Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bucks/China Summer League Schedule

NBATV and will be covering a ton of games from the Vegas Summer League. Both the Bucks and Yi's Chinese National Team will be participating, and not surprisingly the Chinese team is getting more TV coverage than the Bucks. The two teams will not be playing against each other however.

While Yi will be playing with his Chinese teammates, I think it was reported somewhere that 2nd rounder Ramon Sessions, David Noel, Lynn Greer and Damir Markota will be playing for the Bucks. Bobby Simmons has also said he would like to play though he probably won't be ready. Charlie Villanueva will accompany the team to Vegas but will not play as he's still recovering from his shoulder surgery; fortunately you don't need two arms to hit up the casinos. I'm unclear if Ersan will be there, as he's been working out with the Bucks all summer but has Turkish national team games upcoming.

All Times Eastern:
Fri, 7/6@8 - China v. Grizzlies (NBATV, Webcast)
Sat, 7/7@10 - China v. Kings (Webcast)
Sun, 7/8@6 - Bucks v. Lakers (Webcast)
Sun, 7/8@8 - China v. Cavs (NBATV, Webcast)
Tue, 7/10@10 - China v. Knicks (NBATV, Webcast)
Wed, 7/11@8:30 - Bucks v. Sonics (Webcast)
Wed, 7/11@10 - China v. Celtics (NBATV, Webcast)
Thu, 7/12@8:30 - Bucks v. Hornets (Webcast)
Fri, 7/13@8 - Bucks v. Celtics (NBATV, Webcast)
Sun, 7/15@4 - Bucks v. Wizards (NBATV, Webcast)

Yi's Milkshake Brings All the Girls to the Yard

Here's a Yi commercial for a Chinese milk producer that might be the most confusing thing I've ever seen (Deadspin, RealGM). That said, it also suggests Yi not only loves milk, but views it as a means of luring attractive girls into love triangles. Who said the Dairy State wasn't a great location for Yi? He's going to have a field day in Wisconsin. The UWM sorority girls won't know what hit them.

I suppose I could find a translation of what's going on, but I can't imagine it would make any sense to me, so here's my interpretation:

  1. The beginning is actually the end. Non-linear narrative! This is going to be like a Tarrantino movie.
  2. Yi is late for a basketball game, which makes the hot manager girl nervous.
  3. Where is Yi? There he is! Speeding on his bike, the 7'1" 240 lb Yi absolutely annihilates a cute girl with a violin who's lost and standing in his way on the sidewalk.
  4. She's OK! Her elbow hurts and her precious violin is wrecked, but Yi immediately wins her over by offering a small juicebox of milk. Problem solved.
  5. Yi gives her a lift to the game, where the manager chick is waiting and not pleased. But she knows the violin girl! Sensing the potential for a hot threesome, Yi immediately runs away.
  6. Cut to the game. Yi dunks. Victory is assured.
  7. Meanwhile, violin girl is off practicing on an invisible violin, since Yi totally wrecked hers. Yi shows up, with more milk. And a replacement violin. Smooth.
  8. Violin girl is eating it up and all over Yi. But then manager chick shows up and sees her making a move on Yi. The only thing that can allay her sorrow is her juicebox full of milk, which she promptly offers Yi to win him back.
  9. Manager chick needs a new angle--so she's joining a band. Yi shows up at practice, with milk. NICE. And now violin chick is texting both of them. Meet her on the bridge? OK...kinky.
  10. Violin girl is leaving. Alas, time's remorseless arrow! But she's got milk for both of them! And she seems to be enjoying her strawberry milk. And you know what? We all learned something today.
  11. Close with shot of Yi slo-mo running after violin girl and manager chick. For obvious reasons.
UPDATE: We've got Part II over at our new digs, Brew Hoop.

Saturday Bucks Notes

  • Charles Gardner reports Fenerbahce Ulker has made Ersan Ilyasova an offer of $7.5 million over three years. One thing that isn't mentioned in the article is whether the deal is net of taxes; it's common practice for European teams to pay a player's taxes, which would make it far more valuable than a pre-tax deal of the same value in the NBA. It sounds like Ersan wants to stay in the NBA, but it looks like it will cost the Bucks to keep him, most likely something in the ballpark of $4 million per.
  • The latest on the Yi situation is that Larry Harris will try to meet with him in the next week or so. Yi is playing with the Chinese national team in the Dallas and Vegas summer leagues, though the Bucks team in the Vegas league will not be playing the Chinese.
  • Who said Milwaukee doesn't have connections to China? The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce's China Council is hoping to sponsor a group of teenage Chinese basketball players. Can you guess who they want to get involved?
  • Del Harris, former Bucks and Chinese National Team coach, was interviewed on WSSP and it was a very interesting discussion in light of the rumors floating around about Yi (listen to the mp3):
    • Harris discovered Yi in 2004 and not only put him on the national team but started him in the Olympics in Athens.
    • Del provided his insight to a number of teams interested in Yi, not just his son. He also only coached him in 2004 and has not seen him play in 06/07.
    • He's adamant that the dispute over where Yi will play is being driven by agent Dan Fegan and the Guangdong owner, who also still has a financial interest in him. Del notes that because agents make 4% or less on contracts but 20% or more on endorsements, Yi's advisers have a huge personal interest in getting him to a large market. He terms Yi "one of the nicest kids in the world."
    • He also notes that the Chinese government is far less involved in basketball than many have come to believe. He says players choose their agents themselves and that he had wanted the government to step in when an owner refused to allow Sun Yue to play for the national team, but the government did not intervene. The league (not the government) then kicked that team out of the league, so the owner moved the team to California of all places where they played in the NBA. (Ironically it was this team that Paul Shirley played briefly for).
    • Compares Yi to Dirk, though without all the range (I can live with that). Defensively says he's more like Tyson Chandler in terms of athleticism and timing, though he's not the rebounder Chandler is (damn, and I thought defense was his weakness?).

