As we continue our 2014 Liberty Ballers Mock Draft, we come to a very interesting fork in the road. With the Sixers sitting at 3rd overall, these are the two (non-Sixers) picks that we will debate and obsess over for the next month, reading every report, overreacting to every source, and disregarding the ones that we don't like while clinging to the ones that fit our dreams. It's going to be a great month.
2014 LB Mock Draft
2014 LB Mock draft
So, there was a real desire for me to spin this selection the way I want it to go. I tried to convince myself that Andrew Wiggins and Giannis Antetokounmpo couldn't co-exist long term. I read every report -- and there are many out there -- that says the Bucks may legitimately prefer Jabari Parker. In fact, yesterday we mentioned a report from Chad Ford that Wiggins isn't in the top 2 of the Bucks current big board.
But this series isn't meant to be a prediction on what the Bucks will do, but on what *we* would do.
And, no matter how much I try to convince myself that the Bucks will pass on a player because of fit with Giannis, I just can't. Sure, the two of them may not have the shooting to work as a perimeter pair right now, but both of them will only be 19 years old when the season starts next year, and Wiggins and Giannis have both shown enough improvement over the last 12 months for optimism. And the defensive potential of that pairing is tantalizing.
Oh So The Draft?
Oh So The Draft?
But, most importantly, for as much fun as Giannis Antetokounmpo and as much enthusiasm as there is surrounding him, you just don't pass on a prospect that you have rated higher because of him. And, for my own personal big board, I do put Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker on different tiers, so he's the guy I'm taking 2nd overall if I'm picking for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Milwaukee isn't one good offensive player away from being a contender. They need a great player, one who get in the paint, force defenders to help, and generate shots for his teammates. Despite Jabari being far more advanced offensively at this stage, I think the player who has the best chance to become that player is Andrew Wiggins. There's a fair amount of projection there, and that handle is going to have to be improved significantly for him to get there, but if his handle is improved, combined with some shooters around him, and NBA spacing and NBA rules, the sky is (almost literally) the limit.
They also need defenders, as despite a roster that includes Giannis, John Henson, and Larry Sanders (for part of the year), they finished last in the league in defensive rating. The defensive potential of that group with Wiggins is potentially devastating. Imagine putting him on the opponent's best offensive player, then having Giannis and Henson there to provide weakside help defense? It's no secret that I've been highly critical of Jabari Parker's defense, and I don't think that can be overlooked. I'm just not a fan of drafting a guy, presumably to play 35+ minutes per game and build an offense around, who you have to hide defensively. And I think Parker, despite good combine measurements, will always be somebody who you have to worry about on that end of the court.
I reached out to Steven Von Horn from Brew Hoop for his opinion. Not all that surprisingly, as everyone in the top 3-4 has plenty of supporters in their camp, but he had a slightly different opinion. His thoughts, which are extremely thorough and well articulated, are below.
As a Bucks fan, I’m scared right now. Michael Levin is laughing maniacally, because he knows what’s coming, but I’m terrified. It’s hard to shake the feeling that a healthy version of Joel Embiid may be the only man left standing in top tier of prospects. All of the remaining guys face serious questions at the next level.
- Can Wiggins improve his ball handling and finishing skills (which currently manifest as concerns about "assertiveness") when the athleticism gap closes in matchups against NBA talent?
- Is Jabari Parker quick enough to defend players on the perimeter and/or explosive enough to excel as a scorer against NBA length (can he shed the dreaded "tweener" label)?
- Can Dante Exum shoot well enough and/or create opportunities efficiently enough to justify dominating the ball, or will his skill set make it difficult to transition to an off-ball SG?
I have Wiggins, Parker, and Exum in tier two on my board. What terrifies me is that I can’t definitively say any one of them will have a better career than Marcus Smart. Despite my uncertainty, I believe the Milwaukee Bucks should select Jabari Parker with the No. 2 overall pick.
We can all mumble "BPA or GTFO" until we’re blue in the face, but when it comes down to comparing incomplete players on the second tier it’s the little environmental things that can make a big difference. It’s either that, or I don’t understand why we bother to do tiers at all.
The only long-term fixtures on Milwaukee’s roster figure to be Sanders, Henson, and Giannis. That trio offers insane length, excellent rim protection, and even a potential ace perimeter defender in Giannis. What that trio does not offer is reliable offense of any sort. That’s where Parker comes in.
In building a legitimate core group, the Bucks eventually need to invest in offense. Parker shouldered a heavy usage rate and scored efficiently at Duke, and his offensive skills are more refined than anyone else in the draft. As the mid-range zone expands and Jabari gets to escape the short corner more often, I expect him to perform well with new angles of attack to exploit. With Giannis capable of taking the quicker/more potent SF or PF on defense and Sanders/Henson around to protect the rim, Parker would have the help he needs to neutralize the tweener concerns as well. His strengths would be accentuated and his weaknesses would be minimized by other core players as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. I believe this combination of environmental factors makes it more likely that Parker could reach his fabled Paul Pierce / Carmelo Anthony ceiling.
Wiggins is probably a safer pick due to his defensive potential, but I’ve seen how the NBA values perimeter defense on the open market. Tony Allen isn’t getting rich, Luol Deng isn’t demanding a king’s ransom on the trade market even in the prime of his career, and Andre Iguodala wasn’t close to enough on his own to bring back the second-best center in a three-team deal. Hell, the Bucks gave away Luc Mbah a Moute for a bag of basketballs. I’m ready to take the bigger risk and bet on Parker becoming an offensive star in the right environment.
Now somebody go find Levin’s pants.
Tomorrow, Roy will have the pick you've all been waiting for. Sixers on the clock.