The Milwaukee Bucks are trying to move up in the NBA draft.
That may sound like exciting news to Bucks Nation, but the fact of the matter is that virtually every team in the NBA is trying to enhance its draft status as well.
The Bucks currently have the 12th overall selection in Thursday’s draft and, because this is a relatively good draft, they are basically assured of securing a solid player.
But the Bucks need more than a solid player to escape Lotteryville, where they have resided the last two seasons. As such, the Bucks brass has been persistent in attempting to move up.
According to several NBA officials, the top four spots — New Orleans at 1, Charlotte at 2, Washington at 3 and Cleveland at 4 — are virtually wedded to their picks.
There are some other teams, though, who are drafting in front of the Bucks who are open for trade business. New Orleans, which is picking 10th, is willing to deal. But the Bucks would gain little by moving up just two spots.
Golden State at 7 is also receptive to making a trade. The Warriors are in the market for a small forward. Barring a major move, the two draft prospects the Warriors are targeting — Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes — are likely to be gobbled up before their pick.
The Warriors realize this and are exploring trade options. Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala would be a nice fit, but the 76ers want more than the Warriors’ top pick. Chicago’s Luol Deng and Indiana’s Danny Granger are also on the Warriors’ radar, but the asking price for them may be a bit too pricey as well.
A more reasonable target for Golden State is Milwaukee’s Luc Mbah a Moute. On the surface, he could perhaps be the best fit of all for the Warriors. If you examine the composition of the Warriors’ starting lineup, they have an arsenal of scorers. What they truly need is a prime-time defender on the wing and there are few better than Mbah a Moute.
The Bucks may be reluctant to deal Mbah a Moute, yet where does he really fit into the Bucks’ plans? He only started 23 games last season, partly because of a sore knee, and the Bucks still have Mike Dunleavy, who is coming off an outstanding season, and an intriguing young player in Tobias Harris. What’s more, they could still keep Carlos Delfino, who’ll become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Would a package of Mbah a Moute and the 12th pick be enough to nab the Warriors’ seventh spot, along with another player for salary-cap purposes? Perhaps.
And what would the Bucks do if they possessed the seventh pick? Some NBA officials contend the Bucks, in desperate need a center and legit power forward, especially if Ersan Ilyasova bolts in free agency, would likely look at two players: Connecticut center Andre Drummond and North Carolina power forward John Henson.
Drummond is an incredible athletic speciman. He measured 6 feet, 10¾ with shoes and weighed 279 pounds at the NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago. Drummond also has 7-6 wing span and amazing quickness for someone his size.
But Drummond is far from a polished basketball player. He doesn’t have a signature move and he tends to lose focus at times on the floor.
Yet, Drummond’s potential is as huge as his frame. A team willing to wait on his development could hit the jackpot, much like the Los Angeles Lakers did with Andrew Bynum, who was the 10th overall selection in the 2005 draft.
Because of Drummond’s enormous upside, there isn’t any guarantee Drummond will still be available for the seventh selection.
But that isn’t the case with Henson who, most NBA talent evaluators predict, will go between 9 and 14. The 6-11 Henson possesses a nice all-around game, with his strong suit being his defense.
With his 7-5 wing span, excellent agility and an off-the-charts 9-3 1/2 standing reach, Henson projects to be a solid rebounder and shotblocker at the NBA level.
But Henson is also rail thin; at the pre-draft camp he weighed only 216 pounds. He also tested poorly in strength drills, although he claims he was bothered by a sore knee.
Henson, who has impeccable character, has impressed several Bucks officials to the point where some NBA officials firmly believe Henson is their primary draft target.
While the consensus among pro personnel is that Henson will be available for the Bucks even if they stay at 12, some, including the Bucks, expect him to be picked by Detroit at 9.
If that is indeed the case, and if Henson is really the Bucks’ coveted prospect, they would have to leapfrog Detroit to secure him.
While Henson may be at the top of the Bucks’ hit list, they have several other prospects on their short list. As reported here last week, the Bucks are also seriously looking a handful of other prospects, most notably Illinois center Meyers Leonard who, while athletic, needs a lot of polish; North Carolina power forward-center Tyler Zeller who, while having a nice all-around game isn’t overly athletic and has pretty much tapped out his potential; Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, who provides flexibility at both forward spots although his shooting range is suspect; and Washington Terrence Ross, who is athletic and, at 6-7, would give the Bucks the big guard they covet.
Ross, like several other Bucks’ prospects, hasn’t worked out for the team … yet. Bucks officials are still trying to get Ross into Milwaukee for a workout and to meet with other team officials.
Since general manager John Hammond and coach Scott Skiles started running the Bucks’ show four years ago, they have never selected a player in the first round who hasn’t come to Milwaukee prior to the draft.
Another shooting guard who is expected to be in the Bucks’ draft range, Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut, appears to be a wild-card. Lamb is unquestionably one of the best offensive players in the draft. He could probably help any team immediately as a scorer.
The 6-5 Lamb was expected to work out for the Bucks, but had to cancel those plans after injuring his ankle during a workout in Toronto. While the ankle injury is minor, a much greater concern to NBA teams is the condition of Lamb’s shoulders.
Some NBA officials believe there is a chance Lamb may need shoulder surgery at some point. Those concerns, at least with some teams, have prompted them to downgrade his draft stock.
Lamb could still go as high as 7 to Toronto, which is also enamored with Syracuse guard Dion Waiters, or slip past the Bucks.
BONUS SHOTS: Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman is drawing consideration from the Los Angeles Clippers for their vacant GM job. Weltman was once the Clippers’ player personnel director and worked in the organization for 13 years. … While every NBA official I’ve talked to recent days believes Charlotte will take Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson with the second pick, there are still whispers Bobcats czar Michael Jordan would be open to unloading the pick if he could acquire a young, proven talent. … One team that wouldn’t mind moving into Charlotte’s No. 2 spot is Cleveland, which has the fourth pick. The Cavs are big fans of Florida shooting guard Brad Beal, but so are the Wizards, who have the third pick. … Don’t expect Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks — whose contract expires at the end of the month — to be leaving anytime soon, especially when one Kevin Durant has his back.