Friday, June 29, 2007

About Last Night

In all the confusion and excitement over Yi some other very important things probably got overlooked:

And now the "fun" begins...

With the dust barely settled on the '07 NBA draft, a potential showdown is about to begin: the agents of Yi Jianlian vs. the Milwaukee Bucks. While Yi hinted at playing for the Bucks last night, the rumor is his agents will continue to push for a trade, though with the draft now over that might be harder to do than it was 24 hours ago. So far they haven't commented publicly, but you can bet they're working behind the scenes to sort out whether or not they can power-play the Bucks into trading him somewhere "desirable." But at least for the moment Yi sounds at least vaguely willing to play in Milwaukee:

"I'm not saying I'm not satisfied with the pick. My dream is to play in the NBA and now the dream comes true. I'm just surprised by the result." you're telling us there's a chance. Before he can enter the NBA, Yi must first be released by his Chinese club team, but that should be a mere formality if an agreement is reached with the Bucks. And how likely is that? Let's go through the ins and outs of what could be the most, uh, interesting subplot of the summer.

  1. He was the only potential superstar still on the board. Harris had made it abundantly clear that the Bucks were drafting the best player available, and it's difficult to argue Yi wasn't that guy. The Bucks reportedly had Horford and Conley rated ahead of Yi, with Jeff Green right behind Yi. Green would have been a safer pick had he been available, but that became irrelevant when the Sonics traded up to take him. With Horford, Conley and Green going before the Bucks pick there was little doubt that they thought Yi was the best on the board--better than Corey Brewer or Brandan Wright, both near-term and long-term. And despite the ESPN talking heads' insistence that the Bucks had only heard about him from Larry Harris' father Del, the Bucks had scouted him extensively. The NBA is a superstar league, where teams win both on and off the court by having stars; unfortunately the Pistons' blueprint of assembling a team of good but not hall of fame talent has been the exception to the championship rule. Yi could be a bust and he could be only OK, but there's a more than passing chance he could be great. And as we've seen all too often, acquiring greatness rarely comes without risk.
  2. He has trade value. The market for Yi will necessarily be different after the draft, but a guy of Yi's skills, size and athleticism, not to mention a marketer's dream, will always have value. Taking Yi and trading him later certainly puts the team at risk, but from the Bucks' perspective there simply wasn't another obvious pick.
  3. He gives the team a shot in the arm, both locally and worldwide. It's no secret that the Bucks are facing an uphill climb to win over fans, especially in a year when the Brewers are generating the most excitement in two decades. Yi's name might not resonate initially with local fans, but his incredible potential will no doubt create both local and national buzz should the Bucks manage to sign him. While the worldwide marketing potential is harder to cash in on--things like jersey sale revenues are shared league-wide--the increased profile from having a player like Yi is huge. Especially given Herb Kohl's interest in selling the club down the road, Yi's potential as an international star could have a demonstrable impact on the franchise's value as well.
  1. Hold out and hope for a trade. It's sounding increasingly likely this might be the near-term option, though once training camp starts I'm not sure how viable it will be: someone will have to blink. Yi will be playing for the Chinese national team this summer so getting him on a summer league doesn't seem to be in the cards either way. Larry Harris stated Yi would be working out with his Chinese teammates next week and hopes to meet with him then. It will be interesting to see what role David Stern might play in all of this, as the Bucks reportedly made it very clear to executives at the NBA that they were taking Yi with the intention of keeping him. The NBA's potential in China is mind-boggling, so Stern has a clear interest in resolving the situation soon:
    The NBA is obviously a willing partner in all of this. There are some months, says commissioner David Stern, where revenues from China outstrip those from North America and a fact sheet circulated by the league gushes with numbers that easily translate to dollar signs: the billion viewers every year, the 51 TV stations that carry the games, up from 32 a year ago, the launch of a third Chinese language variant of
    Clearly Stern does not want to turn the Yi situation into a fiasco, as the NBA itself has a lot riding on his ability to integrate into the North American game. Moreover, the draft system works in large part because players have little ability to exert power over it. Should Yi be able to dictate his destination it would send a disappointing message to owners that the inmates really are running the asylum. Bucks owner Senator Herb Kohl was among a group of owners publicly campaigning the league for greater revenue-sharing a year ago, and he will certainly make it very clear that the meddling of Dan Fegan, Chinese basketball officials, and Nike will only further undermine the parity of the sport. It's difficult to say what role Stern will or could even play. Maintaining an even playing field for all franchises should be his first objective, but he also would undoubtedly prefer a player of Yi's stature in a more marketable city like the Bay Area.
  2. Play for the Bucks. He would be under a two-year guaranteed contract with team options for the third and fourth years (which always get picked up, unless a player is an absolute bust). His first-year salary will be about $2.8 million (most players sign for the maximum 120% of the rookie salary scale, in this case $2.314 million for the sixth pick). He could sign a long-term extension beginning after three years. If he does not do this, he would be a restricted free agent after four years, and could re-sign for a fifth at the qualifying offer. He would then be an unrestricted free agent the following season, though the Bucks would retain his Bird rights. While the Bucks have a young 4/5 combo in Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut, the team is clearly not sold on Villanueva and is otherwise short of depth in the frontcourt. There's no doubt Yi would see decent playing time as a rookie, possibly 20-25 mpg depending on injuries and how ready he is. For their part, the Bucks have stated their belief that Yi is ready to make an impact immediately.
  3. Return to play in China. Though this would theoretically be Yi's best bargaining chip for demanding a trade, he has stated numerous times he will play in the NBA next season. It seems highly unlikely that Yi would return to play in China, as there is huge pressure for him to gain experience in the NBA and build the sport's profile leading up to the '08 Olympics in Beijing. Moreover, while playing in China or for any other foreign team the Bucks would retain his NBA rights, so it's no magic solution to getting to a different NBA city. The NBA, Nike, Chinese basketball, and Yi himself have an incredible amount to gain from playing somewhere in the NBA. Developmentally, Yi has nothing to gain from another season in China. More importantly, Yi's marketing team probably stands to lose more from returning to China than by playing in a small market like Milwaukee, which might be the key to all of this.
  4. Play in Europe. I haven't heard serious mention of this, but it would at least allow Yi to play against stiffer competition in advance of the '08 Olympics. Still, this route seems highly unlikely given how much Yi has to gain by playing (anywhere) in the NBA.
  5. Sit out and re-enter the draft in '08. If he doesn't play anywhere this year he could re-enter the draft in '08 and again hope to end up somewhere acceptable. But from a risk/reward standpoint, this seems unlikely given the huge cost to him both developmentally and marketing-wise.

