Schwartz Expands His Empire In Milwaukee

We can debate forever whether Thon Maker will be the next Giannis Antetokounmpo or the next Joe Alexander or someone in between like John Henson.

What isn’t debatable is this: Maker, the Bucks’ top pick and the 10th overall selection in Thursday night’s NBA draft, is represented by Mike George of Excel Sports Management.

Excel, headed by Jeff Schwartz, has become the unofficial representation of the Bucks. Just peruse the Bucks’ roster and you’ll see it’s littered with Excel clients: Kris Middleton, Michael Carter-Williams, Jerryd Bayless, Rashad Vaughn, Tyler Ennis and now Maker.

But Excel’s clientele with the Bucks is much more extensive. Marc Lasry, one of the Bucks’ tri-majority owners, is a buddy of Schwartz’s. And, perhaps most importantly, so is Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, whom Schwartz started representing when Kidd was being paid to play the game.

Schwartz’s influence on the Bucks and their decision-making simply can’t be understated. Does anyone really believe some of those previously mentioned players would be on the Bucks if they weren’t part of the Schwartz family?

Schwartz’s influence probably also explains why the Bucks have made two of the biggest “reaches’’ in the draft the last two seasons.

Last year, when most teams projected Vaughn as a late first-round, Kidd and Co. selected Vaughn with the 17th overall pick. Vaughn, a likeable young man, conceded his rookie season was rough: He averaged 3.1 points while shooting 30 percent from the field.

This year, Kidd drafted Maker, who most NBA officials projected in the 16-to-20 range. Like in last year’s draft, the Bucks passed on safer picks like PF-C Domantas Sabonis, who went 11th to the Magic, and guard Denzel Valentine, who went to the Bulls at 14. Valentine, many NBA officials contend, was one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. He has the capabilities of stepping in and playing immediately. He would have seemingly been the perfect complement as a secondary ballhandler with Antetokounmpo playing the point.

When a general manager was asked Friday his choice for the biggest surprise in the draft, he replied, “Besides Milwaukee?’’

Asked to expand on his thoughts about the Bucks picking Maker, he said, “It was surprisingly high for him. I had him going in the early 20s.’’

So, in the last two drafts now, Kidd has taken “reaches’’ on players with alleged big upsides but also players who are represented by his buddy. It’s not the ideal way to run a business.

Making the right calls

Here are my top choices for the biggest winners before and during the draft:

  • 76ers – Ben Simmons was clearly the premier player of this draft and has star written all over him.
  • Pacers – Larry Bird worked his magic and acquired not one but two quality starters in guard Jeff Teague and forward Thaddeus Young.
  • Wizards – Washington didn’t have a first-rounder, having wisely sent it to the Suns at the trading deadline in February for power forward Markieff Morris, who is clearly better than anyone the Wizards could have selected if they retained the 13th overall pick.
  • Suns – With a loaded backcourt, the Suns were on a mission to upgrade their frontcourt. Mission accomplished. The Suns, who entered the draft hoping to get either Dragan Bender or Marquese Chriss, amazingly got both: Bender with the fourth pick and Chriss in a trade with the Kings.
  • Timberwolves — Minnesota drafted Kris Dunn, who might have been the second-best player in the draft behind Simmons. Dunn’s selection now provides the T-Wolves with the option of trading veteran PG Ricky Rubio, who most certainly would bring them a big-time player in return.
  • Bulls – Bulls GM Gar Forman got the man he targeted in former Michigan State star guard Denzel Valentine, arguably the best all-around player in the draft who figures to play major minutes right from the get-go.

Finalists for Bucks’ D-League team

Bucks president Peter Feigin said five cities from Wisconsin have submitted bids to become the home of the team’s new D-League team.

They are Racine, Sheboygan, Green Bay, Oshkosh and La Crosse. The Sheboygan contingent is being spearheaded by Kohler native and former NBA player Joe Wolf.

Feigin said the Bucks expect to select a city “in the next six to eight weeks.’’ The Bucks plan to have a team in place for the 2017-2018 season.