Back in late June, I created the first version of my 2010 NBA Mock Draft. It has been almost six months since my last mock and I felt that, fresh off a John Wall monster performance at Madison Square Garden, now would be the perfect time to put out another draft. Draft order is based on current records.
1. New Jersey Nets (2-20): John Wall, PG, Kentucky
While it’s true the Nets’ best player is also a point guard in Devin Harris, Wall is way too good of a prospect to pass on here. Kentucky head coach John Calipari dubbed John Wall the real deal, saying he was farther along in his progression than Derrick Rose or Tyreke Evans were when he coached them at Memphis. Simply put, Wall is the total package. His jump shot is above average and his speed and athleticism combination remind me a lot of Ty Lawson. Throw on the five inches that Wall has over Lawson and you have a perfect pro prospect. Wall is a future All Star.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-19): Wesley Johnson, SG/SF, Syracuse
Just as Wall performed outstanding at MSG, Johnson had a coming out party of his own in New York, scoring 25 points against North Carolina in the 2K Sports Coaches Classic. A transfer from Iowa State, Johnson has the Orange out to an 8-0 start and a top ten ranking. If you look above the rim, there’s a good chance you will find Johnson there. He already has an NBA body and his athleticism screams top five pick. His all-around game is still a work in progress but you wouldn’t know it based on his numbers this season as he is shooting 59 percent from the field and 53 percent from downtown. The Timberwolves are set in the front court and drafted Johnny Flynn to manage the point guard duties for the future. The versatile, lockdown defender in Johnson seems like a good fit here.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (5-17): Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech
Elton Brand’s time in Philadelphia is all but over and the Sixers could use a new post man on the inside. Marreese Speights has proved that he will be a solid frontline player, but they need a presence in the lane that they thought Brand would be. Favors has the most raw talent of any big man in the draft and, while the Sixers could use a shooting guard, Favors is too good of talent to pass on here.
4. Utah Jazz (from New York): Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown
Carlos Boozer is more than likely out of Utah next season and the power forward position will need to be addressed. Paul Millsap should be a fine replacement in the mean time, but Monroe can add another dimension to the Jazz’s offense. Much like Mehmet Okur, Monroe has range that extends out to the three point line and should work well with Deron Williams in Jerry Sloan’s offense. The dubbed “project” from last season, Monroe has started to show some of that potential, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds thus far with the Hoyas.
5. Golden State Warriors (7-14): Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina
Anthony Randolph is proving to be a solid contributor for the Warriors but they still need a post player outside of center Andris Biedrins. At 6’10”, Davis runs the floor exceptionally well and is building an NBA frame that should make him a top five pick next season. His impressive wingspan also makes him a solid defender, something the Warriors could use. He is just tapping into his potential and could be a very impressive player for the Warriors.
6. Indiana Pacers (6-13): Evan Turner, SF, Ohio State
The Pacers are in dire need of a shooting guard/small forward outside of Danny Granger and Dahntay Jones, and Turner certainly fits the bill. A broken back will keep him out for the next two months but that should not affect his draft status. Much like Granger, he fills the box score on a nightly basis (two triple-doubles this season) and can play multiple positions. The status of Mike Dunleavy is in question and Granger plays more of a forward role than anything, so Turner should be able to start at shooting guard right away.
7. Washington Wizards (7-13): Willie Warren, G, Oklahoma
The Wizards are closing in on a state of rebuilding with injuries and age plaguing them, so taking the best player available would be in their best interest. Warren burst on to the scene last season as a freshman but was overshadowed by some guy named Blake Griffin. Now in the spotlight, Warren has not disappointed for the Sooners, averaging over 18 points and five assists per game. The best part of Warren’s game is his ability to shoot the ball and has the potential to play both guard positions. His size could be an issue but he does an excellent job creating his own shot, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
8. Chicago Bulls (7-13): Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas
The season from hell can only get better for the Bulls in the Draft (assuming they fire Vinny Del Negro), and Henry should help ease the pain. It should be a very interesting off-season for the Bulls, but assuming they can not land Dwyane Wade, Henry would be a great fit in Chicago. The lefty freshman has played outstanding for Kansas thus far and would add a pure shooter to the Bulls lineup. He needs to work on creating his own shot but all the talent is there for Henry to succeed at the next level.
9. Memphis Grizzles (9-12): Devin Ebanks, SF, West Virginia
The status of Rudy Gay going forward is in question and if he decides to leave town, the Grizzlies have very little depth at small forward. Ebanks has literally been a mystery this season, playing in just three games this season, but has boatloads of potential. He has a long ways to go, but many compare him to Atlanta Hawks small forward Josh Smith. He’ll need to gain some weight and become more of a basketball player than an athlete, but his skill set sets him up nicely for the future.
10. Sacramento Kings (9-12): Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas
The Kings seem to have a nice core in Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, and Jason Thompson, but outside of those three the depth of the team is really lacking. Aldrich is the second Jayhawk to come off the board, and rightfully so. An outstanding sophomore season put him into the national spotlight and he has all the tools to succeed in the NBA. He is a great passing big man and shows soft touch in the paint. Spencer Hawes and Thompson give the Kings a different, more finesse look and Aldrich would compliment them well.
11. Los Angeles Clippers (9-12): Donatas Motiejunas, C, Lithuania
Based solely on scouting reports, Motiejunas’s game is much like Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani. He needs to add some weight and strength, but his speed and aggressiveness make him a very intriguing prospect that the Clippers could take a chance on. Marcus Camby is a free agent next season and the Clips will have to replace him somehow.
12. Toronto Raptors (10-14): Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky
Chris Bosh’s performance over the last two seasons has all but written his ticket out of Toronto next year when he becomes a free agent. Taking his place will be Patrick Patterson, who is sure to garner some major looks as he takes Kentucky deep into the NCAA Tournament this season. Alongside John Wall, the 6’8″ power forward has showed great potential and has been on NBA scout’s radar since he joined Wildcats. He is undersized but his long wingspan and tough play will allow him to have success on the defensive end.
13. New Orleans Hornets (10-11): Solomon Alibi, C, Florida State
Don’t be surprised to see the Hornets in the playoffs by year’s end, but as it stands they are on the outside looking in. They have plenty of money invested for the next couple of years so they might trade this pick, but for now Alibi looks like a fine fit. Past Emeka Okafor, the Hornets have little at center as Hilton Armstrong has failed to live up to expectations. Alibi is a polished post man with excellent size that can make contributions right away.
14. San Antonio Spurs (10-9): Avery Bradley, SG, Texas
As weird as it may seem to see the Spurs picking in the lottery, they currently sit a half a game out of the playoffs. If they do end up picking here, Bradley could be the answer to free agent Manu Ginobili. While there’s still a chance Ginobili re-signs, Aminu would be the best pick in this spot to replace him and great value as well. With budding star George Hill ready to take over the shooting guard role, Aminu could learn behind the best as he becomes more of an all-around player. He plays outstanding defense and could shoot up the draft board as the season goes along.
Before rookie Brandon Jennings was making headlines for the Milwaukee Bucks, he was making negative ones for himself leading up to the beginning of the 2009-10 NBA season. Known by just about everyone because of his decision to skip college ball and play in Europe, Jennings had question marks all around him. His upside was immense and GM’s knew that Jennings had the potential to be a franchise-changing player unlike the majority of the players in last year’s draft class. However, they also knew his downside was investing money into a cancerous teammate who would repeat his lackluster performance in Rome.
Before Jennings could even step on the court he was back at it, firing his mouth away about then-teammate Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour. On a radio show with rapper Joe Budden, he mentioned being upset with the Knicks passing on him and deeming himself the starter over Ridnour. He also made headlines by calling out Ricky Rubio, saying he was “overrated” and not as good as Jennings after a workout with the Kings.
Bucks’ general manager John Hammond decided that the upside of Jennings was well worth the potential of failure and he selected him with the tenth overall pick in the draft. His cockiness and swagger is something that, to an extent, all great basketball players need to have, and Hammond believed Jennings had that.
What Hammond most likely did not think Jennings had was the ability to average over 20 points per game in his first six games, racking up four wins for the Bucks. In many ways, Jennings is looking like the savior that is going to save the Bucks. Rumors have floated around that have the Bucks leaving Milwaukee, but Jennings could change all that.
His situation in Milwaukee this season is eerily similar to Derrick Rose’s last season in Chicago. The Bulls had reached the playoffs in 2006 before winning just 33 games the next year. When the Bulls defied lottery odds and were awarded the number one overall pick, they selected Rose and went on to win 41 games and make the playoffs.
