By GERY WOELFEL
Can you image Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetoiounmpo being on the same team?
The mere thought is surreal.
Jokik, the two Most Valuable Player for the Denver Nuggets, and Antetokounmpo, the two-time MVP for the Milwaukee Bucks, would be a match made in heaven.
And it could have happened.
Back in the 2014 NBA draft, the Buck had three chances to draft Jokic, who just led the Nuggets to their first NBA championship in team history.
In that 2014 draft, the Bucks possessed three picks: Nos. 2, 31 and 36.
With their first pick, the Bucks selected forward Jabari Parker of Duke, who unfortunately had his promising pro career derailed by two major ACL surgeries on the same left knee.
With the 31st overall pick, the Bucks chose Damien Inglis, a 6-foot-8 forward from French Guiana. Inglis’ NBA career was short and uneventful. He played one season, a measly 20 games, and averaged 1.8 points.
Then, with the 38th overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Bucks chose Johnny O’Bryant III, a power forward from Louisiana State University.
Like Inglis, O’Bryant’s NBA career was brief. He played two seasons for the Bucks, appearing in 100 games and averaging 3 points, before being out of the league two years later.
Five picks after the Bucks tabbed O’Bryant, the Nuggets rolled the dice on an overweight, unathletic and raw 6-11 center from Sombor, Serbia who was affectionately dubbed “Big Honey’’ and “Cookie Monster.’’
Jokic spent a year after the draft playing in Spain before joining the Nuggets. He fashioned a solid rookie season, averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds.
However, the following season Jokic opened eyes by averaging 16.7 points and 9.8 rebounds. His game continued to trend upward to the point where he is now generally regarded as the best player on the planet.
While the Bucks weren’t the only team to pass on Jokic in the 2014 draft, they were one of only two teams to have more than two cracks at selecting Jokic, the other being the Philadelphia 76ers who had picks 3, 10, 32 and 39.
Can you imagine if the 76ers would have used one of those four picks on Jokic and eventually paired him with Joel Embiid, the reigning MVP who the 76ers took with the third pick in that same draft?
On the flip side, can you imagine if the Nuggets hadn’t takeJokic?
Moving on up
Two prospects with Wisconsin ties have made a marked impression on teams during the draft process.
Brandin Podziemski, a combo guard from Santa Clara who grew up in Greenfield, and Olivier-Maxence Prosper of Marquette University have solidified their chances of being first-round selections in the June 22 draft.
According to an NBA executive, Podziemski “could go as early as 20’’ and Prosper could be tabbed shortly after. “I see him being seriously considered, starting at 22,’’ the exec said.
Still in the game
Nearly three decades ago – 29 years to be precise – Dr. Charles Tucker represented Glenn “Big Dog’’ Robinson in the 1994 draft.
Robinson, whom the Bucks took with the No. 1 pick, signed a 10-year, $68 million contract, the biggest in NBA history at the time.
Now 75, Tucker is still going strong. He represents Emoni Bates, one of the most intriguing players in the draft. Bates, a highly skilled 6-9 swingman, was regarded as a basketball prodigy while growing up in Michigan. He began his collegiate career at Memphis (9.7 points per game) before transferring to Eastern Michigan (19.2 points).
Bates is projected as a mid-to-late second round pick but could be taken sooner after strong performances at the NBA Combine and team workouts. Bates has worked out for 11 teams, including the Bucks.