive. He has lightening quick hands, anticipates passing lanes and has the ability to lock in when he needs to. He is a bit like Corey Brewer in his desire to reach and gamble for steals. He struggles to stay in front of quicker guards so he will have to learn how to compensate for his lateral deficiencies at the next level. Yet, for a guard he can rebound because of his size and does a great job looking for ways to help his team win games.

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Marcus Smart was a projected lottery pick last season, but decided to give it one more chance at the college level – try to win the tourney and fine tune his craft before making the leap to the big league. While last year’s draft was guard heavy (Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Trey Burke, CJ McCollum, and Michael Carter Williams all went in the lottery) Smart nevertheless took a risk to come back to one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. Fortunately for Smart, elite point guards (Smart can play both guard positions) are lacking in this year’s lottery. This will definitely work to his advantage come draft night.

But will he become a better shooter? Will he live up to the comparisons that he can be the next Russell Westbrook? Like Westbrook, he has never seen a shot that he doesn’t like and will command 10-15 shots a night at the very least. He is not as quick as Westbrook, or as much of a freak athlete, but like Westbrook, he is very aggressive, can score and facilitate.

But the Marcus Smart that came back for another year at Oklahoma State must feel like he is in a nightmare off and on the court. The Cowboys are 16-10, losers of 7 straight, and in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament (he missed the last 3 serving his suspension for the push). With the exception of cutting down slightly on turnovers and averaging 17.5 points per game, up 2.1 from last season, the rest of his numerical categories are down.

In the January 25th matchup against a physical West Virginia squad in which he totaled just 4 points in 25 minutes before fouling out, Smart lost his composure and kicked a chair to show his frustration. The game itself was very physical, witnessing 56 fouls and 66 foul shots combined. Some might say that’s the kind of intensity you want, willing to kick chairs and fire up his team, while others see it as a whiny kid displaying the first signs of a personality problem that will fester at the next level. It goes without saying that these concerns were exacerbated after he pushed a Texas Tech fan on Feb 8th.

You can make your own opinion of the Smart push, but one thing is for sure – this season has not gone as expected. And somehow, his draft position has not slid this season (but he was at one point last season slated as high as #2). In fact, he is hovering this year around the number 5-7 pick in the draft (in a much more talented draft). His talent will transcend, but the question now is how much and how good can he be? Will losing at the next level and more intense heckling from fans push him over the edge? Or will he use it to fire his game as he is trying to do in the college game? He will always be outspoken. Does this Bucks team want some attitude and swagger, a floor general?

Alright, hypothetical situations aside, if the Bucks find themselves drafting in the 4-6 spot in the draft, can you really pass up on Smart?

Sure he doesn’t have the upside of a Parker, Wiggins, or Randle. But he is a year older, blessed with a man’s body, and ready to step in and lead a team tomorrow. He might be the ideal partner to tag team with Giannis looking forward. Let’s be honest, is there anyone else on the team you want here in 4 years leading the Bucks? That is what this draft pick means. It is the second building block to match with Giannis. And it better be made with careful consideration.

Smart has his limitations but he possesses all of the intangibles that you could ask for in a floor leader. When asked about Smart following the incident in Lubbock, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla noted, “To me, Marcus’ greatest strength is also at times his greatest weakness, which is his ubercompetitiveness. What separates him from every other player in the country is his desire to win, but at the same time it’s something that occasionally gets him in trouble because he has got to able to channel the energy when things don’t go his way.”

Do you draft the best athlete/player (upside) regardless if you have someone at that position already, or do you draft for need? In this case, drafting at the 4-6, we might argue that need trumps upside. Especially if he can ball, and Smart can ball and lead your team.

Most Important Question: HOW DOES HE FIT WITH GIANNIS?

Of the 6 gems headlining this year’s draft Smart fills the biggest need on a team with many. His skills as a floor leader and facilitator would be a welcome addition in Buckland. He is especially adept at pushing the ball and finding open men in transition. Giannis, the affable Greek gazelle, loves to run and would team well with Smart in the open court.

