CHICAGO — Rest assured, at some point in the June 26 NBA draft, the Milwaukee Bucks will select a shooting guard.
It may be with their top pick — which could be from one to four — or in the second round, where they have three picks. It could even be in the middle to late first round via a trade, which is a real possibility.
Bucks general manager John Hammond thought he had his shooting guard of the future in O.J. Mayo, whom he signed as a free agent last summer. Mayo was given a lavish, three-year, $24 million guaranteed contract. He didn’t come close to earning his paycheck.
Mayo was plagued by injuries and personal issues and played in just 52 games this season. He shot a pedestrian 40.7 percent from the field and averaged 11.7 points. It’s no secret the Bucks would be willing to trade him, although that will be easier said than done because of his inflated contract.
The Bucks don’t have a legitimate backup for Mayo, either. Brandon Knight, the team’s starting point guard, and rookies Nate Wolters and Giannis Antetokounmpo all masqueraded at times as two guards.
It’s little wonder why Hammond and vice president of player personnel Dave Babcock spent a great deal of their time at last week’s NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago scrutinizing shooting guards.
Among the two guards they watched and chatted with were Nik Stauskas of Michigan, Kentucky’s James Young and UCLA’s Zach LaVine — all late-lottery candidates — to Virginia’s Joe Harris — a possible late-first to early second round selection — to second-rounders like Missouri’s Jabari Brown and Iowa’s Devyn Marble.
Perhaps the most intriguing shooting guard prospect, though, is someone the Bucks haven’t shown much interest in: P.J. Hairston.
A tremendously talented performer, Hairston vividly showed his skills during a brief stint at North Carolina. In his second career start, as a sophomore against Duke, he scored 23 points. That same season he scorched Virginia for 29 points. He totaled 28 points against Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
But then Hairston’s world turned upside down. He was suspended indefinitely by Tar Heels coach Roy Williams in July after being cited for speeding and careless and reckless driving. He was cited for driving 93 mph in a 65-mph zone.
Hairston also had been charged in May for speeding and, later had charges for marijuana possession and driving without a license related to a June 5 incident dismissed.
His accepted use of a rental car was an NCAA infraction and led to the loss of his college eligibility.
The 6-foot-6 Hairston signed with the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League on Jan. 14 this year. He played well, averaging 21.8 points and 3.5 rebounds. He shot 45 percent from the field, 87 percent from the free-throw line.
But because of his past issues, NBA teams want to know if he’s matured and will conduct himself properly going forward. The Bucks are still reeling from Larry Sanders’ transgressions, his nightclub fiasco and later his five-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug program.
Understandably, the Bucks are going to be ultra-cautious about drafting anyone with character flaws. Hairston fully understands.
“They really want to know what happened (at North Carolina) and it’s up to me to be honest with them, be straight up with them and tell them the truth,” said Hairston, a good friend of Bucks forward John Henson who also attended North Carolina. “I feel I can do that now that it’s in the past. I can sit back and talk about it.”
Hairston displayed continual growth in the D-League and gave credit to Bill Peterson, the former Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach who has a lofty reputation for developing players.
”He helped me a lot,” Hairston said of Peterson. “He’s a different guy; he teaches the game in a different way. He’ll break down life to you but talk about basketball at the same time.
“He helps you more mentally than anything else. He’ll say, ‘What did you think about that shot?’ Or ‘Do you think that was a good shot?’ Things like that. And that’s how he helps you get better.
“He sure knows the game. I was definitely impressed with him.”
Subtract the off-court concerns and some NBA officials are convinced Hairston would be a viable lottery selection. Some NBA scouts contend Hairston could even step right into a starting lineup next season.
“That’s what I was told, that I could have been a lottery pick,” said Hairston, who has a 37-inch vertical leap and has drawn interest from several teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz.
“Honestly, I don’t look at mock drafts; I don’t pay attention to that stuff. I just go by what I hear and I was told, yeah, I would have been a definite lottery pick.”
Hairston believes he’s got his act together now and is on a mission to prove the naysayers wrong.
“Definitely, that’s my main thing,” Hairston said. “Some people don’t believe in me, that I can be a great NBA player. That’s my goal, to prove people wrong, that I belong in the NBA.”
GOOD MEMORY: When I joked to Devyn Marble that University of Wisconsin basketball fans weren’t sorry to see him leave Iowa, the shooting guard quickly quipped, “They should be happy I’m gone. I dropped 27 (points) and 21 (points) and 11 (rebounds) on them.”
Indeed, he did, although the Badgers still escaped with two tight wins.
Big Dog and Little Dog
Glenn Robinson III, whose dad, Glenn, was the No. 1 overall pick by the Bucks in the 1994 draft, said he can beat his father in H-O-R-S-E but not always in 1-on-1 games.
“He’s still in great shape. We really go at it.” Robinson said.
Robinson showed NBA personnel he has some serious hops, just like his old man. The 6-6 Robinson had a 41½-inch max vertical leap. His 36½ standing vertical leap tied Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown for the best jump in the camp.
Robinson, who is projected to be drafted in the latter third of the first round, said he expects to work out for the Bucks.
HIGH FLIERS: Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson and Oklahoma State shooting guard Markel Brown had the distinction of having the highest max vertical leap at the pre-draft camp: Each soared 43½ inches.
And both were a tad disappointed. Said Carson: “I expected to go a little higher.”
So did Brown, who claimed he went 46 inches with a running jump early last season. Brown said he’s hit his head on the rim and his shoulder on the backboard on numerous occasions.
BONUS SHOTS: Nevada-Las Vegas guard Deonte Burton on UW-Green Bay power forward Alec Brown, whom he has worked out with in recent weeks: “He’s looks great. He moves well for size.” Brown was measured at 7-¼ without shoes, 7-1¼ with shoes. …. Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis was a popular player at the camp as 13 teams interviewed him. However, he wasn’t interviewed by Brooklyn, which is coached by his idol, Jason Kidd. “It’s always been about Jason Kidd for me,” Ennis said. “He was a pass-first point guard, a real leader.” … Two players — Ohio State guard Aaron Craft and Green Bay’s Brown — said they weren’t interviewed by any team at the camp. … How important will the upcoming team workouts be? They could be critical for several players like Syracuse’s Jerami Grant, who said he’s been told that he could go from “six to 20” and North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo, who said he could go “late first, second round to undrafted.”