In Chicago, Rose has seemingly rejuvenated the Bulls and made everyone around him better. Joakim Noah is finally playing up to his potential that we all saw at Florida, Luol Deng is flourishing under Rose’s lead, and he has worked to mold rookies James Johnson and Taj Gibson into role players this season. The talent was there for the Bulls as seen by the three straight playoff appearances before 2007, but the team was growing old and John Paxson’s inability to trade for grade-A superstars had the Bulls wondering where the future would take them.
In the same sense, Jennings has done the exact same thing in Milwaukee. The Bucks made the playoffs during the 2005-2006 campaign with rookie Andrew Bogut, but three years of injuries and inconsistency had left the Bucks with nothing to show for the talent they had. Now, Jennings has utilized Bogut as the big man that every good point guard needs, and vice versa.
Six games into his young career might be a little early to start crowning him the savior for the Bucks, but in basketball more than any other sport, early starts become trends. The great ones usually start that way and do not fade as compared to baseball and football.
His skill set is very raw and at times he plays like the rookie that he is. He doesn’t seem to have picked up on the logistics of the offense yet and many times he will create for himself. But with a big man that can shoot the outside shot, the way he moves off screens has to be considered close to the top of the league, and his closing speed while going to the basket warrants a replay on most possessions.
One of his big question marks coming into his rookie campaign was defense. However, six games in he is averaging over a steal per game and limited Chauncey Billups to 6-16 shooting, gave up just one point to Chris Duhon, and forced Derrick Rose to commit five turnovers. No one will be forgetting about Chris Paul any time soon but positive returns this early in the season are always good.
Just about every aspect of his game is raw right now, but that can be a good thing, too. Sometimes just letting players go out and be athletes can bring success and it seems like head coach Scott Skiles is letting Jennings do that for the most part. It’s been an unbelievable start for a guy who, a year ago, was living out of a suitcase and traveling on a bus to foreign places in Italy to average under six points per game.
He’s got a long way to go, but Brandon Jennings is looking like the real deal.
1. Brandon Jennings is going to be one heck of a talent when he hones in all his skills
After only catching a couple of box scores to start the year, I was able to catch my first Milwaukee Bucks game of the season. While they handed the game away after blowing an 18-point lead in the third quarter to the Chicago Bulls, one guy stood out amongst the rest. Brandon Jennings. Wow, this kid is going to be one special talent. Because there are only a few I’ll start off with the negatives that include a little too much dribbling and some lazy defense that has him trailing off screens.
Now on to the fun stuff. Jennings’ jab shot might not look pretty but he has shot lights out with it. He works so well off the screen and his quickness makes it impossible to guard. I’m going to throw out some big superlatives in the form of players in the NBA, but this is just what his game reminds me off.
His passes have a little bit of Steve Nash to them as he loves to fit the ball in tight spaces. His drive to the lane reminds me of Chris Paul’s: a lot of dribbling and making something out of it at the end. When it comes to his jumper, Allen Iverson comparisons are the first thing that comes to mind. His size is small but his quickness is second to none, and I believe he is already one of the fastest players in the league.
He still acts like a rookie at times and gives the ball away at times, but let’s remember he has played three games in the NBA. The good has outdone the bad tenfold, and for a rookie that’s more than you can ask for. Look out for Jennings in about two or three years when he is able to hit the weight room, adjust to the offense more, and receive more coaching. A spot in the “top five point guards club” might not be too far away.
2. The Packers defense needs to shut their mouth and go play football
Rarely do I ever step out of the Green Bay Packers’ corner, but for the life of me I can not figure out why three well-respected defensive players are freaking out. Charles Woodson, Cullen Jenkins, and Aaron Kampman have all expressed displeasure with the 3-4 defense and feel “handcuffed” by it.
I realize it can be hard to enter a defense where one knows they are not going to be the focal point. In Jenkins’ defense, he would be a stud at the 4-3 defensive end spot and would have many more sacks. Same with Kampman. But Jenkins’ job is to eat up linemen and let linebackers flow in, while Kampman now has some responsibility in pass coverage.
Look, neither are going to go the Pro Bowl even though both have the talent to do so. But when everything is broken down, wins are the most important thing at the end of the day. It’s an extremely humble thing to accept and easy for me to type it out here, but it’s true.
Everything is for the greater cause and in the 3-4 defense there are many spots on the field that are important but will not show up in the box score. What will show up in the box score is the final score. Those defenders need to realize that and shut their anger up.
If they think the defense is the problem and something better could be done, keep it in house and talk to defensive coordinator Dom Capers about it. Don’t cry to the media about how coaches won’t let you loose. That’s not who the Packers are.
3. The Brewers should not trade either Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder
Rumors have swirled, more about Fielder, that one of the Brewers’ 3-4 hitters could be on the move this off-season or in the near future. I can’t believe I am hearing this and hope that it does not come true. Fielder would be more acceptable a loss because he would garner more trade value and his contract is soon up, but the Brewers need to work on an extension.
Breaking the bank for a stud pitcher will be hard to do given the Brewers’ financial restraints, but moving one of your foundation pieces surely isn’t the answer. Fielder is hitting the prime of career and Braun is right on the brink of it as well. It’s the best 3-4 in baseball and kept the Brewers in countless games all year.
Unless they can get a top five pitcher in all of baseball in return, losing Braun or Fielder makes little sense right now. In a year, if Fielder has signaled he will not re-sign then try to go get something. But right now these two players are putting fans in the seats and handing out free baseballs to those in the outfield seats.
Sucks to think that J.J. Hardy more than likely could have been had for someone like Clay Buchholz.
The 2009-2010 NBA schedules were released last week, and the Milwaukee Bucks received their list of 82 opponents of the regular season. The team went over a semi-makeover this off-season, getting rid of veterans Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson and bringing in the young talent of Amir Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks, and Hakim Warrick. Here’s a look at the ten most intriguing matchups that the Bucks will face this season in no particular order.
1. Saturday, October 31st – Detroit Pistons vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Charlie Villanueva will return to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee just two games into the season. Villanueva signed with the Pistons this offseason after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Bucks. Along with the additions of Ben Gordon and Ben Wallace, Villanueva and co. will look to spoil the Bucks’ home opener.
2. Friday, November 6th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Just a week after the season opener, the Bucks will travel north to play the new look Timberwolves. Heading into this year’s NBA Draft, the talent at point guard was the topic of conversation as five point guards were selected in the first ten picks.
Three of those point guards will match up when Brandon Jennings faces Johnny Flynn and Ricky Rubio. Jennings will have the chance to prove to the Wolves that they made a mistake in passing on him, while Rubio and Flynn will show Scott Skiles and the Bucks why the Wolves were right.
3. Saturday, December 26th – San Antonio Spurs vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The day after Christmas, the Bucks will get their second taste of a former player in a new uniform when Richard Jefferson and the Spurs come to town. Traded for Fabricio Oberto, Bruce Bowen, and Kurt Thomas, Jefferson has now made the Spurs contenders again as he joins Tim Duncan and Tony Parker this year.
Jefferson spent just one year in Milwaukee but quickly become a fan favorite and was greatly counted on when Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down with season-ending injuries.
4. Friday, December 18th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Bucks will play the Cavs twice on the road (March 31st as well) in what should prove to be huge tests for the young Bucks team. Teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and the front-runner Cavaliers will look to bully the Bucks when they meet at “The Q”.
The Cavs lost just two times at home last year and should be up to more of the same with O’Neal in the lineup. The Bucks will also see an old friend in Mo Williams, who averaged almost 17 points per game against his former team last year.
5. Friday, March 12th – Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks
You’re probably confused as to why this would be an interesting game, but Wesley Matthews was extended an offer to the Jazz’s veteran camp this summer and will have a chance to make the team this season.
Matthews, a four year player at Marquette University, was loved by many and called the Bradley Center home for every game played in Milwaukee.
You can bet that if Matthews makes the team there will be a huge fan base in attendance cheering him on. Just ten minutes away from campus, loads of people would come to the Bradley Center to cheer their man on.
6. Saturday, January 30th – Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Staying with the Marquette theme, former standout guard Dwyane Wade will visit the Bradley Center twice this year in his return to Milwaukee. In 2003, Wade led the Golden Eagles to their first Final Four appearance since winning the title in 1977, and has been a big supporter of Marquette ever since.
