The Milwaukee Bucks haven’t been timid about rolling the dice in recent years on their first-round draft picks.
In 2009, the Bucks used their top pick – No. 10 overall – on Brandon Jennings who had played just one season in Italy with marginal success.
In 2010, the Bucks expended a first-round selection – No. 15 -- on Larry Sanders, who didn’t start playing basketball until he was in high school and an extremely raw player offensively coming out of Virginia Commonwealth.
In 2012, the Bucks drafted John Henson with their top pick – No. 14 overall – even though he was hardly a finished product and had a pencil-thin frame that would take several years to fill out.
Two years ago, it was Giannis Antetokounmpo who was the Bucks’ surprise choice and 15th overall selection. While gifted athletically, Antetokounmpo competed against lower-level competition with most NBA teams convinced it would take a minimum of three years before he could be counted on as a consistent contributor.
Antetokounmpo and those other Bucks’ selections were drafted, in large part, because of their “upside.’’ Will the Bucks, with coach Jason Kidd calling the shots, stay the course Thursday night with their first-round pick – No. 17 overall ?
If they do go the “upside’’ route yet again, two players from Nevada-Las Vegas – Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood – could be in play for them. Both Vaughn and Wood are young -- Vaughn is 18 and Wood is 19 – and both possess an intriguing skill set.
Vaughn averaged 18.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last season and Wood averaged 15.5 points and 9.8 rebounds. What’s more, both players are top-notch perimeter shooters, something that has become vogue in today’s perimeter-oriented NBA.
Vaughn and Wood are projected in some mock drafts as late-first to early-second-round picks and, while mock drafts make for fascinating water-cooler chatter, they mean zilch to NBA executives who invest millions of dollars in the draft process.
“A lot of GMs told me they don’t even look at mock drafts,’’ Wood said. He then laughed and said, “Which is good.’’ Wood, for the record, has worked out for Dallas (No. 21), Portland (No. 23), Memphis (25) and Golden State (30).
Wood, in many ways, resembles Antetokounmpo. While not nearly as athletic as the “The Greek Freak,’’ Wood is long, has a slender build and has a nice mid-range game.
Wood said he’s actually patterned his game after Antekounmpo.
“I’ve been watching him,’’ Wood said. “I really like him; I really like his game. We have some of the same skills and we’re both long and pretty thin. It would be fun playing alongside with him.’’
With a bunch of teams in need of a shooting guard and with a dearth of shooting guards available in the draft, Vaughn could become a desirable commodity.
Several teams that are drafting in the same area as the Bucks – Atlanta (15), Boston (No. 16), Washington (19), Toronto (No. 20) and Chicago (22) – had already worked out Vaughn. He will work out for Portland (23) on Wednesday.
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While Wood has been studying Antekounmpo’s game, Vaughn has been viewing film on a “Who’s Who’’ of NBA shooting stars.
“I’ve watched a lot of film on a lot of two guards,’’ Vaughn said. “I try to take a lot of things they do well and add them to my game. I watched Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Kobe Bryant, James Harden.’’
Asked whose game his most resembles, Vaughn said, “I don’t know, but I have heard Bradley Beal’s.’’
Asked how his workout went with the Bucks, Vaughn said, “It went really well.’’
Vaughn’s strength is unquestionably his scoring ability. He can get to the rack with ease and he shoots the 3 relatively easy and efficiently.
Asked if he had accomplished what he set out to do in the workouts, Vaughn said, “I think I have. I think I showed them I’m more than a shooter. And I think I (disproved) the perception that I wasn’t very athletic.
“The workouts have been good.’’
Bucks short list
Bucks general manager John Hammond said the team has narrowed its wish list for the 17th pick to a group of “four players, five players at max, maybe.’’
Hammond, of course, didn't volunteer the names of those players, although it is believed Kentucky forward Trey Lyles and Arkansas power forward-center Bobby Portis are at the top of the list.
• It’s crunch time and a bunch of teams are making it clear they’re open to moving their picks. Among those teams are ones drafting at the tail end of the first round, including Portland, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers.
• There are at least three teams – Chicago, Houston and Boston -- contemplating moving up in the draft, with the hopes of securing a point guard, most likely Murray State’s Cameron Payne.
•Young point guard Emmanuel Mudiay was once considered a cinch to be a top-four selection. But there are some NBA scouts who contend he is sliding, mainly because of his concerns about his shooting.
• The Bucks are definitely exploring ways to move up. John Henson could be dangled as trade bait, as well as a 2016 first-round pick obtained from the Los Angeles Clippers.
Rumors also persist the Bucks would depart with Michael Carter-Williams as part of a package to acquire a top 10 pick.