So what happens if Yi's reps demand a trade? Which they already are, apparently. Well, given how dedicated the Bucks sound about keeping Yi, it seems as though the Bucks are willing to sit tight for a while--they're certainly putting up a brave front right now.

Of the teams supposedly on Yi's approved list, the Hawks got their man in Al Horford, the Celtics went old by dealing their pick for Ray Allen, and the Bulls got another big man in Florida's Joakim Noah, who conveniently also has little interest in coming to Milwaukee. Golden State was and probably still is the team best suited to dealing for Yi, as they acquired another young asset in Brandan Wright to go along with Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis. Still, it's not clear Golden State was ever going to go all out for Yi, and it's not clear the Bucks would be best served by acquiring one of their youngsters either.

Both Biedrins and Ellis are in the last years of their rookie contracts, so acquiring either player would require a sizable extension. Just like Bryan Colangelo gave TJ Ford an extension soon after acquiring him last summer, Larry Harris isn't going to trade a valuable asset for a guy he's not going to commit to financially. And of course that commitment would affect the Bucks' spending elsewhere. In contrast, Yi will be making $3-4 million for the next few seasons, making him far more affordable. Even if the Bucks cave in during the Yi negotiations, you would think Golden State would at least be willing to give up Brandan Wright and a future pick, which wouldn't be that bad from the Bucks' perspective given Wright had been in the discussions for the sixth pick.

Perhaps a more intriguing scenario is also the more unlikely--now that Joakim Noah is also in Chicago, how much do the Bulls really like Tyrus Thomas? His defense, rebounding and shot-blocking would be a perfect fit next to Bogut and Villanueva, and we know that his attitude hasn't won everyone over in Chicago. I don't doubt that they love Thomas' potential, but if any team could afford to part with a defender like Thomas for a scorer like Yi it's one that already has Ben Wallace and Noah.

Trading Yi later this summer will also be technically a little more complicated than doing it now. Players can't be traded for 30 days after they sign their rookie contract, so any first rounder signing with their team in the coming weeks won't be tradeable to the Bucks for another month. Most rookies will sign relatively soon so they can participate in summer league. Moreover, while Yi's cap number in a trade will be $0 so long as he doesn't sign, all rookies who do sign contracts then count as their new salary for trade purposes. This wouldn't be a problem for the Bucks now since they're well below the cap, but it's very possible a Yi trade wouldn't happen until later in the summer. At that point the Bucks may have used up their cap space, meaning it not be possible to construct a straight-up swap of a signed '07 first rounder (who would likely have a cap number in the $2-3 million range) for an unsigned Yi (whose value for trade purposes would be $0).

While it's not totally clear what deals Harris already turned down, he stated during the draft party that the Bucks would actively pursue a big name free agent, which is also indirectly dependent on keeping Yi's rookie deal. Good rookies are all the more valuable because they're cheap. And given the eventual need to re-sign Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva, in addition to the pending free agency of Mo Williams, Charlie Bell and Ersan Ilyasova, the Bucks have an obvious financial incentive to keep Yi rather than flip him for another player who will be making major dollars in next couple years. In the short term, dealing Yi for a higher-priced veteran or multiple young players would likely curb any opportunity the Bucks have to make an offer for Gerald Wallace or Andres Nocioni.