The matchup will be a tough one for the Bucks, who lost two of three games to the Heat last season. The game will also feature a pair of U.S.A. Redeem Team members in Michael Redd and Wade. Together, they helped Team U.S.A take home the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
7. Friday, January 8th – Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Illinois-Wisconsin rivalry continues when the Bulls come to town to square off in the third of four match ups between the two teams this season. The Bulls took three of four games last season from the Bucks, but with the loss of Ben Gordon the future is up in the air. Scott Skiles will also match up against his former team, as he coached the Bulls from 2003 to 2007.
8. Wednesday, December 16th – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks will get their shot at the defending champs at home when the Lakers come to town in mid-December. Last year, Kobe Bryant put up 30 points, eight rebounds, and four assists at the Bradley Center as the Lakers won 104-98.
Milwaukee will look to get their revenge and will hopefully have Michael Redd this time around. Last year, Redd missed both matchups against Los Angeles and Andrew Bogut missed one. If the Bucks are at full strength, an upset could be in the cards.
9. Wednesday, November 25th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. New Orleans Hornets
If Brandon Jennings doesn’t get his first “Welcome to the NBA” moment within the first month of the season, he sure will when he visits Chris Paul and the Hornets.
One of the best, if not the best, point guards in the game, Paul will match up on Brandon Jennings and use his elusive quickness, speed, and strength to give Jennings a lesson on how to play the point in the NBA.
10. Tuesday, January 26th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Dallas Mavericks
Last season, the Bucks put up a commanding 133 points against the Mavs in Dallas, and will look to do so again when the two teams match up.
The other storyline in the game is the mystery of what the Bucks’ franchise would look like had they not traded away Dirk Nowitzki. Drafted ninth overall in the 1998 Draft out of Germany by the Bucks, he was then traded to the Mavericks for Tractor Traylor.
Every time the Bucks play the Mavericks, it has to sting a little bit knowing what they gave up in the All Star power forward.
Friday was an extremely busy day for general manager John Hammond and the Milwaukee Bucks. Four moves made by the team made the 2009 season a little clearer.
The biggest move of the move day came when power forward Hakim Warrick agreed to a one-year deal with the Bucks, his agent Bill Duffy announced. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but the offer is expected to be more than $3 million.
The 27-year-old was the 19th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies and spent all four years with them. In those four years, Warrick has averaged 10.2 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 0.4 blocks.
This past season, Warrick achieved career highs in steals and rebounds, and saw himself much improved on the defensive end of things. Playing primarily in a back-up role, he will now have the chance to compete for a starting spot and see many more minutes than his average of just under 25 last season.
For a team running short on cap space as well as depth in the frontcourt, Warrick is a good find for the Bucks and will have major contributions this season. As it is for a lot of players on the Bucks, more playing time will give a few players a chance to shine (Joe Alexander, Amir Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Warrick) and show that their potential can be made into something bigger and better.
Somewhat bigger numbers should be expected from Warrick, but do not expect him to come in and light up the world. His small frame and inability to score on offense has hindered his game his whole career, and neither should change when he suits up for Milwaukee.
My predictions for the 6′9″ power forward are, dependant on Amir Johnson, averages of 12 points and six rebounds per contest. While he is good for the occasional outburst (31 points in a game against the 76ers this year), he is more of a role player and will hopefully play second fiddle to Johnson.
Along with the addition of Ersan Ilyasova, the power forward position is seeing a bit of a logjam but minutes should be available at the small forward position, where Warrick is also capable of playing.
An after-effect of the signing of Warrick is that it more than likely ended the era of Ramon Sessions in Milwaukee. General manager John Hammond has worked his tail off to get his team both competitive and underneath the luxury tax line, and with the signing of Warrick, he sits less than $3 million away from it.
With Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour manning the point guard duties, it was almost a sure bet that Sessions would not be back. The Knicks and Clippers have showed plenty of interest in Sessions and would be willing to pay more than the Bucks would want to match.
However, is Sessions does not get a multi-year contract that he is satisfied with, reports say he might be willing to sign a one year deal with the Bucks.
Other moves the Bucks made on Friday included the release of 13-year veteran Bruce Bowen. Bowen, who has spent the last eight seasons as a defensive stopper with the San Antonio Spurs, was part of the deal that him, Fabricio Oberto, and Kurt Thomas to Milwaukee in exchange for Richard Jefferson.
Bowen was set to make $4 million this upcoming year, and releasing him before Saturday saves the Milwaukee Bucks $2 million of that.
The Bucks also requested waivers on point guard Salim Stoudamire. After looking for a change of scenery from the Atlanta Hawks, where he spent the last three seasons, he never made it to a regular season game while on the Bucks.
He struggled in the Summer League, fighting for minutes with rookie Brandon Jennings, who stole the show.
The last deal of the busy Friday the Bucks made was a trade involving veteran Malik Allen, who was traded to the Denver Nuggets for shooting guard Sonny Weems and power forward Walter Sharpe. Weems is expected to be waived in the near future and Sharpe is a youngster with some potential.
The moves once again show John Hammond’s determination to keep the roster young and rebuild while the talent and potential blossoms.
With the games completed and recapped, it is now time to grade out the 2009 Milwaukee Bucks roster. It was an important summer for the young squad that needed a lot of questions answered during the five-game span in Las Vegas. Let’s see how it all went down.
Jodie Meeks, SG: Drafted in the second round, 41st overall, Meeks was expected to fight for a roster spot behind shooting guards Michael Redd and Charlie Bell.
In order to do this, he was going to have to shoot lights out and show he was capable of playing defense at an NBA level despite his slightly undersized frame at 6’4″. Well, After five games in the Summer League, it is looking more and more like Meeks was a huge steal in the draft and should have no problem making the roster.
During the five games, Meeks averaged a team-high 19 points while shooting a blistering 55.7 percent from the field. The junior from Kentucky showed a complete range of shooting as just eight of his 39 field goals were from behind the arc. Known for being a pure shooter in college, scouts wondered whether or not he could contribute in other areas of the game.
Defensively, Meeks had a steal in all five games and, from what I saw, did not look overmatched at all. He only averaged 2.2 rebounds per game, but that number did not need to be any higher than that.
Originally, I thought Meeks could be the second coming of Eddie House for the Bucks, but not I believe Meeks could be something special to come out of this draft. He reminds me a lot of Michael Redd who was also a pure shooter in college selected in the second round. In fact, Meeks (41st) and Redd (43rd) were taken by the Bucks in almost the exact same spot.
For whatever the Summer League is worth, which admittedly lacks on the defense, Meeks proved he is here to stay. GRADE: A
Brandon Jennings, PG: Despite Meeks’ hot shooting, most eyes were on the 10th selection in this year’s NBA draft. Many wondered how Jennings would play in his first “American basketball” game in over a year. After struggling in Europe in his only year there, Jennings showed that he is fully capable of playing and succeeding in the NBA.
After a shaky first game, Jennings ended the summer averaging 14.6 points and 8.2 assists. He looked blazing fast in the games as one scout said he “was the fastest player on the court, with or without the ball”. He showed glimpses of Steve Nash on his passing ability, Deron Williams on his range from deep, Chris Paul with his ability to get to the lane and finish with a floater, and a little bit of Allen Iverson in his pick-pocketing abilities playing on the ball.
Jennings will have to shoot better in the regular season (37.9 percent) but in a shot-happy summer league, that number is not completely accurate. His turnovers were also up at 4.2 per game but his passing abilities were not questioned during the week.
He is still raw and will need some work, but after a week it looks like the Bucks made nicely on their gamble of Jennings. GRADE: B+
Joe Alexander, SF: Many believe that general manager John Hammond decided to trade Richard Jefferson to 1) save money and 2) put in on Joe Alexander to become a starting small forward in the NBA.
Over the week, Alexander showed flashes of talent but also played out of control at times. What this means is he might be a year or two from completely breaking out but will need to harness his athleticism and turn it into a basketball player.
Alexander averaged 16.6 points and 6.4 rebounds to go along with 1.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per contest. The number that jumps out to me is the rebounding display that Alexander put on. In the games I watched, he positioned himself well and was aggressive on the glass.
He shot just 39.7 percent from the floor but went to the basket strong, averaging 7.6 free throws per game. He also turned the ball over just five times in the 160 minutes he played. GRADE: B
Amir Johnson, PF: Everyone in Milwaukee and their grandmothers are expecting a breakout season for Amir Johnson this year, but last week was not a good start.
Johnson really had just one game that could be considered a plus, occurring against the Bulls when he went for 17 points and eight rebounds.
