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Bucks could go number of directions with 17th pick

By Genaro C. Armas
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 25, 2015

The only certainty for Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond going into Thursday's NBA draft is that there will be a lot uncertainty.

“Yeah, I have no idea what's going to happen leading up to the draft,” Hammond said this week.

Maybe he's being coy, as any good general manager might be in the days before the draft. This is a time when rumors fly about potential deals.

This year, the Bucks go into the draft picking 17th overall out of 30 selections in the first round. It's the byproduct of a better-than-expected season, when Milwaukee finished 41-41 and with a first-round exit in the playoffs to the Chicago Bulls.

But they're in much better shape than they were a year ago, when Hammond took Jabari Parker with the second overall selection.

The Bucks have financial flexibility following the trade of veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova to Detroit. They have a young core led by forwards Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and point guard Michael Carter-Williams.

Hammond hedged when asked about potentially moving into the draft's top 10.

“I think it would be very difficult to do, not impossible but difficult to do,” he said.

A forward-center type who can rebound and defend is one of the Bucks' top needs, along with a perimeter shooter. The Bucks could also turn to free agency to fill any holes.

Here are some potential possibilities for the Bucks, assuming Hammond stays put with the 17th pick:

Forward march

UCLA's Kevon Looney, Louisville's Montrezl Harrell and Arkansas' Bobby Portis were among prospects who worked out at the Bucks' training facility over the last few weeks.

Looney is the hometown kid who is turning pro after his freshman year; Harrell is a bit undersized at 6-foot-8 but carries a 240-pound frame that seems built for rugged life in the paint; the 6-foot-11 Portis averaged 17.8 points and 8.7 boards in his sophomore season with the Razorbacks.

Looney's versatility could be attractive to Milwaukee after leading the Bruins in rebounds (9.2 per game) and 3-point shooting (41 percent, 22 of 53).

Six-11 Christian Wood (15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds) also worked out for the Bucks this week.

On guards

Wood was joined at his workout by a UNLV teammate, guard Rashad Vaughn. The freshman's resume has two bullet points especially intriguing for the Bucks: a 6-6 frame and 38 percent shooting from 3-point range.

That's just the kind of mix that coach Jason Kidd might be looking for his backcourt.

Guard Jerian Grant, a 6-foot-5 senior from Notre Dame, also worked out for the Bucks. He averaged 16.8 points and 6.7 assists for the Irish last season.

Going local

Looney's local ties might put fans in the seats if he's the choice. J.P. Tokoto, a junior out of North Carolina who is originally from Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, would also have a local following. Tokoto impressed scouts after going 6 of 6 during one scrimmage at the scouting combine.

“Shooting is the questionable part of my game right now. To come into workouts and shoot the ball well … and show that I can make shots it's huge for me,” Tokoto said. “It's going to boost my draft stock.”

Badgered Bucks?

Wisconsin has two likely first-round picks in center Frank Kaminsky and forward Sam Dekker. Neither player took part in team workouts for the Bucks, though Hammond still knows each guy pretty well.

An all-around big man, Kaminsky doesn't really fill the Bucks' need for a more rugged frontcourt player. The 6-9 Dekker is athletic, but might better project as a small forward in the NBA. There are also questions about consistency with his outside shot.

Both are also talented enough to still give the Bucks a boost.

“Look, we've been out all year,” Hammond said. “We could easily be drafting a guy that potentially didn't work out for us.”