So where will Yi end up? At this point I'd guess it's around 50-50 he ends up in a Bucks uniform, and with neither side needing to make a decision immediately I'd say it's unlikely to be resolved in the next couple weeks. While it has certainly sounded as though Yi himself would be willing to play in Milwaukee, the role of his shadowy multi-national team of advisers can't be understated. Dan Fegan, meet Larry Harris. You guys will be talking a lot in the coming months.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Stern's Golden Ticket in China: Yi Jianlian

Well, you can call Larry Harris a lot of things, but a wimp is not one of them. With favorites Al Horford and Mike Conley off the board at 3/4 and the Celtics taking the remaining "safe" pick in Jeff Green at 5, the Bucks knew there was only one man left who they wanted--7'1" Chinese power forward Yi Jianlian. Nevermind that his representation--the murky conglomerate of Chinese basketball officials, American agent Dan Fegan, and Nike--was desperately hoping for him to end up in a bigger market like San Francisco, Boston, or Atlanta and had denied the Bucks access to a private Yi workout. Rather than settle for Brandan Wright or Corey Brewer, Harris and the Bucks braintrust did exactly what they had been saying they were willing to do and tabbed Yi as the Bucks' first ever Chinese import. And while there were continued rumblings about his hopes for a trade, the JS has quoted Yi as sounding open to coming to Milwaukee:

Though Yi's camp refused to let the Bucks watch Yi workout last week, Yi said in an interview Thursday night that he planned to play for the Bucks this season.

"I'm not really familiar with the city, but I'm happy to play with the team and I'm happy to play in the NBA," Yi said.

"I don't know much about the China we didn't see a lot of games. I've never been therre, it's kind of a new city for me."

If those quotes mean anything, it suggests the Bucks read the situation right. While Fegan, Nike and the Chinese did their best to get him to the most favorable city from a marketing perspective, Yi himself has always seemed far less interested in playing games and far more interested in playing the game.

So where does this leave the Bucks? While the frontcourt was an area of need coming into the summer--Charlie Villanueva will be the only true veteran PF on the roster assuming Brian Skinner's option is declined--Yi certainly isn't the prototype that might make the most sense for the Bucks. He's not known for being an intense defender or rebounder and his primary strength is his dynamic offensive game and athleticism. As a result, the fit might be less than ideal in terms of complementing the Bucks' existing personnel.

So why can I not help but like the pick? Well, it's hard to argue the Bucks didn't go with the most talented player on the board, and in a league where superstars rule, that means almost everything. Brandan Wright and Corey Brewer could be good or even great players, but they simply don't have the combination of size, athleticism and skills that Yi has. As Larry Krystkowiak noted, Yi has the most upside in addition to being someone they expect to contribute immediately. And it's that chance at greatness which makes the pick the right one. In the draft you simply have to go for the home run when you get the chance, and Larry Harris and his front office just took a Prince Fielder-sized cut.

Bucks Draft Day Buzz

  • Ford's latest mock is unchanged in the top six, with the Bucks taking Jeff Green. He also mentions the aforementioned possibility of Philly offering the 12th, 21st and a future 1st or Dallas offering Devin Harris. Sadly no mention of Biedrins. In the second round he has us taking UMass forward Stephane Lasme, who I would be thrilled to snag at 56. While undersized, he's a ridiculous shotblocker and rebounder.
  • Gery Woelfel reports Larry Harris and company have narrowed down their options to drafting two players or trading the pick. So who are the players? Horford will be gone, so you assume he's not one of the players mentioned. The Bucks are rumored to rate Conley and Yi right after Horford, so those could be the two. But given Yi's trepidation about the city of Milwaukee, it's also possible Conley and Jeff Green are the two players, and that the proposed trade would involve Yi should he slip to 6. More on that below. Woelfel also mentions a deal involving Bobby Simmons and the 6th pick going to Phoenix for Shawn Marion, but that seems rather too good to be true.
  • Andy Katz spoke to Yi and believes that not only would the Bucks likely take him at 6 if he's available, but his overwhelming desire to play in the NBA might trump his agents' attempts to steer him clear of Milwaukee.

    Yi told Wednesday that he would be in the NBA next season. That would seemingly cancel out any veiled attempt by his handlers to push him back to China if he went to a team like Milwaukee.

    "NBA next season, no question," Yi said. When asked if he would go back to China he laughed and said "no."

