Nobody loves University of Wisconsin players the way Wisconsinites do. It's disgusting. If you do anything of note in Badger colors, you're set for life. I used to live in Madison, and here are some of the things that happened while I was there.
- The most-represented NFL jersey I saw out and about was Aaron Rodgers, by far. No. 2 was J.J. Watt.
- Strangers, upon finding out I was a big hockey fan, pivoting immediately to my thoughts on Blake Geoffrion, a former Badger who played all of 42 games in the NHL. This happened more than once.
- A full Milwaukee bar going completely bonkers when Scott Tolzien entered an Eagles-Packers game that he went on to lose.
- People watching Bo Ryan's offense on purpose.
They're nuts. So I figured that since the Bucks are all about length and passing, and in dire need of a center (I like Zaza Pachulia as much as the next guy, but there's room to upgrade), it was fortuitous that a center with length and good ball skills would be available in the mid-teens, and that he just so happened to be a legend at UW. But Levin snapped him up at No. 12, which wasn't really that big a surprise. So I turned my attention to Sam Dekker, because while the Bucks currently have a surfeit of big wings, Khris Middleton's an RFA and Jared Dudley is about to turn 30 and will be a free agent after next season, maybe sooner if he exercises his early termination option. So there could be wing minutes, particularly for an athletic 6-foot-9 small forward who can work off the dribble and sell about a billion jerseys to your legion of cheesehead fans.
But then Roy took him for the Hawks.
This is a situation where need--center--is somewhat at odds with who the best player on the board is. Though for the Bucks, who like to play five long guys between 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-10 at any given moment, need is something of a fluid thing.
So let's talk about who might fit that bill. Much as I'd want to take a center, there isn't really one that I feel great about taking at this point in the draft. So I'm going with Kentucky forward Trey Lyles.
The knock on Lyles is that he's not an elite athlete or defender, and doesn't have jump shooting range all the way out to the arc. Which makes me wonder what exactly you're expecting at No. 17. Those seem like great reasons not to take him No. 1 overall, but this late in the draft, here are the compelling reasons to overlook all that at 17.
First of all, Lyles is 6-foot-10, 235 pounds with a 7-foot-3 1/2 wingspan, so it's not like his lack of athleticism is going to prevent him from playing above the rim. He also--thanks to walking into a team that featured Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein--had to play small forward in college, which speaks to his having at least some athleticism and ball skills to go with that size. And while he's not going to bomb down three-pointers, from inside the arc, he has great footwork to get to the rim and good hands and post moves to finish around it.
But the biggest reason I like Lyles--and this is going to sound weird considering he's not a guy who's going to stand on the arc and stretch the defense--is the way he operates in space. Lyles is like a target forward in soccer, an Olivier Giroud type, who isn't going to blow away defenses on his own, but he can hold the ball up, read the motion of defenses and his own men, and make the smart pass. I also loves the way he reads give-and-go plays, reading the defense two passes ahead, dumping the ball off and then telegraphing his next move to his teammate and making the critical run to make himself available for the bucket. It can be slow to develop, but at least from an aesthetic standpoint, I like his style.
Plus, with (tearfully pours out half a bottle of ouzo) Ersan Ilyasova getting traded, there's a sudden need for another combo forward who can handle the ball.
So is Lyles flawed? Sure. But his size and versatility make him a perfect fit in a Bucks team that values both, and I think he's fallen far enough.