Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram aren’t the only prospects in this year’s NBA draft that the Milwaukee Bucks have no chance of selecting, assuming they stay at No. 10.
According to an Eastern Conference assistant general manager and a Western Conference executive who is heavily involved with his team’s draft process, four other players have no chance of slipping to Milwaukee. Those players are:
- Combo guard Jamal Murray of Kentucky
- Shooting guard Buddy Hield of Oklahoma
- Power forward Dragan Bender of Croatia
- Point guard Kris Dunn of Providence
Each of the aforementioned NBA officials also had one other player in the “not likely’’ category of being available for the Bucks: The assistant GM felt California small forward Jaylen Brown will likely be taken before the Bucks make their selection, while the exec thought Marquette power forward Henry Ellenson would likely be off the board before Milwaukee chooses.
“After those guys, there’s a dropoff in talent and it becomes beauty in the eye of the beholder at that point,’’ the assistant GM said. “Between eight and 16, there’s really no difference (in talent). At that point, you take the guy you like the most because, again, there’s hardly any difference in their talent level.’’
Because of what’s at stake, every team is extremely guarded about their draft plans. The information that they do provide the public is frequently agenda-driven with the hope of misleading another team. Take the Bucks, for instance. Since late last season, when Bucks coach Jason Kidd publicly declared Giannis Antetokounmpo would be the team’s point guard next season, it’s been assumed the Bucks wouldn’t pursue a blue-chip point guard in the draft, free agency or via a trade.
The prevailing feeling among NBA officials is that the Bucks covet a point guard – even though the “Greek Freak’’ will play significant minutes at the position. Unfortunately for the Bucks, this is a poor point guard draft.
Dunn is unequivocally the best of the group. In fact, most NBA officials contend he is the only point guard worthy of being taken in the lottery. Wade Baldwin of Vanderbilt and Demetrius Jackson of Notre Dame, most scouts concur, would be “reaches’’ for the Bucks at 10.
The Bucks also have a serious need for a lights-out shooter, but none might be worth the 10th pick as well.
Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson shot a lowly 41 percent from the field and a paltry 35 percent from the shorter, college 3-point line.
Dejounte Murray of Washington, who is clearly on the Bucks’ radar, was just as bad as Richardson from the field last season. Murray connected on 42 percent of his shots and was a woeful 29 percent from 3-point range.
Furkan Korkmaz of Turkey and Denzel Valentine of Michigan State are outstanding perimeter shooters, yet both have question marks surrounding them.
Valentine shot 46 percent from the field and a white-hot 44 percent on treys. But he has already had two knee surgeries and that is understandably causing some teams to stay away from picking him.
If the Bucks medical staff believes Valentine’s knee issues can be dealt with, the ex-Michigan State standout will undoubtedly be a serious draft candidate for the Bucks.
So will Korkmaz, whom Bucks scouts have closely monitored. He has exceptional range and is regarded as one of the elite perimeter shooters in the draft. Yet, most NBA teams don’t regard Korkmaz as more than a middle-first round selection, with other players more worthy of the 10th pick.
“He’s skilled,’’ said an NBA coach, whose team has worked out Korkmaz. “He can shoot it and he’s really athletic.
“But he needs to get stronger and his defense needs improvement.’’
With every one of the backcourt candidates having some wart on their resumes, most league observers are convinced the Bucks will go big with their first pick.
Ellenson, who had a fabulous freshman season at Marquette (17 points and 9.8 rebounds), would be extremely hard for the Bucks to pass on, especially considering he has the capabilities of playing both power forward and center.
While most scouts acknowledge Ellenson’s defensive flaws – lack of lateral quickness and not being a rim-protector – they rave about his offensive skill-set: excellent shooter, willing passer and deft skilled ballhandler.
In fact, several NBA officials believes Ellenson could be the Bucks’ selection, especially if Minnesota (5), Sacramento (8) and Toronto (No. 9) pass on him. There is also some chatter Orlando, which is picking 11th, may jump over the Bucks to snatch Ellenson.
Jakob Poeltl of Utah is another favorite for the Bucks’ pick among some NBA folks – especially if the Bucks move current center Greg Monroe.
Poeltl, who is also in the mix for Toronto at 9, has a solid all-around game. His nice lateral ability, quickness and shotblocking skills would make him a sound fit for the Bucks’ defensive schemes. But some scouts claim he shies away from physical play, doesn’t do anything exceptionally well and has a limited upside.
While the Buck don’t need a power forward with Jabari Parker firmly entrenched there, the Bucks nevertheless are interested in Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis, Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere, Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis and 19-year-old Thon Maker. All are expected to be picked in the vicinity of where the Bucks are choosing.
Domantas is the most ready and has seen his stock rise in recent weeks after an impressive showcase for pro teams. Toronto is giving him serious consideration at No. 9. Davis is a big-time shotblocker and quality rebounder but his offensive game is raw. Labissiere and Maker are intriguing prospects and will be strictly selected based on their supposed upside. Each falls into the “Boom or bust’’ category.
So, who will the Bucks select if they keep the 10th pick?
The indications are it will be either Ellenson or Poeltl.