MILWAUKEE — With the NBA Draft just a few days away, Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond remained vague on most issues regarding the team’s No. 12 pick in Thursday’s first round. But he was pretty clear on one thing: that pick isn’t likely to be traded.
The Bucks traded last year’s No. 10 pick to the Sacramento Kings in a three-team trade that saw Shaun Livingston and Stephen Jackson land in Milwaukee. That trade didn’t work out so well for the Bucks, and although the sting of that move may have nothing to do with this year’s plans, Hammond was pretty firm on keeping this year’s first-rounder.
“We sit at 12, and I expect us to stay at 12,” Hammond said on Monday. “It could change, but there’s nothing imminent right now that would ever change that position.”
Hammond said he told one media member during last year’s draft press conference that the Bucks were “almost doing too much of this,” in regards to making trades. He did leave the door open if an undeniably-sweet offer were to be on the table to move up or down the draft board.
“We have done this over the last couple three years,” Hammond said. “We’ve made a major trade at the draft, and to be honest with you, we’re hoping not to do something like that. If the right opportunity presented itself, I wouldn’t say that we wouldn’t do something like that.”
So with Milwaukee likely set at the No. 12 pick, the next question is a simple one: Who or what position are the Bucks looking at?
Hammond was frank about Milwaukee’s need for size, alluding that in order to be a playoff-caliber team that the Bucks will need to add size at most positions. And in accordance with much of the draft speculation surrounding the team, the need for a big man is palpable to the Bucks’ general manager.
But, he says, don’t expect the Bucks to draft a center if they feel that there’s a better overall talent at a different position still available on the board.
“I think right now there’s the assumption that we’re kind of looking into basically a narrow-mindset that we have to go big,” Hammond said. “And there’s a need there. Obviously, that is going to be a discussion; it’s going to be somewhat of a priority for us. But at the end of the day . . . the most important thing is that you’re drafting talent. At the end of the day, when we look at 12, it’s going to be, who is the best player on the board? We’re not going to just be narrow and say we have to go to a certain position.”
Bucks director of scouting Billy McKinney said that the No. 12 pick comes with a great deal of uncertainty, so that flexibility going into the draft is a must, considering all that could happen before Milwaukee’s pick.
Spending the majority of the weekend poring over scouting reports and different draft scenarios, McKinney said a multitude of players, including big men and bigger, talented wings and two-guards could be available. Either way, it seems the No. 12 pick is far from being decided.
“As we’ve gone through these different draft scenarios, we have so many different people at the 12 position,” McKinney said. “We had Terrence Jones in last week. Will he go above us? We don’t know. (As for) Jared Sullinger, the mystery of what’s happening with him from a medical standpoint certainly would impact what players will be available at 12. What happens with him could really influence who will be there as well. We’ll have some selections there.”
The most likely selections seem to come down to three different big men — North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller and John Henson and Illinois’ Meyers Leonard — and a few different athletic guards — Washington’s Terrence Ross and Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb.
Ross and Lamb could be a part of the Bucks workout on Tuesday, and Zeller, Henson and Leonard have all already worked out for Milwaukee at the Cousins Center.
And despite the fact that the Bucks haven’t drafted a first-round player that didn’t work out for them prior to the draft since Hammond and coach Scott Skiles came to Milwaukee, the general manager was adamant about prior draft workouts not being a deciding factor, leaving the possibility of a player such as Syracuse guard Dion Waiters or Connecticut center Andre Drummond coming to Milwaukee, if either player — or any other highly-rated player for that matter — were to go tumbling down draft boards.
“(It’s) absolutely not (a deal-killer),” Hammond said. “We’ve all moved beyond that process in the draft. A few years ago, certain things were said that if a guy doesn’t work out for a team, you can’t draft him. . . . You hear very little in this day and age of the threat that a certain player will only go to certain teams.”
So for now, the Bucks will remain in an uncertain draft limbo, waiting for the chips to fall before them on draft night. And until then, all Milwaukee’s staff can do is wait and see.
“History will tell you that at the 12th pick in the draft, sometimes you hit and sometimes you don’t,” Hammond said. “We’d love to get a good player there and we expect to get a good player there. But to say the draft is an inexact science is an understatement.”