The 2016-17 Milwaukee Bucks season featured an exciting brand of basketball, a blistering stretch run, and an exhilarating playoff series against the Toronto Raptors.
But while “Own the Future” may soon transition into the present, realistically the team has plenty of ground to cover to reach its desired destination. After all, it’s now 16 years and counting since Bucks fans have witnessed even a playoff series win, let alone a deep playoff run.
The next opportunity to continue rebuilding will be tonight’s NBA draft, which will be Milwaukee’s first with its newly minted general manager Jon Horst. Questions this summer loom around the impending free agency of Tony Snell and the injury recovery timetable of Jabari Parker, who is entering a contract year. Meanwhile, the increasing positionlessness of basketball — Giannis Antetokounmpo is the poster child — has NBA teams searching for as much versatility as they can get their hands on, with needs often being quality-based rather than position-based.
Last year in the draft Milwaukee nabbed a couple of legitimate contributors, and they may be well positioned to do so again tonight considering this year’s draft pool is littered with star power and depth. Let’s take a look at some of the prospects that 1) fit theoretically within the Bucks’ system and 2) might still be around at Nos. 17 or 48 overall.
Creighton center Justin Patton
Patton utilized his redshirt year at Creighton to mature physically and expand his game to such an extent that he won Big East Freshman of the Year honors. The Omaha native displayed a delicate touch while shooting 67.6% from the field during his lone collegiate season, an outstandingly efficient number for a 19-year-old.
With Greg Monroe’s potential departure after the upcoming season, Patton could fill a void on the interior. While not the dominant low-post scorer that Monroe is, Patton has solid offensive polish and can be a threat from any area on the floor, which is rare for a 7-footer at this stage of his career.
In time, Patton should be able to develop into a dangerous pick-and-pop and trail-three threat due to his sound shooting mechanics. This would complement the Bucks’ overall penetration ability quite well.
Texas center Jarrett Allen
Allen has been linked to the Bucks for an extended period of time now, but the Milwaukee staff made it “individual workout official” last week.
The Bucks have branded themselves as a team with disruptive length, and Allen can seamlessly join the party given his 7’5” wingspan. The Texas one-and-done projects as a serviceable rim protector at minimum, but he’s very much a project and will require an incubation period upon entering the league.
Allen offers some undeniably tantalizing upside, but with a championship window for Milwaukee seeming to crack open, a more refined product might be preferable at No. 17. Given Milwaukee’s draft history, however, the long-term play of selecting Allen would not at all come as a surprise.
Oklahoma State guard Jawun Evans
A former McDonald’s All-American, Evans announced his arrival as a freshman with a dazzling 42-point performance against rival and eventual Final Four participant Oklahoma. In his sophomore campaign last season, the point guard was the floor general and maestro of college basketball’s top offense — and much of the Cowboys’ improvement over the past couple years could be credited to Evans’ personal growth as a player. Most importantly, he was able to cut down on his turnovers while maintaining the third-best assist rate in all of college basketball.
Evans would help solve Milwaukee’s lack of a true, natural point guard. One of the Bucks’ biggest bugaboos has been a stagnant, bogged-down half-court offense at times. Evans constantly had the ball in his hands at Oklahoma State and created nearly everything for the nation’s most prolific offense. His ability to dissect pick-and-rolls will assuredly translate to the next level, and his ability to score at all three levels — despite standing less than six feet tall — is unrivaled. Having a primary ball-handler who has the Chris Paul-like ability to consistently save a team from doomed possessions by creating something out of nothing is such a benefit.
If current mock drafts are to be believed, grabbing Evans at No. 17 might be considered farfetched, but in my opinion he would be worth the reach.
Kansas guard Frank Mason III
Mason falls under the same category as Evans, with the only real differentiation being the age factor. Size and age are what have slid the consensus 2017 National Player of the Year to a second-round projection in most circles. But Mason is a known commodity by being a four-year player for a blueblood college program, and it is difficult envisioning a scenario in which Mason does not wind up being a productive NBA player.
What might go unnoticed is exactly how much the Jayhawk improved, especially in his senior season. His impressive work ethic can be seen in the course of his jump shot over the last four years. Mason may have once struggled with flawed mechanics and inconsistency, but he is leaving Lawrence as one of the nation’s most efficient high-usage offensive players. That type of player would fit well anywhere, and Mason’s infectious bulldog mentality and leadership skills would do nothing but benefit a young Bucks roster.
The issue with Mason’s size should never come to the forefront. He is a pesky on-ball defender with a 41” vertical leap and showed an extraordinary knack for being able to absorb contact and score in traffic. He shot an even 50% on his two-point attempts in his senior year at Kansas, which is almost unheard of for a 6-foot player. Mason simply won’t allow himself to fail. If available at No. 48, he would undoubtedly be the best player on the board, making him a no-brainer selection and possibly another second-round steal for Bucks.