  • Jonathan Givony of DX reasserts the rumored trade of Yi (if he falls to 6) for Golden State's Andris Biedrins/#18. Biedrins will be looking for an extension, but he's a hard-working , shot-blocking double-double guy at the age of 21. Let's hope the Warriors ignore the outrage their fans would have over this deal. Sign me up.
  • Chuck Gardner's final mock has the Bucks taking Ohio St. PG Mike Conley over Jeff Green, hinging on the Grizzlies' willingness to take Noah at 4.
  • Gery Woelfel's final mock has the Bucks taking Yi over Green, though he doesn't provide any explanation as to whether we trade him or not.
  • Chad Ford and Givony both believe Billy Knight will win the Horford/Yi debate and take the Florida PF at 3.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thursday Bucks Notes

The Bucks are apparently getting plenty of offers for their 6th overall pick, though it's unclear how close anything is to getting done. Especially with Horford and Conley being favorites for the 3rd and 4th picks and Yi playing chicken with the Bucks, it's looking increasingly likely the Bucks won't be in love with any of the players available at six. Brandan and Julian Wright as well as Al Thornton are sliding into the mid- to late-lottery and all had workouts with the Bucks, so presumably they would be targets if the Bucks traded down with the Bulls (9th) or Sixers (12th).

  • The latest rumor is that parts of Atlanta's ownership with business ties in China are strongly pushing for Yi at the 3rd pick, but Billy Knight prefers Al Horford. Wow, Billy Knight has become the voice of reason?
  • If Horford slips past Atlanta, then presumably the Grizzlies would have to decide between Conley and Horford. Noah had also been rumored to be in competition with Conley for the pick once Horford became the consensus #3, but now the JS is reporting that Corey Brewer has become a late favorite as well, though who knows what sources Enlund is using since none of the national writers have picked up on it. The Hawks taking Yi and Grizz taking Brewer or Noah would be something of a dream scenario for the Bucks, who are rumored to have Horford, Conley, Yi and Green in the 3-6 spots on their board. That scenario would guarantee the Bucks at least Conley, or, dare I say it, Al Horford. OK, I need to calm down.
  • With Danny Ainge suggesting the Celtics will likely keep their pick, many are now suggesting Yi will go to the C's should Atlanta pass on him. Most haven't even considered the idea of Al Horford slipping to 5, so it would be interesting to see if Boston went that direction should Horford be available. MSNBC has a long article on Yi with some interesting notes on the NBA's growing business there. It seems increasinly certain Yi will be in the NBA next year, but that doesn't mean his agent/Nike/his Chinese handlers won't do their best to force a trade should the Bucks have the balls to pick him.
  • Sixers GM Billy King didn't deny offering a package involving the 12th and 21st picks for the Bucks 6th, presumably for the purpose of taking either Jeff Green or Yi Jianlian.
  • The Dallas papers are claiming Devin Harris could be shipped to the Bucks for the sixth pick, as the Mavericks are supposedly desperate to move into the lottery. I suppose Harris' local ties and defensive reputation would be the appeal from the Bucks' perspective, but this deal wouldn't have much appeal to me unless we knew Mo Williams was gone. The same could be said of drafting Conley, but at this point I don't know of anyone who would prefer Harris over Conley either.
  • Andy Katz was quoted in the Oregonian saying that Portland had offered Jarrett Jack and Joel Pryzbilla (!) for the sixth pick and Dan Gadzuric. While the Bucks would certainly love to dump Gadzuric's deal, it again seems odd for the Bucks to go after a young PG when they can just re-sign Mo Williams. Pryzbilla is in a similar boat to Gadzuric--close to an MLE deal for a center getting strictly backup minutes--but he's a much better defender and shot-blocker. Still, bringing Joel back to his first NBA team doesn't seem enough of an upgrade to justify the deal.
  • Jonathan Givony on the latest DX Podcast noted that he'd heard about a potential Warriors offer of Andris Biedrins for the 6th pick, but questioned why the Warriors would trade Biedrins given he's their only reliable rebounder/defender down low. I agree; I'd take that trade in a second.

The 2007 Draft, By the Numbers

Dave Berri (Mr. Winscore) and John Hollinger (Mr. PER) have each taken a stab at a statistically analyzing the 2007 draft prospects. While Berri applies a similar formula that he uses for the NBA, Hollinger uses more of an ad hoc rating system that he calibrated by using the past five drafts.

Hollinger's system uses a combination of factors to give a final point rating that shows Kevin Durant head and shoulders above his Class of '07 peers. Sleeper surprises are Thad Young at 4th, Nick Fazekas at 7th, Josh McRoberts 8th and Jared Dudley 10th. Surprises the other way were Jeff Green 14th, Julian Wright 19th, Corey Brewer 24th, Acie Law 27th, and Nick Young outside the top 30. Meanwhile, Berri picks UMass shot-blocking extraordinaire Stephane Lasme and Nick Fazekas among his "boom" picks and Corey Brewer, Acie Law, and Spencer Hawes among his "bust" picks.

I can't speak for the historical accuracy of Berri's system, but Hollinger's methodology certainly has its fair share of misses: Mike Sweetney ranking second ahead of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in 2003 and Deron Williams ranking 11th in 2005, behind Rashad McCants, Chris Taft and Nate Robinson, to name a couple. Still, it could be a useful way to reality check the conventional wisdom. The two obvious names standing out in both lists are Corey Brewer and Acie Law. It seems to be assumed that Brewer will be a defensive stopper, which might not be the most statistically quantifiable skill (hello, Bruce Bowen) but as Hollinger points out it's odd that a player with Brewer's defensive rep and height would be so poor at blocking shots (.4 bpg) and not a standout at stealing the ball on the college level.