Despite having devoted a large portion of their salary cap to the front court, Milwaukee currently ranks 25th in the league in rebounding. Smart is an excellent rebounder from the guard position. It remains to be seen whether he will improve his shooting and decision making skills.

He needs to tighten his handle, take better shots and become a better shooter. If he’s able to do those things he’ll grow as a half court fit with Antetokounmpo, another shaky jump shooter at the moment.

But the shooting, the handle and his decisions as a shot maker are things that can be improved with time. His mediocre athleticism is another question altogether. Time will tell whether his lack of explosiveness will prevent him from becoming a top-tier point guard in the league. Finally, his ferocious attitude is considered a strength by some and a liability by others.  John Hammond and the Bucks brass will have to decide whether or not Marcus is in fact the smart choice for the Bucks moving forward.

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Categories: Draft Talk

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    • This made me laugh. A response to a title after a 2k word article. Not criticizing, just made me chuckle for its simplicity.

      • Jeremy why plant cancerous thoughts in the heads of bucks fans? Marcus Smart is a low upside, mediocre, positionless, high turnover, poor shooting player. He’s a 6th man, soon waiters type player at best. If u offered me marcus smart for Brandon Knight I would laugh.

        You already made the point his stock is artificially high because of the lack of point guards in this years draft. With that being said, I would rather have Dante Exum or Tyler Ennis in a heart beat.

        You mentioned intangibles… You know who else had intangibles? Tim Tebow, that worked out well at the next level. This team would be better off with a number of players but this drafts top 5 is set in stone in no particular order, Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Exum and Randle. After that, a big drop off occurs.

        If this team falls out of the top 5 we might as well kiss this “Milwaukee” Bucks goodbye.

      • Well here goes:

        1. If that’s our prize after a year of crap hoops, I’ll be a bit miffed.

        2. Is he really going to be better than Knight?

        3. If we were able to get him with a 2nd pick I’d be better with it depending on who else was available, but I strongly doubt that’s happening

  1. If they end up as second- or third-worst and miss out on the top three, YES! Absolutely. It’d be either him or Randle, and they don’t need Randle. Should be like this:


    Naturally, now that I’ve said this, they will land #1 overall and take Embiid, BUT. Smart could work. Don’t disregard a guy who came back to school and fell in the draft, then had some teams pass on him because he’s seen as crazy, and what he might be able to accomplish in a small market as a result.

  2. Just from my first reading…. I’m not thrilled about a point guard who has trouble passing up a shot — and especially so if he isn’t a particularly good shooter, and apparently Marcus Smart isn’t. Even Kyrie Irving and John Wall, as perhaps excellent shooters, might be question marks as point guards until it’s determined if they can lift their teams into the upper echelons of the NBA from that position, instead of shooting guard. We might be seeing a paradigm shift in the pros at the point.
    Also, although it can be good to have a fiery competitor or two on a team, that’s not necessarily the case at point guard, where oftentimes a cooler head must prevail. I mean, the point is the guy who’s leading all the other guys, right?
    Another concern: It’s great if Smart is a good passer in the running game, but in crunch time during the regular season, and perhaps just about all the time in the playoffs, it’s necessary to have a point guard who can operate in half court under the pressure of tightening defenses and heightening stakes. Otherwise, a team will tend to lose the close ones in heartbreaking fashion, or so it seems.
    I just get the impression that, although Marcus Smart has a lot of upside altogether, he is actually still somewhat of an experiment at point. If I had my druthers, I’d rather take a chance on a point guard who seems more natural at the position, with proven court presence and creativity, along the lines of a Rondo, Rubio, Nash or Kidd. I’m wondering who is available farther down in the draft, or in the NBA by trade or free agency (remember the 76ers traded Jrue Holiday last summer at draft time).
    P.S. By the way, great idea for a series of articles on draft prospects, and the first installment was really enjoyable. I pretty much watch only watch the Badgers when it comes to college hoops (where I’m starting to like Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker as potential pro players in a couple of years).

