How the Milwaukee Bucks are approaching NBA draft season without a first-round pick
The Milwaukee Bucks are in the early stages of a head coaching search and have two massive roster decisions coming in the form of unrestricted free agent Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton, who has a player option to decide on, but the NBA draft is also approaching.
The NBA combine begins this week in Chicago, with 78 draft-eligible players expected to attend and work out for NBA teams, and though the Bucks do not possess a first-round pick, general manger Jon Horst said his staff – led by vice president of global scouting Ryan Hoover – have continued to build information on this year’s eligible prospects.
“One of their big responsibilities – it’s not a seasonal responsibility, it’s an ongoing, fluid responsibility – is to be prepared globally, globally geographically but just globally across the board for all scenarios,” Horst said. “It’s not unforeseeable that we could acquire a first-round pick in some sort of deal that we execute prior to or at the draft, and they have to be ready for that. We obviously possess a pick at the end of the second round. We have to be ready for that. But also, the trades and things that happen from a personnel, an NBA personnel standpoint, be ready for that.”
Horst acknowledged the pre-draft process for the Bucks the last few years has been very different from say, a team drafting in the top five or top 10. Since he took over as GM in 2017, he’s made three first-round picks that the team has kept and three that were part of previously conceived deals.
And, thanks to trades for Jrue Holiday and P.J. Tucker, the team did not have a first-round pick in 2021 or this year – and do not have outright control of their own pick again until 2028. Milwaukee will have first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, but New Orleans owns the right to swap those picks.
The Bucks can trade their 2029 first-round pick, however.
“I think kind of in the world we’ve lived in for the last six, seven years and hopefully going forward for another 10 years, the process is kind of the same,” Horst said. “You’ve got to be ready for kind of whatever comes your way, be ready for what you have obviously, but there will be a lot of different scenarios that present themselves. I think we’ve done an incredible job of that. We’ve capitalized on trade transactions and kind of draft-day transactions year in and year out. Ryan’s group’s done a great job.”
Over the last three seasons the Bucks have gotten bench minutes from second-round picks Jordan Nwora, Sam Merrill (acquired from New Orleans) and Sandro Mamukelashvili (acquired from Indiana).
Undrafted players Mamadi Diakite, Elijah Bryant, A.J. Green and Lindell Wigginton have also seen time.
Provided Lopez, Middleton and Jevon Carter (also a player option) return, the Bucks will have very limited cap space to round out the final six roster spots. And, they were the oldest team in the NBA last season with an average age of 29.47 years.
Last year’s first-round pick, MarJon Beauchamp, was the youngest player on the team at 22.
When asked at the beginning of May if trying to infuse more youth into the roster next season was a priority, Horst said it was still too early in the self-evaluation process to stake it as such.
“Probably the next time we talk around the draft or whatever, it will be clearer what path we think we need to be on,” he said. “I will say it’s obviously a consideration. When I think about it, I still don’t think about it as the core of our group. The core of our group are highly, highly effective, impactful players who had incredible seasons. So just in terms of age and athleticism, I don’t think that’s a factor with that group.
“On our team as a whole, you talk about getting through the course of a regular season, you talk about kind of wild cards and playoff series and things like that, it’s absolutely one of the characteristics, or I guess you named two, that is up for debate and consideration in ways to try to improve the roster. There’s no doubt. To call it a priority yet, I wouldn’t do that. We’re not deep enough in our analysis to do that yet.”
What draft picks do the Bucks have?
Due to the trade for Tucker in 2021, the Bucks do not have a first-round pick. They own the last pick of the draft, No. 58, in the second round.
There are only 58 picks in total and 28 in the second round because Chicago and New Orleans forfeited their second-round picks due to violating free agency rules.
What about Hugo Besson?
The Bucks acquired Hugo Besson, last year’s No. 58 pick by Indiana, for cash considerations during the draft. The Frenchman had played for the New Zealand Breakers of the Australian National Basketball League in 2021-22 and played four summer league games for the Bucks before returning to France.
The 22-year-old guard has played alongside presumptive No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama of the Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 this season.
Besson averaged 13.4 points per game on 51% shooting, including 36% from behind the three-point line in about 25 minutes per game.
Heading into last season’s draft, the 6-foot-6-inch, 180-pound guard was considered as more of a score-first guard with shooting talent.
What has been the Bucks’ recent draft history?
2022: MarJon Beauchamp (No. 24), second-round pick forfeited for violating free agency rules
2021: Todd Isaiah (No. 31)
2020: R.J. Hampton (No. 24), Jordan Nwora (No. 45)
2019: Kevin Porter (No. 30)
2018: Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17)
2017: D.J. Wilson (No. 17), Sindarius Thornwell (No. 48)
2016: Thon Maker (No. 10), Malcolm Brogdon (No. 36), Patrick McCaw (No. 38)
2015: Rashad Vaughn (No. 17), Norman Powell (No. 46)
2014: Jabari Parker (No. 2), Damien Inglis (No. 31), Johnny O’Bryant (No. 36), Lamar Patterson (No. 48)
2013: Giannis Antetokounmpo (No. 15), Ricky Ledo (No 43)
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Bucks approach combine, NBA draft with no first-round pick