The Milwaukee Bucks have the second pick in the 2014 NBA draft, which is considered to be the best draft in over a decade. There are rumors of teams trying to work deals for that pick, and there are rumors of the Bucks trying to work deals for other picks. Which are fact and which are fiction?
First, it helps to take a look at the Bucks' roster and ownership situation to understand their present situation.
In the 2009-10 season, the Bucks had their “Fear the Dear” run, going 46-36—their best season since 2000-01. Since then, there have been a plethora of trades that have turned the roster into a discombobulated mess.
They’ve made deals for Stephen Jackson, Samuel Dalembert, J.J. Redick, Monta Ellis and Brandon Knight. And of all of those players, Knight is the only one still on the team. Over the last four years, 49 players have suited up for the Bucks, per Basketball-Reference. Only two of those have played more than 3,000 minutes and are still with the team.
They’ve combined that chicanery with a draft strategy that takes the best player available, even if it results in a redundancy. For example, they chose John Henson in the 2012 draft when they already had Larry Sanders, even though both are bigs with limited offensive potential and don't make a good tandem in the paint.
The result has been an ill-fitting roster that isn’t able to utilize the full quality of the players.
An analogy might help.
When I was a kid, I'd lose pieces from different Lego kits, so I’d just combine them into some bizarre looking contraption. A little from the starship Enterprise, a little from the Millennium Falcon. I’d throw in a few Lincoln Logs (for some reason). And there you go. “Fort Starship Falcon” was all completed—and made no sense to anyone but me.
Point being: The pieces were fine, they just didn’t fit together.
And that’s the issue with the Bucks. They have quality players; they just don’t work together and/or are redundant.
The good news is they have a new ownership group headed up by Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens. And, per the AP, they plan to be active:
You find it starts from the top," Lasry said. "You have to get a great CEO. You need people that live this thing 24/7. That's sort of what we are going to try to do. When you look at where the Bucks have been over the last number of years -- whether it is on the operations side -- I think there is a lot of room to improve.
Also, they plan to be patient, building from the ground up:
It doesn't happen overnight. You build a very solid foundation and build from there," Edens said. "We want to have a championship-winning basketball team here, and you start with the pieces you've got and build around it.
And, per these tweets from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Charles F. Gardner, those reports aren’t just lip service:
Lasry is ruling out Bucks taking Embiid. "Our decision got a lot easier, mainly because Embiid got hurt."— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) June 23, 2014
"It's hard to take Embiid," Lasry said. "We want somebody who is going to help us on Day 1."— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) June 23, 2014
It appears the new ownership is properly focused on establishing a clear direction and developing a foundation of players to build upon. So, we’ll view the rumors through that prism.
Will the Bucks Trade Their Pick?
As indicated by the tweets above, it’s pretty decided what the Bucks are planning to do with their No. 2 pick. That doesn't mean teams aren't trying to acquire it.
Chad Ford (Insider) reports for ESPN:
The Magic have also been trying to both move up and get another lottery pick. They've offered Nos. 4 and 12 and Afflalo to the Cavs and Bucks, but so far, no takers. They've also used Afflalo as bait to get a pick from the Kings at No. 8 and the Nuggets at 11, but so far, no deal.
Ford reaffirms that assertion here (Insider):
The Bucks also are getting their fair share of trade offers. The Sixers, Magic and Jazz all called them as well, offering similar packages. But it looks unlikely the Bucks are going to trade this pick. They need a franchise player and don't feel they'll get one later in the draft.
It looks like teams are making calls, but the Bucks aren’t taking them. Any thought that a deal could be done is pure myth...unless some mind-blowing offer comes along.
With Embiid out, things are greatly simplified.
Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are the two best players left, and whoever the Cleveland Cavaliers pass on with the No. 1 pick, Milwaukee will draft. To have a foundation, you need a franchise player. Those don’t come easily.
The Bucks have a chance to get one, and they’re not going to pass on it.
Will They Make a Draft-Day Trade Elsewhere?
There are also rumors that the Bucks are looking to move one of their veterans to acquire more picks in the draft. Ford predicts (Insider):
Look for the Bucks to be very active, however, in acquiring a second first-round pick -- preferably a lottery pick. There is serious interest from teams in Brandon Knight, John Henson and even Larry Sanders. They'd love to acquire another pick in the Nos. 7-10 range to land either a young point guard or a shooter.
This is confirmed by local media. Per Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times via Matt Moore of CBSSports.com:
Yet, behind the scenes, the Bucks’ brass has been busy. They’ve been discussing several trade possibilities and, if you believe some NBA officials, they’ll consummate at least one deal.
The most likely Buck player to be relocated to a different zip code is Ersan Ilyasova, who is coming off a disappointing season but whose stock remains fairly high.
Other players Woelfel indicates are on the block include Henson, Sanders and Knight. And elsewhere he reports O.J. Mayo could be dealt (if Milwaukee can find a taker).
In the aggregate, these rumors are true, but with a caveat: It all depends on who they draft.
Ilyasova would have value as a stretch 4 playing with Wiggins, who is more of a 2 or 3, but not with Parker, who would essentially be a better version of Ilyasova in every way.
Contrarily, O.J. Mayo, the starting shooting guard, works better with Parker than Wiggins.
Wiggins has a 7’0” wingspan, per Draft Express, and the Bucks’ resident small forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has a 7’3” reach. That’s 14’3” combined. It’d be easier to find an open passing lane on the I-405 at the heart of rush hour than against those two.
The pair running in transition together could be scary or beautiful—depending on what your rooting interests are.
Mayo fits better in a conventional, half-court offense with Parker, though. Even using Mayo as a sixth man, filling a role similar to what J.R. Smith does with the New York Knicks, works.
The Bucks are appear to be actively pursuing trades for just about anyone but Antetokounmpo, but they won’t pull any triggers until they know who they’re building around.
Alluding to the earlier analogy, they are going to get a piece that puts them closer to getting either a complete Millennium Falcon or a finished starship Enterprise.
They’ll determine which “spaceship” they need to be to win a championship by which foundational player they draft. Then they’ll trade the players who don’t fit around him—or are extraneous to him—to get the missing pieces.
Whatever the Bucks do this offseason, the most important thing is to set a clear direction and stick with it. And that seems to be what they’re doing.