  3. Hellll no. I actually wouldn’t mind Nate Wolters as starter going forward considering if we draft correctly we should have volume shooters and scorers at the 2 and 3 with Knight and maybe Parker, we would just need someone who can run the offense and protect the ball, which Wolters already does. Or, if the bucks wanted to start Knight at PG with Wiggins/Parker at the 2 and Giannis at 3, I wouldn’t mind. I think Knight has shown some flashes of PG ability over the last month (6.6 apg) so I wouldn’t mind him as our future PG. He is also still very much developing at the young age of 22 (or 23 as Gery Woefel believes) and he could become a solid PG. Havin guards that can rebound is always nice too, which we would certainly have with Knight and Wiggins/Parker. In any event we do not need another high volume, low percentage shooting PG with a chip on his shoulder. We had that with Jennings and it didn’t necessarily work out

  4. We’re not looking for a player who can step in and lead the team. We’re looking to REBUILD. I’m not especially worried about it though.

    Hammond has always drafted based on most talented rather than off of need, and I don’t expect that to change. If we have a chance to land a Wiggins/Parker/Embiid, we don’t pass that up.

  5. Please no, unless they drop a ton in the draft order by magically becoming a good team. Not that I have a problem with Smart but the Bucks have spent years pining for a star and now with the chance to draft someone with that kind of potential they don’t need another 2 above average but not great players (Smart and Bass). Unless of course you want to try for some more 8th seeds. If you really want him see if he falls a bit to the late lottery and trade one of these “tall skinny dudes” not named Giannis and next years first for him.

  6. Aggressive combo guard with a history of questionable decision making as a facilitator Hmm…sounds familiar

  7. Don’t get me wrong, I like Smart as a player, just not as much as the other guys that could be taken in the top 4. There is a chance of getting a franchise changing star in Parker, Wiggins, or Embiid. Trading back only benefits us if the holes where these guys would play are filled. But we need help just about everywhere, so we should take one of these guys that can really change the direction of this team. I personally lean towards Parker since he is the most NBA ready and brings a scoring threat which the Bucks desperately need. Since our front office has that “win now” mentality, why not take the care who brings possibly the most improvement to a roster immediately?

  8. I would like to see Smart in a Bucks uniform if we somehow found a way to get a second top 10 pick to compliment the likes of Embiid or Parker. I would much rather move Larry and some pieces to aqquire a mid to late first and go after a distributing point gaurd who can hang with the top PGs in the league on defense… something I don’t think our current PGs are capable of doing.

  9. This guy sounds exactly like the kind of guy that will end up in a bucks uniform. Has the temper, poor shot selection, and will want out as soon as he can.

    So say we draft him for the long-term, we develop him and watch as he progresses through his growing pains. Only to demand release or trade upon the first rumors that he could be an all-star. Perhaps those rumors never come, however, if the Bucks continue down the road of chasing the 8th seed at all cost, will an “ubercompetitive” player want to be rocking the Christmas colors come April? The Bucks really need to go for players that are willing to exist in a small market, first and foremost. I don’t know too much about Smart, but the vibe he throws out is that he thinks he’s better than he is.

    We are in a development stage so why do we need a guy like smart that is only a year older than Wiggins or Parker? Both guys would fit better with Milwaukee. They may not be the position that is most needed, but as was mentioned earlier why reach for a guard just because the talent poor is thin on guards?

  10. Not sure the order they should go, but IMO I’d bracket them like such:

    —- Top Tier —-

    1) Andrew Wiggins

    2) Joel Embiid

    3) Jabari Parker

    4) Dante Exum

    5) Julius Randle

    —- Next Tier —-

    6) Noah Vonleh

    7) Aaron Gordon

    8) Marcus Smart

    9) Andrew Harrison

    —- …and maybe —-

    10) Rodney Hood

    11) Gary Harris

    12) Tyler Ennis

    13) James Young

    14) Dario Saric

    – Wayne Selden

    – Jerami Grant

    – Jordan Clarkson


    Hope to see the Bucks with an opportunity to draft Giannis’ brother in the second round.

  11. One nice thing about this article is getting comments from new people or people who are less likely to express their opinions; it’s more interesting and enjoyable to get a wider variety of views, as well as those of us regulars.