Fouls were a problem for Johnson all week, however. In the four games he played in, he racked up eight, six, six, and seven fouls in each of the contests. It looks as though he will need to add more strength to survive in the NBA post.
Offensively, he shot 60 percent from the field and averaged 10.5 points per game. He is smooth and finesse down low and can really get up as seen in the alley-oop dunks thrown from Jennings. He reminds me a lot of a Tyrus Thomas that will play more in the post.
Johnson had his highs and lows during the week, but much more will be expected out of him over the course of the season. GRADE: B-
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, F
I was very excited going into the summer to see if Mbah a Moute could build on his fantastic 2008 campaign. Unfortuantely, he struggled to find his rhythm over the week and did not improve much. For the week, he averaged 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds but failed to stand out amongst everyone else.
It seems as though we can expect much of the same from Mbah a Moute next year, which isn’t neccesarily a bad thing but just not a better thing. GRADE: C
Will McDonald, C
Outside of the starting five for the Bucks, no one else made much of a splash. McDonald was the “best of the rest”, averaging 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in an average of 16 minutes in the three games he appeared him. He is a longshot to make the team but had a decent week. GRADE: D
Following draft night on June 25th, Bucks’ general manager John Hammond must have been excited about the upcoming year. After trading last year’s most consistent starter in Richard Jefferson and letting fan favorite and starting power forward Charlie Villanueva walk away, it was clear the team was moving in a different and younger direction.
The additions of Amir Johnson as well as Brandon Jennings and Jodie Meeks through the draft gave the front office a positive attitude heading into the future. Throw in Joe Alexander, an athletic forward who showed promise and a lot of athleticism at time last year, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute from last year’s draft class, and this was a team worth getting excited about.
A week and five summer games later, Hammond must be feeling A LOT more excited.
The Bucks finished up their Summer League mini-season Thursday with a last second loss to the Toronto Raptors. It marked the fifth game in Las Vegas for the Bucks who finished a very respectable four and one on the trip. Here’s an entire recap of the week that was.
Game One: Bucks 65, Mavs 59
Both the Bucks and Mavs showed a good amount of rust in the first game for each team, with the Bucks pulling away down the stretch. Jodie Meeks and Joe Alexander led the Bucks with 14 points apiece and Brandon Jennings put in ten points of his own.
Both teams matched up fairly evenly the whole game, but the big difference was at the charity stripe where the Mavs shot just 56.5 percent (13-23) compared to the Bucks 75 percent (18-24).
Game Two: Bucks 80, Cavaliers 69
The two teams stayed neck and neck in the first half before the Bucks went on a 25-3 run in the third quarter to pull away from the Cavs in the second Summer League game. The star of the night was Brandon Jennings who had 23 points and eight assists to go along with five steals on the night.
The Bucks played arguably their most efficient game of the summer, turning the ball over just ten times compared to 23 Cavalier turnovers. Joe Alexander struggled from the field for the second straight game while Jodie Meeks shot lights out for 16 points, including eight in the decisive third quarter.
Game Three: Bucks 91, Kings 86
Joe Alexander finally broke out of his shooting slump to score 24 points on eight-of-13 shooting while adding a team-high seven rebounds and Brandon Jennings showed off an array of talent that led to 13 points, 14 assists, and seven steals.
Jennings, the tenth overall pick in the NBA draft, improved his statline for the third straight game as he seems get more and more comfortable with the NBA game flow. It was the best game offensively for the Bucks who won their third straight game of the summer.
Jodie Meeks continued his tear with 20 points on eight of 12 shooting.
The Bucks matched up against two familiar faces in Marquette’s Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal. Matthews poured in 14 points while McNeal added two of his own.
Game Four: Bucks 87, Bulls 72
The Bucks won their fourth consecutive game of the Summer League in their most spread out fashion as four players scored in double figures. Amir Johnson posted his best line of the week with 17 points and eight rebounds against some pretty stout talent in James Johnson and Taj Gibson.
Brandon Jennings posted 14 points and nine assists against the border rivals and Jodie Meeks went for 16 points.
The Bucks led for the majority of the game which allowed reserve Will McDonald to log 18 minutes of his own. He made the most of it, scoring nine points and hauling in five assists.
Game Five: Raptors 84, Bucks 83
The Bucks were one shot by Quincy Douby away from ending the Summer League with a perfect 5-0 record, but fell to the Raptors in the league finale.
Jodie Meeks stayed red hot this summer, scoring 29 points on 12-23 shooting, including four from downtown. Joe Alexander finished up nicely, scoring 14 points on 7-14 shooting for the Bucks.
Brandon Jennings struggled to take care of the ball as he committed eight turnovers, but finished the game with 13 points and seven assists.
Meeks was awarded first team All-Summer League honors after his performance in the game and wowed many Bucks’ front office personell.
Tomorrow player breakdowns can be found right here.
The Milwaukee Bucks currently stand at 1-0 in this year’s Summer League after a 65-59 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Second round pick Jodie Meeks led the way for the Bucks with 14 points on six-of-nine shooting while second year player Joe Alexander added 14 points of his own and seven rebounds. It was a good start for the Bucks, who will need a big summer out of a few players to get ready for their semi-makeover this upcoming season.
With Richard Jefferson being dealt to the Spurs and Charlie Villanueva bolting to the Pistons this offseason, a few young players must step up and show that they are worthy of receiving the minutes left by Jefferson and Villanueva. Along with the voids that need to be filled, depth at point guard and power forward will be very important next year, and the summer should give the Bucks a better grasp of where they stand.
Let’s take a look at the five players that need to prove they belong this summer.
1. Brandon Jennings, PG, First Round Pick in 2009
Not only does the 19-year-old Jennings need to prove that he was the right selection for the Bucks at number ten, but he must also prove that his game transitions over to the NBA. Last year, Jennings skipped out on the University of Arizona to play in Italy where his stats dropped but his upside remained.
This summer, Jennings will have starting point guard duties and need to prove he can handle the reigns of leading a team. Head coach Scott Skiles puts a lot of trust in his point guards, meaning Jennings will need to make good on this responsibility if he wants to see the court in the upcoming season.
In his first game, Jennings scored ten points in 25 minutes on three-of-12 shooting to go along with three rebounds, three assists, and two steals. He turned the ball over just two times and nailed a three pointer in the contest. In his first actual game on American soil in about two years, all of his points came in the second half as he seemed to calm down throughout the game.
The Bucks are hoping Jennings will shoot out of the gates like Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook did last year and prove himself to be an All Star in the making this summer.
2. Joe Alexander, SF, First Round Pick in 2008
In his rookie year, Alexander was buried in the depth chart that saw him log just over 12 minutes a game where he averaged 4.7 points and 1.9 rebounds. Drafted based on his freak athleticism and upside, Alexander will get a chance to shine this summer and find a spot in the Bucks’ rotation and potentially starting lineup.
Part of the reason John Hammond felt comfortable enough trading Jefferson this offseason was because he believed Alexander can be the small forward of the future. He has no problem getting to the rim and has an above average jump shot, but he needs to use his size better and add muscle to his frame.
If the first Summer League game was a sign of things to come, Alexander had seven rebounds in the contest including five on the offensive end. Despite going 4-18 in the contest, it showed that Alexander is gaining confidence in his shot as well as getting to the rim as he seen by his seven free throw attempts.
3. Amir Johnson, PF, Acquired via trade this off-season
The acquisition of Johnson was easily John Hammond’s biggest dice roll this year. Many experts believe that he will thrive in a new setting and seeing consistent minutes, away from the bench role he saw for three years in Detroit, but his first game in the Summer League was anything but a breakout performance.
Johnson started at center for the Bucks, logging 21 minutes while totaling four points, four rebounds, seven turnovers and seven personal fouls. It was hardly a good start for the 22-year-old California native, who has the potential to be the next Josh Smith on defense if he can harness his potential.
The best part about Johnson is that he is still young and will have many opportunities to get better on a Bucks team that lacks depth and needs a power forward to step up and start. His full potential is probably two or three years away, but the Bucks could really benefit from him making improvements this summer.
4. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, F, Second Round Pick in 2008
Of all the returning players coming to the Bucks next year, Mbah a Moute tops the list as the one I am most excited about. As a second round pick last year, he was not expected to be much more than a practice body that could provide good minutes off the bench if needed. However, he proved to be much more than that, playing in all 82 games while starting 51 of them.
This season, he will look to improve on last year’s success and fight for the starting small forward position. Despite being a tweener at both forward positions, Mbah a Moute showed that he is capable of playing multiple positions and roles on the team. As he works on a better post game and adds muscle to his frame, he has the potential to be a double-double threat every night.
