NBA Draft 2012: 5 Best Options for Milwaukee Bucks' No. 12 Pick
Despite making at least one "blockbuster trade" in what seems like every season, the Bucks usually get the short end of the stick. However, last year's trade deadline acquisition of Monta Ellis may be the lone exception to this trend.
Milwaukee shipped injury-prone center Andrew Bogut and bench-riding, locker room cancer Stephen Jackson to the Golden State Warriors for Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown. The Bucks traded two players that weren't contributing to the team in return for Ellis, one of the NBA's most skilled scoring guards, and Udoh, a promising shot-blocker and the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
Headed into the 2012 draft, the Bucks have several glaring question marks on its roster. Most importantly, forward Ersan Ilyasova is expected to sign elsewhere as a free agent, leaving Milwaukee incredibly thin in its front court.
Milwaukee would love to address its frontcourt deficiencies early in this month's draft, but only if there's a player available who is worthy of being the 12th pick. If there are no elite big men on the board for the Bucks, they'll be forced to look elsewhere with their top pick.
Several issues have yet to be resolved this offseason, and some may be answered prior to the draft, but one question remains as draft day approaches: Who are the best options for the Milwaukee Bucks with the 12th overall pick?
5) C Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Height: 6'11.25" (without shoes)
Weight: 247 pounds
Since the Bucks traded former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut to the Golden State Warriors for Monta Ellis, Milwaukee has had a gaping hole at its starting center position. Power forward Drew Gooden was able to adequately fill the void at center despite being undersized for the position, but the Bucks will certainly be in the market for a post player this offseason.
With the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Bucks will likely have an opportunity to select a starting-caliber rookie center. Connecticut center Andre Drummond figures to be off the board well before Milwaukee is on the clock, but Illinois center Meyers Leonard and Zeller could both be available.
If the Bucks can add a starting center with their first-round draft pick, the consequences of losing Bogut will be far less severe, and Milwaukee will be a much improved team headed into next season.
Following the blockbuster trade, the Bucks featured perhaps the quickest backcourt in the NBA with point guard Brandon Jennings and Ellis in the fold. However, despite the Bucks' back court being impressive, their front court was the polar opposite. Zeller could help fill a massive Andrew Bogut-sized hold at the center position.
4) SG Terrence Ross, Washington
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Height: 6'6" (without shoes)
Weight: 197 pounds
The Bucks haven't had an All-Star perimeter player since Michael Redd was in his prime, and that was a long, long time ago.
Among the 2012 draft class, perhaps no player outside the top five picks has as much potential as Washington shooting guard Terrence Ross. Possessing a rare blend of athleticism and a natural ability to score the basketball, Ross would be a nice addition to any NBA backcourt looking for an immediate scoring punch next season.
With Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis firmly cemented in the Bucks' starting lineup, expectations for Ross would be reasonable in his rookie season. However, if Jennings were to leave Milwaukee, as some expect, Ross would be asked to fill an expanded role in the Bucks' offensive attack.
Ross fulfilled a similar role expansion in 2011 for the Washington Huskies, as his minutes increased from 17.4 in 2010 to 31.1 in 2012. With increased opportunities came a dramatic spike in production. Before entering the draft as a true sophomore, Ross averaged 16.4 points per game in 2011, up from 8.0 per game as a freshman.
The Bucks have a plethora of needs in their rotation, but if they ultimately decide their need for a dominant post presence isn't as glaring as most see it, Milwaukee could be the new home for Terrence Ross.
3) PF Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Height: 6'8.25" (without shoes)
Weight: 252 pounds
Overshadowed by a dominant group of freshman teammates, sophomore Terrence Jones was quietly the heart and soul of last year's national champion Kentucky Wildcats.
Following a freshman campaign in which he averaged 15.7 points per game as the focal point of Kentucky's offense, Jones averaged 12.3 in a new role. As a result, there is now another national championship banner hanging in the rafters of Rupp Arena.
While his college teammate Anthony Davis is the hottest name in the 2012 NBA Draft, Jones will be selected in the first round as well. The most valuable trait in his arsenal may be his ability to guard such a wide variety of offensive players, but Jones boasts a very versatile offensive game in his own right.
He has enough athleticism to put the ball to the floor and score from the perimeter, while also demonstrating toughness required to compete for rebounds with bigger post players.
Milwaukee head coach Scott Skiles stresses the importance of defense with his players, and anyone who fails to give 100 percent on both sides of the ball will be sitting right next to him on the bench. Skiles would love Jones' effort and tenacity
Adding Jones would allow the Bucks to again use veteran Drew Gooden at center and play Jones at power forward, assuming Ersan Ilyasova leaves via free agency.
If the board falls a certain way when the Bucks are on the clock with the 12th pick, Terrence Jones could very well be the pick.
2) PF Perry Jones, Baylor
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Height: 6'10.25" (without shoes)
Weight: 234 pounds
Only a year ago, Perry Jones was considered a potential lottery pick in the NBA Draft; however, a disappointing sophomore season resulted in a dramatic decline in his draft stock.
Once considered a potential top-five talent, Jones now figures to come off the board somewhere between the ninth and 15th overall picks. One team anxiously watching the revealing of the first 11 picks is the Milwaukee Bucks.
With the versatile Ilyasova expected to play elsewhere in 2012, the Bucks could be in the market for a new "stretch 4," and Jones could certainly fill that void. Jones has prototypical size for a power forward in today's fast-paced game, but his 7'1.75" wingspan makes him even more attractive as an NBA prospect.
Although he isn't the natural, pure shooter that Ilyasova is, Jones is a much better athlete and could become a dominant defensive player with proper coaching.
The Bucks rolled the dice when they selected Brandon Jennings 10th overall in 2009, and he's now the face of Milwaukee's franchise. Jones is a similar "high risk, high reward" type of player, and Milwaukee would certainly consider drafting him if he's on the board with the 12th pick.
1) C Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Height: 6'11.75" (without shoes)
Weight: 250 pounds
After seeing the court sparingly as a freshman, Illinois center Meyers Leonard burst onto the scene in 2011.
Heavily recruited coming out of high school, Leonard flashed his true potential as a college sophomore. After averaging just 2.1 points in 8.2 minutes per game as a freshman, Leonard made the most of increased opportunities.
Headed into the 2012 NBA Draft, perhaps no player has been more impressive in offseason workouts than Leonard. Leonard was the tallest player at the 2012 NBA Scouting Combine, but he demonstrated exceptional athleticism and versatility despite his length.
In today's NBA, where the screen-and-roll is clearly the most effective form of offense, Leonard has enormous potential. Rolling to the basket after setting a screen, Leonard's 7'0" frame and 7'3" wingspan make him an easy passing target and a nightmare for opposing defenders.
When the Milwaukee Bucks are on the clock with the 12th overall pick later this month, Leonard would be their best possible selection. All conversations within the Bucks' draft room should begin with: "If Leonard is off the board, we will look at..."
By acquiring Monta Ellis in exchange for longtime starting center Andrew Bogut, the Bucks may have the quickest backcourt in basketball, but they were left with perhaps the thinnest frontcourt. If the Bucks select Meyers Leonard with the 12th pick, it will be as if they acquired Ellis without losing anything, provided Leonard reaches his full potential.
The Bucks could go several directions in round one, but their top priority is clear. They need a center. They need Meyers Leonard.