  12. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand the hype regaurding Exum? Granted, I’m basing my analysis from YouTube videos but when I watch him play I see a guy with great physical tools but a sub-par offensive skill set playing against okay talent. I don’t see him being able to outrun and finish on players at the next level like he’s doing now, down under. Then again, I didn’t think Giannis would translate the way he did… Don’t know if there is a center in the game right now with a better all around game than Embiid. Trade Larry and some pieces for a pick and do whatever it takes to snag Ennis in the lottery.

  13. I’d love to see the Bucks pick up a PG, either Exum or Smart, but neither of them are a good pick for the very top of the draft.

    What if the Bucks traded Henson for a pick around the 6-10 range in order to get one of these guys? It doesn’t really make sense for Henson and Sanders to be in part of the long-term picture. Sure, we all like Henson better … but nobody’s giving up a lottery pick for Sanders.


    • A team like Sacramento comes to mind. They desperately need an athletic PF to run the floor. Henson or Sanders would fit great there. Henson would make more sense in terms of $$ and ego. We would probably have to throw in middleton and a couple 2nds in return for their top pick and a lousy contract (J. Thompson) but it would be worth it in my opinion. Still think Ennis is the best PG in the draft.

  14. You still gotta go with Embiid, Parker or Wiggins if you get a top 3 pick. Highest ceilings, no attitude problems, etc. Now if they wanted to combo Mayo/Ilyasova/Knight/Zaza with a future first round pick for like the 7th or 8 pick and grab Smart, then sure. But no way can we afford to miss out on one of the top three prospects after this hell of a season, no way.

  15. The bucks need to grab Parker/Wiggins , trade bad contracts for almost nothing if possible to clear as much space as possible have another tough year next year for another high pick while developing the young guys and if we can get a high caliber player in the 2015 draft you have a OKC situation. Knight ,Parker, Giannas, Henson, and maybe a top center in next years draft (get rid of sanders) with Wolters and Middleton off the bench try to bring in some bence players with the cap space the 2016 season is looking like a very competitive young team that could develop into a powerhouse

  16. I’d loath reading Gery Woelfel Tweets about Sanders AND Smart. I don’t think I’d be able to take it.

  17. If the Bucks want to deal, how about this slobberknocker?

    Larry Sanders to Sacramento (and $11 million per season)
    John Henson to Sacramento ($2 million)
    1st pick to Sacramento (Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid)
    Zaza Pachulia to Sacramento ($5 million)
    OJ Mayo to Sacramento ($8 million)

    Sacramento’s sixth pick to Milwaukee (Rodney Hood)
    DeMarcus Cousins to Milwaukee ($13.5 million per season)
    Derrick Williams to Milwaukee ($6 million– possible expiring)
    Jason Terry to Milawukee ($5 million– expiring)
    Jason Thompson to Milwaukee ($6 million)
    Reggie Evans to Milwaukee ($2 million– expiring)

    In a word, balance. The Kings have no trouble scoring. Both the rejuvenated Rudy Gay and second-round steal Isiah Thomas are 20 point-a-game scorers, but they don’t play defense. And Cousins is not good on that side of the ball either. They need a defensive stopper and elite rebounder to collect caroms and feed the shooters. Sanders, when right, provides just that.

    They also get the chance to grab the best prospect in the draft. It ultimately doesn’t matter if they view that prospect as Parker (a small forward they can pair with Gay) or Embiid (a PF/ C they can pair with Henson and/or Sanders). That would give the Kings three elite scorers and a guy you know head coach Malone absolutely loves. The sixth pick is a gamble– a team likes Sacramento could use the “sure thing” the first pick provides.

    Henson adds frontcourt depth and perhaps a starting power forward. He’s another rebounder and shot blocker to add to the Kings suddenly flush front court. Pachulia is a more offensive center, capable of starting or backing up the spot. He can play with Sanders or teach a young big man how to play. Pachulia, Henson, Sanders, Gay, and Embiid (or Parker) would be a top ten front court, capable of providing match-up nightmares across the board.

    Milwaukee grabs their offensively dominant big to play through, along with a top prospect, not to mention a buy-low SG possibility. Three wildcards, but certainly worth the risk.