5. Salim Stoudemire, PG, signed this off-season
Call this my major sleeper pick, but I believe Stoudamire still has a whole lot of potential in him and can make the Bucks roseter this year and have an impact. His rookie season was the best of his three year career, but battling the likes of Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby for playing time isn’t the best way to show off your skills.
In the first Summer League game, Stoudamire played 13 minutes and contributed six points with a rebound, assist, and two steals. While it was nothing spectacular, the point guard position will be a big time mystery heading into the season and Stoudamire can make his case for minutes this summer.
Ramon Sessions and Jennings will head the depth chart and Luke Ridnour will see decent minutes as well, but if Stoudamire can prove his point in the summer, he will find a spot on the Bucks roster.
What the offers to Session and Ilyasova also means is that power forward Charlie Villanueva, 24, becomes an unrestricted free agent and will not be returning to the Bucks next season. Villanueva played three seasons for the Bucks where he averaged 13.5 points per game.
Last year, Villanueva took over the reigns, along with Richard Jefferson, when Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down with season-ending injuries. Villanueva will draw many offers as a free agent, with Detroit and Cleveland being two possibilities.
Many Bucks fans did not understand why general manager John Hammond would trade Richard Jefferson for very little and then let Charlie Villanueva go despite drafting a point guard in the first round of the NBA draft.
First things first, the Bucks are retaining a player in Ramon Sessions that has become a triple-double threat every night if he is able to see the minutes. He seems to be entering his prime right now, and while it might have made more sense to let him go, Sessions is a starting point guard in the NBA that comes at a fairly cheap price.
Speaking of price, Sessions was also going to be the cheaper of the two to re-sign. While that can not be a deciding factor in who stays and who goes, it definitely is a factor. Villanueva has two years on Sessions and has more than just half of a good season under his belt. Also, with such a strong point guard class in this year’s draft, Sessions’ stock would have been down anyway.
In regards to the draft selection of Brandon Jennings, the Bucks were in a spot where they needed to obtain the best basketball player on their board and they believe they did just that. The Bucks are not one piece away from a championship, so selecting Jennings wasn’t a make or break deal. Management believed he was the best player available.
Furthermore, today’s game allows for more than one point guard to be on the floor at a time. If the Bucks really believe Jennings is going to be that good, they would have been foolish to pass on him. Sessions and Jennings will form great depth in the Bucks backcourt along with Michael Redd and Charlie Bell. The addition of Jodie Meeks, drafted in the second round, gives them a lot of scoring options that they lacked last year.
Another reason for letting Villanueva hit free agency was the acquisition of power forward Amir Johnson. After the Jefferson trade to the Spurs, the Bucks sent Fabricio Oberto to the Pistons for the 6′9″ Johnson. Drafted back in 2005 in the second round by the Pistons, Johnson has had trouble finding minutes on a deep Pistons team.
For the Bucks, Johnson will compete for the starting power forward position with second year forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. If Johnson’s potential shines through, he will be a steal in the trade and make Bucks fans forget about Villanueva.
As hard as it was, the Bucks were better off letting Charlie Villanueva walk away instead of giving him an offer. For as good of a guy he was off the court and the way he carried the team through rough portions of last year, the money wasn’t right and the Bucks felt he was dispensable enough to let go.
As for Richard Jefferson, it was also an economic decision that had to be made in order to keep Sessions. In letting him go, a gaping hole was left at the small forward position that will be filled by Bruce Bowen and Joe Alexander. While a move like this had to be done, it would have been nice to see some other moves made so that Sessions could be retained while keeping Jefferson as well.
Next year’s Bucks team could really go either way. Losing two key players in Jefferson and Villanueva will undoubtedly hurt the unit, but new players will get a chance to prove themselves. Johnson and Alexander will get the most minutes of their careers and Brandon Jennings can learn from Sessions in the backcourt. It might not happen next year, but things are looking up for the Bucks’ future.
The 2009 NBA Draft has come and gone with many picks that came as surprises (Minnesota selecting four PG’s) and some picks that did not (Blake Griffin to the Clippers). Staying in the Midwest, let’s break down the Bucks and what they did last night to improve their team.
First Round, 10th Overall: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
One of the biggest stories of this year’s draft was where Jennings would end up. Having one of the biggest ceilings of any player in the draft made him an option as early as number four to the Sacramento Kings, but his decision to play in Europe instead of college, making him somewhat of an unknown, meant that there was a chance he slipped out of the lottery.
However, when the Bucks’ pick came around, Johnny Flynn, Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans, and Stephen Curry had already been selected. Jennings was the next highest ranked point guard in front of the likes of Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, and Jeff Teague.
Why I Liked the Pick: Jennings’ stats in Europe (5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists in 17 minutes) do not reflect the kind of player he is. His senior year at the prestigious Oak Hill Academy, Jennings set a school record for total points and scoring average in a single season. This is the same high school that has had Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Josh Smith, and Rajan Rando attend, among others.
His best asset is his ability to score, giving the Bucks a scoring point guard that they lacked last year. With a 37 inch vertical, Jennings’ athleticism was second to none in the draft which should make up for his lack of size (6’2″, 165 pounds). Another one of Jennings’ traits is his ability to push the basketball and find open teammates.
He is a playmaker on offense and gives the Bucks a threat at the position every night. His lightning quick speed makes it near impossible to stay in front of him and he is an excellent finisher at the hoop. With Rubio and Flynn off the board, the Bucks took the player with the next biggest upside and a player that could be the steal of the draft as he becomes more polished.
Why I Didn’t Like The Pick: Jennings is a bit of a showboater and a “me-first” player which is not going to fly in Milwaukee. It’s true that in the NBA, one needs to have an ego to succeed and keep up with the rest of the crowd, but if Jennings comes in with too big of a head, he will be in for a very quick and large reality check.
With Jrue Holiday still on the board, taking Jennings might be a questionable call. The freshman from UCLA slipped all the way to the 17th pick but easily could have been swiped up by the Bucks. Like Jennings, Holiday has tremendous upside and more of an NBA frame to build on.
Jennings is also very raw and might take a few years to develop, especially if he can not come in and shoot the ball well. He needs a more consistent jump shot and needs to make better decisions on the court. He has been in the spotlight his whole career, so he should be able to make the jump fairly easily.
Defensively, he will need to bulk up a bit more in order to play night in and night out against what will usually be a much bigger point guard (in terms of weight). His scouting report says that he is a defensive gambler which could be a good thing if he perfects it.
Overall Breakdown: With Flynn and Jordan Hill off the board, Jennings was most likely at the top of the Bucks draft board. It probably meant that Ramon Sessions has played his last game as a Milwaukee Buck, while management will likely begin negotiating with Charlie Villanueva. Jennings has superstar potential if he can harness his ego, continue to work on his game, and become more consistent. OVERALL GRADE: A-
Second Round, 41st Overall: Jodie Meeks, SG, Memphis
One of the group of players who was leaning towards pulling his name out of the draft before the deadline was Meeks. With the number one recruiting class in the nation back at Kentucky, his senior year awaiting, and the chance to be a favorite for the National Championship, Meeks had many reasons to go back to school and see what could have been.
In the end, Meeks decided to stay in the draft and wound up on a rebuilding and improving Milwaukee Bucks squad. With a potential future point guard already in the bag, the Bucks stayed in the backcourt and selected one of the purest shooters in the draft not named Stephen Curry.
Why I Liked The Pick: At number 41 overall, Meeks was excellent value for a Bucks team that was looking for the best player available and not neccesarily a need. Last year, the Bucks ranked 18th in the league in bench scoring with 26.4 points per game and will likely get a boost with Meeks.
Despite being one-dimensional for the most part, that one dimension is the only thing Meeks will need to succeed in the NBA. His long-range shooting was unbelievable this year as he averaged 23.8 points per game, good for eighth in all of college basketball. Meeks is able to shoot from any spot on the floor and will give the Bucks an Eddie House-type player that can come off the bench and make up baskets.
Why I Didn’t Like The Pick: When looking at Meeks’ game, one could say that he is a poor man’s Michael Redd in the sense of other than scoring, he isn’t going to bring much on a given night. With a guy like Chase Budinger still on the board who could potentially fill in as a replacement for Richard Jefferson, the pick seems questionable.
Charlie Bell will be back for the Bucks next year as a solid back-up shooting guard so the pick was hardly a need.
