Milwaukee Bucks: Implications Of The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery

Jun 23, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Thon Maker walks to the stage after being selected as the number ten overall pick to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks do not have a lottery pick this year, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t affected by the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery. What are the implications from Tuesday night’s event?

The Milwaukee Bucks have followed a pattern over the past half-decade. They put together a run that propels them into the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and therefore outside of the lottery. Then the next season, they fall back to earth and find themselves once more in the lottery.

Next season, Milwaukee hopes to buck the trend and find staying power in the playoff picture. They are well set up to do so, with a budding superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo and strong supporting talent. Center Thon Maker could turn into another star right alongside him, and when healthy, Jabari Parker is one of the league’s best scoring power forwards already.

This offseason will be important for the Bucks to make smart moves. Last time they made it into the playoffs they traded away key pieces in order to sign Greg Monroe. While “Moose” has been a solid contributor for the team, specifically this season, overall the Bucks’ 2015 offseason has to be deemed a disappointment.

General manager John Hammond does not want a repeat, but rather wishes to build on the momentum of the 2016 offseason, when he drafted Maker, Rookie of the Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon, and traded for Michael Beasley and Tony Snell. Those moves propelled the Bucks past significant injuries into the postseason and a tight series with the Toronto Raptors.

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As the 2017 NBA Draft draws nearer, the picture ahead of Milwaukee grew clearer after Tuesday night’s draft lottery. The order of teams picking before the Bucks is set, giving Hammond and his team as much clarity as possible. While the players available are still an unknown, the more information the better.

The lottery had significant implications for teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, but there are less powerful shockwaves reaching the Milwaukee Bucks in the aftermath. What are these implications, and why did the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery matter for the Bucks?

>Next: Competition Wasn’t Helped Out >

Nov 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) controls a loose ball past Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) in the closing seconds of the game at Wells Fargo Center. The Orlando Magic won 103-101. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee’s competition wasn’t helped out

The Milwaukee Bucks are currently in the catbird seat out East. While the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t going anywhere, and the Boston Celtics have the ammunition to sustain success for a long time, the middle of the Eastern Conference is uncertain and vulnerable.

The Bucks have a young superstar surrounded by complementary talent, players with upside and a general manager that continues to make smart moves. The Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks cannot check all of those boxes.

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With the middle class in the East vulnerable to change, the Bucks have to beat out the other young up-and-coming teams to rise the fastest in the East. The Philadelphia 76ers have the best collection of young talent, and did walk away from the draft with the third overall pick. But they have to wait until next season to receive the Los Angeles Lakers’ first-rounder, delaying the true realization of their talent level.

The Orlando Magic likewise lost out by the Los Angeles Lakers keeping their pick. Instead of receiving a 2019 first round pick from the Lakers, the Magic now have to be satisfied with a pair of second-rounders. They also dropped back to sixth in the draft order, yet again failing to move up in the lottery.

Other Eastern Conference teams outside this year’s playoff picture went without any help as well, with the New York Knicks falling back to eighth and the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat staying put. Chicago even had an infinitesimal chance to take Sacramento’s pick, but that did not pan out. Although Milwaukee had no way of moving up in the draft order, none of their direct competition did either.

>Next: Boston’s Lottery Win Could Eliminate A Rival >

May 17, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas represents his team during the NBA draft lottery at New York Hilton Midtown. The Philadelphia 76ers received the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Boston’s lottery win could eliminate a rival

The Boston Celtics are playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, a series that begins Wednesday in Beantown because the Celtics secured the No. 1 overall seed. While the Cavaliers are favored in the series, Boston has proved to be the second-best team in the Conference.

Now the second-best team in the East also holds the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft. The result of a pick swap with the Brooklyn Nets, Boston will select first among a generous crop of promising talent.

It is certainly possible that Boston keeps the pick, choosing sustainability over short-term potential. In that case it seems like the Celtics will be a perennial Conference contender, with Jaylen Brown and Markelle Fultz (the likely top pick) carrying the torch after Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford pass it on.

In that scenario, teams staring at huge luxury tax bills in the face of a Boston dynasty of sorts may elect to zag the other way, letting marquee free agents walk rather than overpaying them to stay in not-as-good-as-Boston territory for the next five years. Both Atlanta with Paul Millsap and Toronto with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka need to make such decisions.

There is also a greater possibility that Boston flips that pick for a star currently in their prime. Rather than waste the window of opportunity they have with Isaiah Thomas on a bargain deal and still in his prime, the Celtics could trade the pick for a star player on a team that recognizes it cannot contend.

Both the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls have two-way wings that have been the subject of trade discussions. The Pacers and Paul George could part ways this offseason before George leaves in free agency during the summer of 2018. The Bulls may realize they cannot put together a winning team with Jimmy Butler and trade him for lucrative assets.

