If the Milwaukee Bucks are to select a center with their first-round pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, the prevailing feeling is it’ll be either Tyler Zeller of North Carolina or Meyers Leonard of Illinois .
Both Zeller and Leonard are projected by most NBA talent evaluators to be chosen in the vicinity of where the Bucks are picking, which is 12.
But there is a chance, a reasonably decent one, that Zeller and Meyers could both be off the draft board when the Bucks make their selection.
Does that mean the Bucks, in dire need of a center after trading Andrew Bogut to Golden State in March, wouldn’t pick a center?
It isn’t out of the realm of possibilities the Bucks could then choose Fab Melo of Syracuse. A native of Brazil , Melo has seen his stock steadily rise through the draft process after averaging a pedestrian 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds at Syracuse last season.
Melo is unquestionably a project but an intriguing one. He was measured at 6-foot-11 at the recent pre-draft camp in Chicago , has a 7-3 wing span and a standing reach of 9-2.
Some NBA scouts believe Melo could eventually develop into a solid starting center, especially considering he’s only played basketball six years.
Most projections have Melo being selected in the latter third of the first round, although an NBA player personnel director told me that he expected Melo to be drafted between 10 and 20.
The Bucks worked out Melo last week and came away impressed. At the Bucks’ request, Melo returned to Milwaukee on Monday at the team’s training facility in St. Francis.
Melo didn’t work out but the fact he was in Milwaukee for a second time can only mean the Bucks have more than a passing interest in him.
Heading to the finish line
There are some observers who believe the Bucks will draft a wing player with their first pick and then address their center situation over the summer in free agency or via a trade.
Tuesday — just two days before the draft — the Bucks will get an up-close-and-personal look at Terrence Ross of Washington and may possibly check out Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut on Wednesday. They are two of the premier shooting guards in the draft.
Ross has outstanding size for his position at 6-7 and is regarded by some NBA officials as the best pure shooter in the draft.
Ross has already worked out for two teams picking in front of the Bucks: New Orleans and Portland . He has also worked out for Minnesota , Denver , Philadelphia and Washington.
Lamb is one of the most explosive scorers in the draft and was once considered a lock to be a top 10 pick. But Lamb has shoulder issues that may prompt a slight slide.
Lamb and Ross have both been invited to be in the green room in New York on draft night. Only the players who are expected to be high selections are invited to the nationally-televised portion of the draft.
Blockbuster deal in the works?
The scuttlebutt is Orlando may be on the brink of trading all-world center Dwight Howard.
A slew of teams are interested in taking Howard off the Magic’s hands, including Portland and Houston .
Portland is in position to offer the Magic their two top 10 draft picks — Nos. 6 and 11 — along with a couple of players.
The Rockets also have three top 18 picks — Nos. 14, 16 and 18 — at their disposal.
Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger told me Monday night he won’t be working out for the Bucks before the draft.
A close friend of Duke guard Austin Rivers also told me Monday that Rivers won’t be coming to Milwaukee , either.
Rivers is expected to be drafted by New Orleans at No. 10, but could slip to the Bucks if the Hornets decide to draft a center like Zeller or Leonard.
Sullinger is a virtual lock to be available for the Bucks as his stock has taken hit because of back issues. He has only worked out for four teams: Detroit , Golden State , Portland and New Orleans .
Even though Rivers and Sullinger — both represented by agent David Falk — are shunning the Bucks, Bucks general manager John Hammond said that wouldn’t prevent him from selecting them or any other player who didn’t work out with the team.
In his four previous drafts with the Bucks, Hammond has never picked a player in the first round who blew off working out for the team.
BONUS SHOTS: I asked Sullinger if he was disappointed about not receiving a green room invitation. “No,’’ Sullinger said. “Not at all. I really could care less.’’ ... Charlotte isn’t the only upper-echelon team that’s fielding calls for its premium pick. So is Washington , which has the third pick. Several teams covet the Wizards’ third pick in order to draft either Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson or Florida shooting guard Brad Beal. … Baylor forward Quincy Miller worked out for the Bucks Monday. Miller is a good friend of former Baylor star and current Bucks big man Ekpe Udoh. Said Miller: “I love Ekpe. Ekpe is a great guy.’’ …. Marquette guards Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom are widely considered mid-second round picks. Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor is on the draft bubble. … Northwestern forward John Shurna, who has worked out for 12 teams: “People have been asking me where’s my home and I say the airport.’’