Overall Breakdown: Meeks was the best pure shooting guard left on the draft board and will be a scorer in the league. I doubt he will ever be able to start just because he can’t do much other than shoot, but if he can be Eddie House for the Bucks, the pick will be worthwhile. I just wonder if Budinger or Danny Green would have been a better decision. OVERALL GRADE: B
1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
4. Sacramento Kings: Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyreke Evans, PG, Memphis
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Harden, SG, Arizona State
7. Golden State Warriors: Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
8. New York Knicks: Stephen Curry, G, Davidson
9. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan, SG, USC
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
11. New Jersey Nets: Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke
13. Indiana Pacers: Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
14. Phoenix Suns: Earl Clark, SF, Louisville
15. Detroit Pistons: Austin Daye, SF, Gonzaga
16. Chicago Bulls: Terrence Williams, SG, Louisville
17. Philadelphia 76’ers: Eric Maynor, PG, Virginia Commonwealth
18. Minnesota Timberwolves: B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State
19. Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague, PG, Wake Forest
20. Utah Jazz: DeJuan Blair, PF, Pittsburgh
21. New Orleans Hornets: Sam Young, SG, Pittsburgh
22. Portland Trailblazers: Omri Casspi, SF, Israel
23. Sacramento Kings: James Johnson, PF, Wake Forest
24. Dallas Mavericks: Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Chase Budinger, SF, Arizona
26. Chicago Bulls: Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina
27. Memphis Grizzlies: Derrick Brown, PF, Xavier
28. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonas Jerebko, SF, Italy
29. New York Knicks: Toney Douglas, PG, Florida State
30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Demarre Carroll, PF, Missouri
31. Sacramento Kings: Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
32. Washington Wizards: DaJuan Summers, PF, Georgetown
33. Portland Trailblazers: Victor Claver, PF, Spain
34. Denver Nuggets: Taj Gibson, PF, USC
35. Detroit Pistons: Jeff Pendergraph, PF, Arizona State
36. Memphis Grizzlies: Patty Mills, PG, St. Mary’s
37. San Antonio Spurs: Jerel McNeal, G, Marquette
38. Portland Trailblazers: Josh Heytvelt, PF, Gonzaga
39. Detroit Pistons: Jack McClinton, PG, Miami
40. Charlotte Bobcats: Danny Green, G/F, North Carolina
41. Milwaukee Bucks: John Brockman, PF, Washington
42. Los Angeles Lakers: Rodrgiue Beaubois, PG, France
43. Miami Heat: Jermaine Taylor, SG, Central Florida
44. Detroit Pistons: Ahmad Nivins, PF, St. Joseph’s
45. Minnesota Timberwolves: Christian Eyenga, SG, Congo
46. Phoenix Suns: A.J. Price, PG, Connecticut
47. Minnesota Timberwolves: Sergio Llull, PG, Spain
48. Phoenix Suns: Dante Cunningham, SF, Villanova
49. Atlanta Hawks: Vyacheslav Kravtsov, C, Ukraine
50. Utah Jazz: Leo Lyons, PF, Missouri
51. San Antonio Spurs: Wesley Matthews, SG, Marquette
52. Indiana Pacers: Jodie Meeks, SG, Kentucky
53. San Antonio Spurs: Goran Suton, C, Michigan State
54. Charlotte Bobcats: Patrick Beverly, PG, Ukraine
55. Portland Trailblazers: Dionte Christmas, SG, Temple
56. Dallas Mavericks: Tony Gaffney, PF, UMass
57. Phoenix Suns: Paul Harris, SF, Syracuse
58. Boston Celtics: Nando De Colo, SG, France
59. Los Angeles Lakers: Bryan Mullins, PG, So. Illinois
60. Miami Heat: Jeff Adrien, PF, Connecticut
In an earlier article, I gave reasons why the Bucks needed to take Johnny Flynn. I believe he will be one of the two best point guards to come out of this year’s draft and can help the Bucks right away. He could be the missing piece to a veteran team not that far away from the playoffs and, if he is there at the number ten spot, I would love for the Bucks to nab him.
However, this draft is completely up in the air as to who will be taken and many teams in front of Milwaukee need a point guard as well, including Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Minnesota, and New York. There is a chance Flynn, who has performed extremely well in workouts, will be gone when the Bucks pick, so there are other options they might look at.
Playing the devil’s advocate, I’d like to give reasons why the Bucks would be better off taking a power forward in this year’s draft over one of the many point guards expected to go in the lottery and first round.
If the Bucks were to pass on a point guard, it would need to be that there was a competent player on the roster that would allow the team to not worry about the position. Enter Ramon Sessions. The 23-year-old out of Nevada just completed his second season in the NBA, finishing with 12.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 5.7 assists in 79 games.
The second half of the Bucks’ season saw Sessions enter the starting lineup as he started the team’s last 35 games. For the year, he started 39 games and in those games saw almost all of his averages increase to 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 7.6 assists.
He showed that he is clearly ready to take on a starting role in the NBA and has formed a solid chemistry with the rest of the starting unit, something that is hard to come by for a young player.
The Bucks have two key free agents that need to be re-signed this year in Sessions and power forward Charlie Villanueva. General manager Scott Hammond has already said signing both players looks to be out of the question and that one player will not be there next year.
From a financial standpoint, Sessions will be the cheaper of the two to sign at this point in both of the players’ careers. Because of that and the potential that Sessions brings as a starting point guard for a long time, he needs to be re-signed over Villanueva this off-season.
If Sessions were to be brought back next year, there is a very good chance that Villanueva would pack his bags and find a new destination. With this potential move, there would be a gaping hole at the power forward position that the Bucks would need to address via the draft.
Looking at the current roster, last year’s second round pick Luc Richard Mbah a Moute showed a ton of promise for the future as he averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds off the bench. He proved that he can be a solid back-up for the team but, at 6’8″, probably is not big enough to play every day at power forward.
Other than Mbah a Moute, the Bucks’ roster features journeymen and deep bench players when it comes to power forward, meaning the four spot will surely be addressed on June 25th.
As much as the draft features a potential 11 first round point guards, the power forward position is plentiful as well and there are a few names that could be called when the Bucks pick in the ten spot.
The first option for the Bucks would be Jordan Hill, a 6’10” power forward from the University of Arizona. Before the lottery, Hill was considered a top three pick by many over the likes of Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, and in some people’s minds, Ricky Rubio.
As a junior, Hill took his game to a completely different level while averaging 18.3 points and 11 rebounds to go with 1.7 blocks. Known as a defensive stopper his first two years, he rounded out his game and led the Wildcats to a Sweet 16 appearance in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
For whatever reason, Hill’s name has slid slightly down the draft boards as pre-draft workouts and combines have taken place. Some believe there is chance he is still taken as high as fourth by the Sacramento Kings, while others think he can drop all the way down to the Bucks.
Hill struggled somewhat during one-on-one drills in a few pre-draft camps and finished dead last at the combine with a lane agility test of 12.23 seconds. However, his feel for the game and blue-collar approach has made him a very likeable player and one that can play in the Association for quite some time.
Names like Tyreke Evans, Stephon Curry, and DeMar DeRozan have all been seeming to jump past Hill these days and it is now a mystery as to where he might go. It could be the less-than-stellar performances at the workouts or that Hill isn’t the flashiest player in this year’s draft, but if he is available at pick ten, the Bucks would be wise to make him their power forward of the future.
With so many teams taking a look at Hill, it would be no surprise to see him selected before the Bucks pick, but there are other players out there worthy of the tenth pick.
The next best option would be Earl Clark, a 6’10” junior from Lousiville. While he does not possess the build of a true power forward, his height and skills allow for him to be a tweener at the position. Much like a Lamar Odom or Charlie Villanueva, Clark can play both positions and play both very well. Prior to last year, Clark was a consensus top-five pick that was ready to carry Lousiville deep into the NCAA Tournament.
While Clark was on the Big East Champion Cardinals that took the title of the number one overall seed in the tournament, his year was somewhat of a letdown. He averaged 14.2 points and 8.7 rebounds but only shot 45.7 percent from the field and did not use his size as much as scouts would have liked him to.
Still, he is one of the rare players whose body might suit him better in the pros than the college game. He has all the potential to be a great player in the league if he puts the time in, and while he is not the traditonal power forward, the Bucks may take a stab at him at number ten.
Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair has looked very good in pre-draft workouts and has caught the eye of a few teams in the lottery. However, there are many concerns about his knees being able to hold up in the pros that have scared off a few teams. While he stands just 6’8″, Blair is as tough as they come and uses that to offset his lack of size at power forward.
Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina’s all-time scoring leader, has also seen his stock rise over the last month and is another potential pick for the Bucks. As much as the label comes with him, Hansbrough brings more energy to the game than anyone else in the draft. The athleticism is there and he measured out bigger than most thought, making him an option at power forward.
James Johnson, another undersized power forward from Wake Forest, has loads of potential but has not shown it in workouts thus far. His stock has fallen considerably and would be a huge reach for the Bucks, especially because his name has not been linked to Milwaukee once.
At the end of the day, there is a good chance that the Bucks pull the trigger on a point guard. This is one of the deepest drafts for point guards in recent memory and there are potential gems everywhere. However, if Rubio, Evans, Curry, Flynn, and even Holiday are all taken, it could potentially cause the Bucks to change their direction that they take in the draft. In eight days, it will all be figured out. For now, we can only wait.
As we close in on the three week mark until the 2009 NBA Draft, camps and interviews are in full swing, and teams are making notes about players that they like and do not like.
Sitting at the No. 10 spot, the Milwaukee Bucks will have many options to improve its 34-48 squad from last year. Injuries to stars Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut hurt Milwaukee’s playoff hopes, but a good draft—and a healthy offseason—will do wonders for the team.
The Bucks will have to make decisions on free agents Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions, and the draft could affect what they do.
Potentially waiting at the No. 10 pick will be Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn. The 6’0″ sophomore has seen his stock rise since attending the combine in Chicago and is looking more and more like a surefire lottery pick. If he makes it to Milwaukee, there is no reason for general manager John Hammond to pass on the next big point guard in the NBA.
Flynn has all the tools you look for in a point guard, starting with leadership. Despite being in just his second season at Syracuse, Flynn took a leadership role and was the main reason for the Orange’s success last year.
Over the last couple of years, the NBA has seen the point guard position take precedence as the spot to build a franchise around. Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, and Rajon Rondo have all been examples of this new trend.
For the Bucks, Flynn would step in right away as the starting point guard. Helping make the transition would be a veteran group of players in Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Andrew Bogut, and Charlie Villanueva.
He would not be joining a young squad full of potential, where he would need to take over games and try to do too much (which he is guilty of at times). Instead, he would rather play within the offense and have help doing so.
Flynn remains the most sure thing in the draft among point guards in this year’s draft. As a sophomore, Flynn is actually one of the older guards in the draft.
In ESPN’s GM rankings of the top 13 point guards, just Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson, Eric Maynor, Darren Collison, and Toney Douglas were older than him.
The good part is that Flynn is older, not old. He is just 20 years old and still has a ton of experience. He has not been to three Final Fours, like Collison, and he has not played overseas, like Brandon Jennings.
However, he has played two full seasons in the rough ‘n’ tough Big East and carried a team on his shoulders to the NCAA Tournament.
Flynn measured out at 6’0″ tall in shoes and had a 6′4″ wingspan, which gave a lot of GMs good reason to believe that he is big enough to succeed in the NBA.
The only thing you could possibly knock Flynn on is his size. But his decent size— comparable to Chris Paul’s—seems to get the job done. Flynn also had the highest vertical leap of anyone at the draft camp, being the only one to reach 40 inches on his jump.
When I watch Flynn play, he reminds me a lot of San Antonio’s Tony Parker. While Parker has two inches on Flynn, his jumping ability makes up for the size disadvantage.
Both go to the hole with a great sense of speed, direction, and ability to find open teammates.
Flynn got to the foul line six times a game, compared to Parker’s five trips per game, and both do most of their damage in the paint.
An added bonus in Flynn’s arsenal is his outside shot. Despite driving to the paint on most of his offensive touches, he has some ability to shoot the three when necessary.
Also, Flynn has about 15 pounds on Parker and is a lot more physical. While he has the ability to put finesse in his game, he will come right at you and draw a foul.
Don’t let his size fool you; his competitiveness drives him and he does not back down from anyone.
Flynn is as complete of a point guard as any team will find in this year’s draft. International players (Rubio, Jennings) are far from being a sure thing, and Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday are one-year wonders from their respective colleges.
There are question marks on whether or not Stephen Curry will be able to play good enough defense in the NBA, and there are more questions about Ty Lawson’s size than Flynn’s.
With such an array of good outside shooters (Redd and Jefferson) and big men with mid-range games (Villanueva and Bogut), Flynn could do wonders in the Bucks’ offense.
With such good shooters on the perimeter, getting a guy that can run the floor like Flynn will create open shots on the break and lead to a much more efficient offense.
Rajon Rondo’s play in Boston comes to mind when thinking about the way Flynn runs the break. His first look is to get right to the hole, but he always knows where his players are (Ray Allen).
Flynn also excels when he slows the ball down and runs the half-court offense. At Syrcause, Flynn saw a lot of zone defense that allowed him to penetrate to the basket but not finish because of defenses collapsing.
When Flynn gets to the NBA, he is going to see a lot more man-to-man defenses and is going to be quicker than most of the counterparts he matches up against on a nightly basis. His ability to finish at the rim and draw fouls will go a long way to making him successful.
Scott Skiles loves a good point guard and Flynn can be the man for the job. Of the “young” point guards in the draft, Flynn is the most NBA-ready and can step in and help right away for a Bucks team that is not that far away from a breakout year.
Ramon Sessions has showed flashes of being a very good point guard in the league, but I still doubt whether he can handle the starting gig all year.
If he does not decide to re-sign with the Bucks, Flynn becomes the best option to start for the Bucks next year. The Bucks have longed for a star point guard that has the fire and passion Flynn does.
The Bucks will look at all their options and decide which point guard they like best and even hope a power forward like Jordan Hill falls to them.
However, if Flynn is available at the 10th pick, it would make all the sense in the world to make him a Milwaukee Buck.
1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma
The Clippers were the fortunate winners of the 25th NBA Lottery and are now coasting through the draft process as they wait to officially draft Griffin. The consensus number one pick, Griffin will step in nicely with a core of young Clippers that could make some noise in a few years.
NBA Comparison: Amare Stoudemire
Other Options: Ricky Rubio
Previous Pick: Jordan Hill at #3
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut
The Grizzlies jumped a lucky four spots in the Lottery and have to be pleased. I still have a lot of faith in Mike Conley and I think the Grizzlies do as well. Marc Gasol had problems on defense last year and should form a very good duo with the defensive star Thabeet.
NBA Comparison: Sam Dalembert
Other Options: Ricky Rubio, Jordan Hill
Previous Pick: James Harden at #6
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ricky Rubio, PG, DKV Joventut
A no-brainer here for the Thunder who take the next best player on the board and address a need. Russell Westbrook can be moved to the shooting guard position and form a great core of young players. The Thunder showed signs of greatness last year and may be just a few years away from turning the corner.
NBA Comparison: Rafer Alston
Other Options: James Harden
Previous Pick: Hasheem Thabeet at #4
4. Sacramento Kings: Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA
I am not too high on Holiday as of right now, but he has the biggest ceiling of any point guard in the draft and fits the biggest need for the Kings. After losing out on the top spot in the draft, Holiday is a boom-or-bust pick with loads of potential and will get the chance to start right away.
NBA Comparison: Rodney Stuckey
Other Options: Jordan Hill, Johnny Flynn
Previous Pick: Blake Griffin at #1
5. Washington Wizards: James Harden, SG, Arizona State
No one has helped their draft stock more than Harden, and he will fit in nicely with the Wizards. In my last mock, I had Washington drafting a point guard and shifting Gilbert Arenas to shooting guard, but now a healthy Arenas can stay at the point and have the hot shooting Harden on the wing.
NBA Comparison: Ben Gordon
Other Options: Jordan Hill
Previous Pick: Ricky Rubio at #2
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy
The Timberwolves fell back a place in the NBA Lottery but still get the chance to land their point guard of the future in Jennings. Despite a poor season overseas, Jennings still has all the talent in the world. He will form a great backcourt with Randy Foye as the Timberwolves continue to rebuild.
NBA Comparison: Allen Iverson
Other Options: Demar DeRozan, Jordan Hill
Previous Pick: Brandon Jennings at #5
7. Golden State Warriors: Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona
A pure value pick here for the Warriors who get a steal with Hill here. While he is rising up many draft boards, his potential is not as high as others drafted before him which may cause him to slide. Golden State gets a very good defensive player with a developing offensive game. What better place to go to develop your offense than Golden State?