Ilyasova Update

Ersan Ilyasova has been working out in Milwaukee since the season ended and as Gery Woelfel reports, he's looking downright scary.

Ilyasova, the Bucks’ second-round draft choice two years ago, has made amazing – repeat, amazing – strides with his body during this off-season. Once the possessor of a somewhat scrawny frame, Ilyasova has transformed into the “Incredible Hulk.’’

When the Bucks’ 2006-2007 regular season mercifully ended, the 6-foot-9 Ilyasova weighed only 218 pounds.

Ilyasova seemingly is on a mission to prove that he not only belongs in the NBA but that he can be a highly-successful NBA player. While most of his teammates have gone home for the summer or are on vacation to in some exotic locale, the 20-year-old native of Turkey has spent virtually all of his time in Milwaukee.

“He started working out here on May 7 and he’s probably missed, maybe, two times,’’ Wilson said. “His work ethic is top shelf.’’
We first heard reports of Ersan's bulking up from people attending the draft workouts at the Cousins Center, where Ersan has been working since the end of the season. We've heard rumors for a while that he's being pursued by European teams--he mentions Real Madrid, Moscow, and Turkey in Woelfel's article--so it's at least reassuring to hear from the source that the Bucks remain his first choice. With Ruben Patterson likely not returning and Bobby Simmons' health still a major question mark, re-signing Ilyasova has the practical purpose of providing much-needed depth at the forward spots. But perhaps more importantly he's also a wild card of sorts. He has a sweet three point stroke, a nice jab-step and pullback jumper, and his length and hustle suggest the potential to be an above-average defender. Those things should make him at least a solid rotation player in a year or two, but he could also develop into something much better. In his first NBA season he often looked like a dear in headlights and had more than his share of awkward moments, but there were also a fair number of "Wow" moments and as you'd hope from a player so young, he actually improved notably over the course of the season.

My initial guess heading into the offseason was that the Bucks would re-sign Ilyasova for something in the ballpark of 2 years and $4-5 million total, thus giving the Bucks more time to evaluate him while also providing Ilyasova a chance to sign a more lucrative contract in only two years should he break out. As an Early Bird restricted free agent, Ilyasova could sign for as much as the MLE with any team, with the Bucks would retain the right to match any offer. But the interest of European teams not bound by the salary cap could push that number closer to $3 or perhaps even $4 million (my speculation). Moreover, Amir Johnson and Andray Blatche, former McDonald's All-Americans who were also second-rounders from the '05 draft, are rumored to be in line for deals close to the MLE in spite of sparse playing time their first two years. Ersan may be a little more under the radar than those two, especially since they're taller and had higher profiles coming into the league. Lastly, going after RFAs is risky because the player's incumbent team has a week to match the offer sheet, and in that time it counts against the offering team's cap. As a result, the offering team can't use its cap space to go after other players, who may very well be gone by the time the offer sheet is matched, leaving them with nothing to show for their efforts.

Like last summer, Ersan is expected to compete for Turkey at both the junior and senior levels this summer, which should provide an interesting preview of what might be to come. Of course, he was MVP of the U20 Euro Championships last year and was also voted the best young player at the Senior World Championships later in the summer, so expectations will be high. As I'm becoming increasingly skeptical that the Bucks will be able to lure Gerald Wallace from Charlotte, it seems to make more sense to bring Ilyasova back even at $4 million per season, perhaps in addition to another veteran swingman like Morris Peterson or even Desmond Mason.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wednesday Bucks Notes

Chuck Gardner is working overtime at the JS...thank you, Chuck!

  • Al Thornton had his workout Tuesday. I'm guessing Thornton is a fallback plan in case they trade down, as he would be a shock at the sixth spot.
  • Dave Babcock sheds some light on the Yi situation, Joakim Noah and trade rumors. He notes they won't draft Noah because he "wouldn't be happy here," and that a Phoenix trade offer for the sixth pick went nowhere. Perhaps most interestingly, he restates the Bucks' continued interest in Yi:

    "Yi is a situation where some of his advisers are not letting us work him out," Babcock said. "I don't think that's the kid. If he's there at 6, we will strongly consider him.

    What if Yi's advisers opt to hold him out, if the Bucks decide to select him?

    "That's the game of chess we have to play," Babcock said. "We'll see. You don't want to pass on a great player. He would fit our team. He'd come right in, and you'd have Yi and Charlie Villanueva as your 4 men. He'd give you length and shooting."

  • On the subject of Yi, a Chinese poster over at RealGM found an interesting quote from the GM of Yi's club team, the Guangdong Tigers. With the caveat that this could be poorly translated, it at least suggests the unlikeliness of him returning to China if he doesn't get picked by a "desirable" team:
    "From the first day Jianlian declared for draft, I have said: 'I don't want Jianlian to come back to the CBA.' For example, just like you send your kids to college, you sure don't want him to come back in one year without graduating. Wouldn't that be a joke?"
  • Here are the details of the Bucks' draft party.
  • If you need 10 more reasons to like Yi, here's some video evidence:

Bucks Roster Measurements

Around this time of year everyone becomes obsessed with wingspans and max verticals--anything to give us a better sense of a player's capabilities and how they might translate into the NBA. Those numbers aren't readily available for current NBA players, but DraftExpress has conveniently put together a database of all pre-draft combine measurements since 2000. While the vertical and agility tests are only available for the last few years, I thought it'd be interesting to put together all the data for the current Bucks.