    Why deal the first pick? In short, Cousins is what they hope Embiid to be (though he’s more offensive-minded– a need for a team that struggles to score). Cousins would anchor the inside and is a pick and roll nightmare. He’s also a very good passer for a big man, capable of finding spot-up shooters (hello, Hood and Ilyasova in the corners) and cutters.

    Hood is an extreme gamble. While perhaps not an All-Star, he profiles as more than capable, especially in a weak Eastern Conference. Offensively, he’s a long distance sniper who’s already played in a ton of big games and has the length and handle to play the 2 or 3. He’s exceptional off the ball and also has experience as a point-forward. Defensively, he has most of the tools (his arms are short) to play adequately, but he’s not dominant, despite his size.

    Williams is another gamble. He’s not been the focal point of an offense and he’s really nothing more than a second-unit effort guy at this point. However, he’s got talent. Why not try? Terry, Thompson, and Evans round out the salaries and are throw-in depth. Still, they’re veterans capable of helping out youngsters ahead of them.

    Milwaukee’s team after this blockbuster:
    G Brandon Knight
    G Rodney Hood
    SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
    PF Ersan Ilyasova
    C DeMarcus Cousins

    G Jason Terry
    G Nate Wolters
    SF/PF Derrick Williams
    SF/PF Jason Thompson
    PF Reggie Evans
    C Jeff Adrian
    C Miroslav Riduljica

    Add in the second-round picks the Bucks have as bench fodder (include Giannis’ brother and perhaps a BPA) and perhaps another 3 and D corner shooter (Jodie Meeks? Thabo Sefolosha?) as a free agent and this team could hit the playoffs (and be a nightmare for opposing teams) as early as next season.

    Not only that, they’re also young enough (and have enough expiring contracts) to make some real noise as early as 2015.

    • I wouldn’t mind having Cousins on the Bucks. Over Henson? Sure… over Embiid? Have you seen even highlights of Embiid? DeMarcus Cousins vs Embiid. Embiid shows knack to even learn how to shoot the three point ball much like Cousins does in rare occasions. What Embiid has? 2 more inches… ability to do speedy blinding moves in the post. The ability to completely shut down the whole opposing teams offense, alone. Cousins is talented beyond talented. Embiid is as well, but Embiid has the attitude and far superior athleticism. Both smart players, but Cousins chooses to do dumb things on the court out of anger. I’d rather just ship Sanders out to the Mavs/Twolves for a first rounder or two. Then I’d try to resign Ramon Sessions to a much smaller contract. I think the bucks would do better with two guards that can get Embiid the ball one way or another. Embiid is destined to be a 24ppg/12rpg/3bpg/1.5-2spg/3-4apg on 50+ fg percentage. Embiid doesn’t have attitude and is not worth passing on but maybe a couple teams. Milwaukee is not one. He will be as good or better defensively than Sanders, and he will be far superior offensively to Sanders, most likely league leading for centers in points per game.

      • Embiid is destined to be a 24ppg/12rpg/3bpg/1.5-2spg/3-4apg on 50+ fg percentage

        You’re saying Enbiid is going to be among the top two or three centers to ever play the game?

        That’s… a bit much.

        At this point, Embiid is average 11 points a game. He’s more Nerlens Noel (without the blocks AND with more fouls) than he is David Robinson. Sure, he had upside; then again, so does Noel.

        Not sold on the Jayhawk center as a game-changing center. Especially considering how far he has to go.

        • As to the comparisons with Cousins, you do know Cousins is among the leaders in the entire NBA in PER right now? That he’s the best low post scorer in the league?

          Yeah, he has his faults– but that’s why he might be available. Offensively, Cousins is what Embiid aspires to be– in a few years, after he blossoms completely. (Maybe.)

    • Why not just trade Henson and our 2015 pick(top 10 protected)and see if we can get their pick. Offer up Delfino and take back Thompson.

      So in short Henson, Delfino and our 2015 1st(top 10 protected)for the Sacramento pick and Jason Thompson.

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  19. True.

    Between Cousins and Ilyasova, it’d be a lay-up line after getting by the backcourt. But Giannis, Wolters, and Knight are all plus defenders, so there’s that.

    Which is nice.

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