NBA Comparison: Al Jefferson
Other Options: Tyreke Evans, Johnny Flynn
Previous Pick: Tyreke Evans at #7
8. New York Knicks: Stephen Curry, PG, Davidson
The one place where Curry’s defensive struggles will not be exposed as much is in New York so the Knicks take a chance on him. His offensive game needs no introduction and in Mike D’Antoni’s system, his numbers could be off the chart on offense.
NBA Comparison: Mike Bibby
Other Options: Tyreke Evans, Gerald Henderson, Johnny Flynn
Previous Pick: Jeff Teague at #8
9. Toronto Raptors:Tyreke Evans, PG, Memphis
Tough pick here for the Raptors as I have them going with value. Anthony Parker is more than likely leaving the Raptors next year via free agency and Evans is a good replacement. He can play both guard positions and has outstanding size. He is also great value right here.
NBA Comparison: Dwyane Wade
Other Options: Earl Clark, Demark DeRozan
Previous Pick: Gerald Henderson at #9
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Johnny Flynn, PG, Syracuse
I kept this pick the same for the Bucks because I really believe he should be the pick here. The outside shot of nabbing the overall first pick is gone, so the Bucks should look to addressing the point guard position. With Rubio and Jennings gone, Flynn is the next best option.
NBA Comparison: Tony Parker
Other Options: Earl Clark, James Johnson
Previous Pick: Johnny Flynn at #10
11. New Jersey Nets: Demar DeRozan, SF, USC
Another value pick here as the Nets grab the best all-around athlete in the draft. DeRozan will win many dunk contests in the future, but a championship may be another story. He is very raw and will take a few years to develop, but could be a defensive star.
NBA Comparison: Josh Howard
Other Options: James Johnson, Earl Clark
Previous Pick: Earl Clark at #11
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke
Henderson is the best shooting guard left and is the biggest need for the Bobcats. A good draft could push the Bobcats into the playoffs next year, and they hope Henderson is the answer. He really came on in the second half of the year and warrants a spot in the top 15.
NBA Comparison: Joe Johnson
Other Options: Wayne Ellington, James Johnson
Previous Pick: Wayne Ellington at #12
13. Indiana Pacers: Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
The Pacers were hoping for a pure big man, but at this spot no one jumps out at me as warranting a pick. Lawson will come in and share time with Indiana who loves to rotate their point guards. He lacks ideal size but should do a nice job in the NBA as he plays solid defense and runs the break very well.
NBA Comparison: Deron Williams
Other Options: James Johnson, DeJuan Blair
Previous Pick: Stephen Curry at #13
14. Phoenix Suns: Earl Clark, SF, Louisville
Clark is big enough to play the power forward position but athletic enough to be a small forward. Sounds a lot like Shawn Marion, doesn’t it? Clark’s size didn’t fit in well with the college game all the time, but if he can improve his jumper and get a little quicker, he could be the steal of the draft.
NBA Comparison: Josh Smith
Other Options: James Johnson, Austin Daye
Previous Pick: Ty Lawson at #14
Up until the last couple weeks of the season, the Milwaukee Bucks remained in the playoff hunt for the final spot and a trip to get abused for four games by the Cleveland Cavaliers. While the Bucks finished the year 34-48, there were a few key factors that make this record misleading.
First and foremost, shooting guard Michael Redd battled two different injuries that caused him to miss 49 games last year. A sprained ankle in November caused him to miss 14 games and on January 24th, Redd tore his ACL, which ended his season indefinitely.
Not to be forgotten was Andrew Bogut, who played in just 36 games this year after a stress fracture in his back ended his year. Bogut was averaging career highs in field goal percentage and rebounds before he went down with the injury.
The Bucks went 12-11 when both Redd and Bogut played and after Bogut went down with his season ending injury (Redd had already been out for the year), the Bucks went 10-21 without their team leaders. The majority of the teams in the league would have a hard time competing without their best outside shooter and best big man. Redd and Bogut were arguably the two best players on the team and the Bucks visibly struggled because of it.
Coming into next year, both are expected to be fully recovered and healthy to begin the season. Two players that may not begin the season in Milwaukee are free agents Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions.
Villanueva took over as the team leader when Redd and Bogut went down with their injuries and had a career year. He posted career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, and free throw percentage and kept the Bucks’ playoff hopes alive up until the final two weeks of the season.
Sessions, everyone’s favorite fantasy basketball point guard sleeper, posted very solid numbers as well. Sessions took over the starting role at the end of January and saw his numbers increase even more.
The issue starts when talking about what to do with Villanueva and Sessions. On one hand, you have Villanueva who was the Bucks best player last year and was the glue that held the injury-depleted team together. He is 25 years old and seems to be coming into the prime of his career.
On the other hand, Sessions has proved that he can be a starting point guard in the NBA and, at only 23 years old, has a very bright future ahead of him. When the Bucks brought in Luke Ridnour, they thought they were going to have their starting point guard, but Ridnour has turned out to be just a solid back-up.
Villanueva will be more costly than Sessions, and general manager Scott Hammond has made it clear that it does not look like both players can be re-signed. Also, the Bucks will not be big players in this year’s free agency signing so it looks as though they can focus on keeping their in-house players.
Villanueva is more important to Milwaukee’s success and I believe he will be the player that the Bucks keep. Sessions is showing early signs of being a Jason Kidd-type player but at this stage in the game, Villanueva is a better player. Another reason that Villanueva will be re-signed over Sessions is looking at the NBA Draft and which positions will be available for the Bucks come June.
In my most recent mock draft, 11 point guards were taken in the first round. This draft class is one of the deepest in recent memory at the point guard position and, with the Bucks projected to pick tenth, a franchise point guard will be available when it is their turn to select.
Leading the rankings at the point guard position is 19-year-old Spaniard Ricky Rubio.
After dominating the Redeem Team in the Olympics, Rubio got the national attention he deserved. His strength lies in his passing and the way he runs the floor in transition. He is very raw and may take a few years to pan out, but his ceiling is as high as anyone else’s in this draft.
There is almost no chance that Rubio slips to number ten for the Bucks, but the next three point guards on my list are pretty much ranked the same and could be available depending on who slips. Brandon Jennings, the point guard who chose Italy over Arizona, enters the draft as my second highest rated point guard. Jennings is more of a scorer than a passer which might not make him the ideal fit in Milwaukee, but his overall talent and potential is something the Bucks could use right away.
In my mock draft, I had the Bucks selecting Syracuse point guard Johnny Flynn. Something about him makes me believe that he is going to be the next great point guard in the NBA. The way he leads his team with such confidence, despite being just a sophomore, is unbelievable. He finishes at the hoop with power and has an improving jump shot.
Ty Lawson is a step behind Flynn in my book, but that is no knock on the North Carolina point guard. Lawson had an amazing season and tournament that ended with a National Championship and looks to be a sure fire lottery pick.
As it pertains to the Bucks, Rubio would be the best fit for the Bucks based solely on him being the best point guard. After Rubio, Flynn and Lawson both distribute the ball excellently and can become leaders on the court. They both differ from Jennings who is more of a combo guard, but there is a good chance one of these four will be taken by the Bucks if Sessions is not re-signed.
If Sessions is re-signed and Villanueva is let go, there is a huge hole left at the power forward position. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute proved that he is capable of playing a good 25 minutes a night but is not a starter.
Unless the Bucks win the Lottery, Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin will not be available anywhere else. After Griffin, Arizona power forward Jordan Hill is the next best option. While I see him going in the top five after his much improved 2009 campaign, he would be a great pick for the Bucks to team up with Bogut in the frontcourt.
James Johnson out of Wake Forest is a project that has a lot of upside because of his athleticism and strength.
DeJuan Blair is an interesting prospect because he does not quite have the athletic game style that you look for in an NBA power forward. He is as hard of a worker as you will find in the draft, but his height might be a concern.
The Bucks have the 41st selection in the draft and the second round is loaded with height. I have the Bucks taking Temple shooting guard Dionte Christmas but other big men of note are Xavier’s Derrick Brown, Arizona State’s Jeff Pendergraph, and North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough.
If the Bucks can stay healthy next year and hit on a good point guard in the draft, there is reason to believe the Bucks can fight for a playoff spot next year. Richard Jefferson and Joe Alexander are holding down the small forward position and, despite some rumors, there is a good chance Jefferson stays put in Milwaukee.
Redd and Charlie Bell formed a solid shooting guard combo with Keith Bogans, and Luke Ridnour gives very solid minutes at the point guard position. Scott Skiles is a good enough coach that he can get the Bucks to where they can potentially be next year: the NBA Playoffs.