In either scenario, Boston trading for a star player would make the sending team immediately worse. Both Chicago and Indiana made the playoffs this year and were within a game of the Milwaukee Bucks; knocking one of those teams down into the lottery takes out a rival for the Bucks.

>Next: Point Guards Will Be Gone >

Mar 24, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard De’Aaron Fox (0) looks to pass the ball against UCLA Bruins guard Lonzo Ball (2) in the second half during the semifinals of the South Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Point guards will be gone

The 2017 NBA Draft is defined at the top by its point guards, as was the 2016-17 college basketball season. Although Wooden Award winner Frank Mason III is not expected to be selected until late in the first round at the earliest, other top point guards will go early in the lottery.

Washington point guard Markelle Fultz is expected to go with the first overall pick, which is currently owned by the Boston Celtics but could be sent off in a package by the time things are all said and done. Fultz’s combination of size and skill make him an ideal first pick.

Lonzo Ball lit up the scoreboard and the excitement of fans across the nation, and it seems likely he will get to play in his hometown of Los Angeles next season, going from UCLA to the Lakers with the second overall pick.

Dennis Smith, Jr. of NC State and Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox are also expected to go in the first half dozen picks, with the New York Knicks probably representing the floor for the pair. While the Philadelphia 76ers will probably not go with a point guard at No. 3, the Kings (No. 5), Magic (No. 6) and Knicks (No. 8) are all likely to take a point guard. It’s unlikely both will last until No. 9.

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The holders of the ninth overall pick are the Dallas Mavericks. Although uncovering Yogi Ferrell last season was a great move, he is best deployed as a backup at the point, leaving an open spot for the Maverick to fill. If either Fox or Smith fell to them, they would probably be the pick for the Mavs.

Otherwise the Mavericks have been linked for months to French point guard Frank Ntilikina, whom Dallas has scouted more than perhaps any other NBA team. His length and skill set would be a perfect long-term fit for the Mavericks. He also represents the last point guard before a massive drop-off. No other lead guard is projected as a potential lottery pick, and most prognosticator don’t have another until the very end of the first round.

If the Mavericks had leapt into the top three, it is possible Ntilikina could have dropped past ninth and then hit a small free fall, and maybe made it to the Bucks at No. 17. Not likely, but possible.

Now if Milwaukee decides it wants an upgrade at the point they must look elsewhere. Frank Jackson, Frank Mason or Juwan Evans would all seem like reaches at 17th. While the Bucks have reached before and often been right, they may want to move in a different direction during the draft.

One of the aforementioned players, or someone like Edmond Sumner or Monte Morris could be a third point guard option in the second round. The Bucks did find value in the second round last year when thy drafted Malcolm Brogdon, and shoring up their rotation there again is not a bad proposition.

>Next: Shooters Could Fall >

Mar 26, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA;North Carolina Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson (44) looks to drive against Kentucky Wildcats guard Malik Monk (5) and guard Dominique Hawkins (middle) in the first half during the finals of the South Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Shooters could fall

One weakness that was highlighted during the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff run was their need for more shooting. Head coach Jason Kidd played Jason Terry major minutes in the last two games of the season in order to get more spacing on the court.

No team in the NBA can ever get enough shooting, and finding the right prospect who can translate their jumper into the pros is a key challenge for NBA front offices. Pick the next Jimmer Fredette, and your job is over. Pass on Steph Curry and it’s over too, although perhaps not as quickly.

Therefore, teams often stray away from shooters early and instead go for the athletic marvels, the skilled passers, the players with all of the “tools” to succeed. Shooting can be taught, perhaps, and therefore Ricky Rubio goes before Steph Curry, or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist before Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard and Dion Waiters. Sometimes that works out, such as Kemba Walker adding a lethal three-point shot.

The lay of the land suggests that shooters may drop in this draft, giving the Bucks a greater opportunity to land a player they covet. The Philadelphia 76ers want to add shooting, but with the third pick do they go for the superior talent in Josh Jackson rather than reaching slightly for Malik Monk?

His next destination could be Sacramento at No. 5, but if Dennis Smith or De’Aaron Fox are still available the Kings most likely go for a point guard. If that leads to Monk falling to 10th, the Kings can take him there rather than going for Luke Kennard or Terrence Ferguson.

The Charlotte Hornets need a big man, and could go for Zach Collins or Jarrett Allen at No. 11. The Detroit Pistons at 12th will most likely take whichever big the Hornets pass on. Denver could use a defensive wing most of all, and elect for a player such as OG Anunoby or Donovan Mitchell. The Miami Heat tend to go for athletes over shooters, and could target Mitchell or Harry Giles.

>Next: Eastern Conference Finals Preview

In such a scenario, Kennard, Ferguson and Justin Jackson could all fall out of the lottery. Portland at 15 is most likely comfortable with its stable of shooters, meaning the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks are next up. Even if the Bulls take a player such as Ferguson, the Bucks would be able to take their pick of Kennard, Jackson or even T.J. Leaf.

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