The Milwaukee Bucks are facing a dilemma with the second overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The roster currently features big man Larry Sanders, who is locked into a four-year extension and is close to untradeable due to his off the court issues. If the Cleveland Cavaliers pass on the seven-foot Joel Embiid, the Bucks would have two players with similar games. Further, the Bucks selected wing man Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2013 NBA Draft and he is similar to Andrew Wiggins, although most concede Wiggins is more developed on the offensive end of the floor. Out of the big three draftees at the top of the draft, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, only Parker appears to fit the Buck’s needs without duplicating talent.
Over the course of last season, the Great Freak represented hope for the future. All fans of woeful teams need some thing or someone to latch onto to channel their hopefulness. Antetokounmpo provided the hope for downtrodden Bucks fans. Although sometimes clueless on defense and still working on his shot, the rookie would flash his brilliance from time to time and otherwise allow his ebullient personality to shine through to fans. For years the Bucks stood in the NBA middle ground of making the playoffs as an eighth seed, just good enough to avoid the lottery, but not good enough to avoid being first round playoff fodder. Having the worst record in the NBA last season, new Owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry understand the need to rebuild the roster and the lanky Antetokounmpo provided the first building block in that effort.
The Bucks place such a priority to protect their investment in Antetokounmpo that it causes the Milwaukee team to face a dilemma with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft. Although in need of a serious talent infusion, the team is mindful that the influx of new talent cannot retard Antetokounmpo’s forward progress. Because Wiggins is a similar type of player, the Bucks appear reluctant to pull the trigger on his selection. Although viewed as having a more limited upside than Wiggins, Parker has a more refined game at this point and could mesh with the Greek Freak more readily than Wiggins.
The four-year $44 million extension for Sanders is representative of offering long-term extensions to the wrong player. Particularly for smaller market and cap penalty avoidant teams, giving an extension to an unproductive player creates repercussions for years. If the Cavs decide not to draft Embiid, then the Bucks face a logjam in the middle with two similar players fighting for minutes. Drafting Embiid would likely require moving Sanders at well below market value, although his value may not be that much now anyway.
If the Bucks are impressed enough with Dante Exum to select him as the second pick, then many of the concerns melt away. Exum and Antetokounmpo could likely mesh well together, but Bucks fans might hope that both develop their jump shots sooner instead of later. By all accounts, the Greek Freak is certainly putting in the time to polish his stroke. Given the dilemma faced by the Milwaukee Bucks as they decide what to do with the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, they will probably select Parker or Exum. The rebuilding project could take a major step forward with either of those two players.
Commentary by William Costolo