  • Ersan has exceptional length--his wingspan and standing reach are close to that of Bogut, who despite his lack of shot-blocking has decent length for a seven-footer.
  • Bobby Simmons is listed at 6'6" in the NBA despite the fact that it's standard practice to list heights with shoes on--which would put Bobby at 6'8" (rounding up of course).
  • Charlie Villanueva apparently wore flip-flops to his measurements because he gains only a half inch with shoes. In spite of his 6'9.5" measurement he's now listed at 6'11".
  • Mo Williams is listed at 6'1" despite being 6'2" at the combine.

Tuesday Bucks Notes

Chad Ford reports in his latest postings that the Bucks big board is looking something like:

1. Al Horford - Lock to go 3rd or 4th
2. Mike Conley - 50% chance of going 4th in the Horford-to-Atlanta scenario?
3. Yi Jianlian - Still playing hard-to-get, though some suggest the Bucks might call his bluff.
4. Jeff Green - Could go to Boston at 5.
5. Brandan Wright - Will be there barring a big surprise.
6. Julian Wright - Ditto.

Horford is likely to be gone to the Hawks, and certainly gone to Memphis if he slips past Billy Knight and company. Conley meanwhile sounds increasingly likely to be gone to the Grizzlies if the Hawks take Horford, but Noah is apparently also in play there, and could even be the favorite depending on what you believe. Boston sounds most interested in Yi and Jeff Green. If a trade with Phoenix happens, Yi or Noah might well be the pick at 5.

So Horford is almost a lock to be gone but Conley could still be there. Yi continues to play hardball and I just don't think the Bucks will risk drafting him only to have him play the go-back-to-China card in order to force a trade. I'd guess there's a >50% chance Jeff Green is available, and he could contribute immediately.

There's virtual certainty that Brandan Wright and Julian Wright will be available. The Bucks said they liked what they saw from Brandan Wright, but he's not going to contribute immediately. Julian Wright just turned 20, but he would provide valuable depth at the forward spots immediately, and Ford's sources say he still has a chance at the 6 spot.


Gery Woelfel reports that the Bucks are considering trade offers, which makes sense given how the draft buzz is shaping up. Given the uncertainty over Yi and the possibility that Conley is gone, do the Bucks like Jeff Green enough that they resist the temptation to trade down with a Yi-coveting team like Chicago? It's sounding increasingly likely that both Wrights will be available at the Bulls' 9th pick. They're known to be shopping Chris Duhon and his expiring $3.2 million salary, which may or may not be appealing to the Bucks, depending on how much they want to give Mo Williams a big contract. Other options would be Thabo Sefalosha and the 9th or even Tyrus Thomas straight-up for the 6th pick. It sounds as though Paxson is loathe to deal Thomas, but given he's similar to the immovable Ben Wallace, it's always possible they would prefer a more offensive PF like Yi to pair with Ben for the next few years. Acquiring another player would likely nix the Bucks' hopes of signing a big-name free agent, though it looks increasingly likely that there won't be anyone worthwhile available anyway (Billups has always been a pipedream and Gerald Wallace is most likely to re-sign in Charlotte).

Both Wrights would represent good value at the 9th overall pick and the Bucks are also working out Florida State SF Al Thornton today, who also is likely to be a mid-to-late lottery pick. The question is whether Chicago is willing to offer anything the Bucks are interested in. Golden State (possibly offering the 18th or something involving Monta Ellis), Philly (with the 12th and 21st picks) and Phoenix (with the 24th, 29th, and lots of veterans including Shawn Marion) are also in the mix.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Corey Brewer? Probably Not

NBA All-Access: Corey Brewer works out for the Bucks

The latest Consensus Mock has the Bucks taking Corey Brewer, but given what we've heard in the past weeks I'm not sold the Bucks would take Brewer over Jeff Green (projected 8th) or Brandan Wright (projected 5th). It sounds as though the 5th pick will come down to Yi or Jeff Green, who also played with Doc Rivers' son at Georgetown.

Corey Brewer Draft Profile

While Michael Redd played the majority of his minutes at SF last year, it stands to reason the Bucks would prefer to move him back to primarily the 2 spot if possible. That could happen if Bobby Simmons were healthy, but that's still a big "if" given Simmons has yet to start running at full speed. While Brewer played mostly as a forward at Florida, his lean frame seems better suited to the 2 position at least early in his career. Because Brewer's value is largely based on the assumption that he can immediately contribute on the defensive end, I think the Bucks' willingness to take him over a purer SF like Green or an eventual PF like Wright will largely depend on whether he can defend both the shooting guard and small forward positions. If the Bucks think Brewer is best suited to playing the same position as Redd, is he really so far ahead of everyone else that you take him and worry about it later? I like Brewer, but I'm not sure he has enough going in his favor to trump Green and Wright in that regard.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Weekend Bucks Notes

Chuck Gardner and Tom Enlund have been kind of busy at the Journal-Sentinel:

  • Julian Wright worked out on Friday despite lingering effects from an ankle sprain. Watch video HERE. Wright's stock has slipped in recent weeks even with decent measurements at the combine, making it less and less likely the Bucks would grab him at the 6th spot. If the Bucks go with a small forward it's looking much more likely to be Jeff Green, who could also be taken 5th by the Celtics.
  • With Yi Jianlian continuing to play hard to get, the Bucks are putting up a brave face but don't look for the Bucks to call Yi's (or more accurately, his handlers') bluff. It's difficult to say what would happen if the Bucks did take Yi, given he could use the threat of a return to China to force a trade. While the Bucks might not be as desperate for help as some of their lottery brethren, Larry Harris and Herb Kohl can ill afford to draft a player who turns around and hangs them out to dry. The PR embarrassment of Yi staying in China would be a huge blow to a GM on the hot seat and a franchise struggling for respectability. On a sidenote, I really don't get the Toni Kukoc comparison that Babcock has propagated for a while now--Kukoc was a smooth but not overly athletic pass-first small forward who was viewed as a Magic Johnson-type while playing in Italy. Yi on the other hand is an incredibly athletic big man who is primarily a scorer and projects to the PF position. The only obvious similarity is that neither looks like a great defender, though Yi should be able to block some shots with his nearly 7'5" wingspan.
  • The situation is a little different for Joakim Noah, the other lottery talent who has refused to work out for the Bucks. While it's unclear what specifically turned him off to playing in Milwaukee--he's open to playing in Minneapolis for heaven's sake!--it might be as simple as him not wanting to go to a team that already has two young bigs penciled in as starters.
  • Larry Krystkowiak isn't expecting a big splash from whoever the Bucks draft next Thursday, which runs somewhat counter to the "impact player" rhetoric that Larry Harris and Dave Babcock have been using. Nothing too eye-opening here, but some select quotes from Coach K:
    "Some guys, I think, may be more ready to play right away and other guys are more of a long-term project. Maybe as a head coach, you'd want a guy who is more of a quick fix, but. . . .

    "From a physical point of view, Horford might be a few years ahead of Brandan Wright, for example, strength-wise. Green is ready. He looks ready. He's a man.

    "I think Conley is (ready). But it's not easy being a point guard. There's not too many success stories of rookie point guards who have dazzled in their first year."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday Bucks Notes

Boykins Opts Out

As was expected/hoped, Early Boykins declined his player option for 07/08, becoming a free agent rather than playing another season for $3 million. Far more importantly, Boykins' decision means the Bucks will actually have the cap flexibility to go after a free agent on the order of Gerald Wallace or Andres Nocioni (I'm not even going to mention a certain Finals MVP-award winning Colorado alum). While I'm not sure if Boykins will be able to get a raise with his next contract, he just turned 31 and is coming off a career year (14.6 ppg/4.4 apg), meaning this was his best chance to get the security of another multi-year deal. Good luck Earl, it was (kinda) fun while it lasted.

Assuming Skinner's $5.85 million option is not picked up by the club, Ruben Patterson's $11.7 million cap hold is renounced, and David Noel's second-year option is picked up, that gives the Bucks eight players under contract for $39.4 million, plus the 6th overall pick's rookie scale value of $2.314 million, plus the cap holds of Mo ($3.84 mm), Charlie Bell ($973k) and Ersan Ilyasova ($964k). That adds up to $47.5 million, which if the cap was around $55 million leaves about $7.5 million in cap space. With the max 8% raises, that means the Bucks could offer a contract worth up to $43.6 million over five years ($8.7 million per season) without renouncing their Bird rights on Mo and their Early Bird rights on Bell and Ilyasova. I'll be running some more possible free agency scenarios in the coming week.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wednesday Bucks Notes

  • Chuck Gardner writes about the Al Horford and Corey Brewer workout. Horford worked alone while Brewer took part with Carl Landry and sacrificial lamb Matt Lojeski.
  • Meanwhile, Landry had a nice homecoming. Pretty amazing how five years ago he wasn't even good enough to play college basketball, then worked his way through junior college to Purdue.
  • CNNSI's Chris Ekstrand doesn't seem quite as plugged in as others, but he's posted his complete two round mock. Like Chad Ford and Jonathan Givony he has the Bucks taking Brandan Wright sixth. In the second round he has projected the Bucks taking Alabama PF/C Jermareo Davidson. Check out the video profiles of Wright and Davidson here. At 6'11" and 230 lbs, Davidson is more of a perimeter big who averaged 14 ppg/8 rpg/2 bpg as a senior, which was something of a regression from his junior year. Despite shooting only 16 threes all year, he shot an ugly 41% from the field, as compared to 48% as a junior. And while he isn't an explosive athlete, he's extremely long with a 7'4" wingspan.
  • has quick videos of the various workouts, including commentary from Dave Babcock and interviews with the players:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tuesday Bucks Notes

  • Chad Ford's latest mock draft has the Bucks taking Brandan Wright. He mentions they'd probably prefer Horford or Conley, but he has those two going 3-4 and Brewer going 5th.
  • Gery Woelfel speculates in his latest posting about a possible Warriors-Bucks trade, suggesting a package involving Jason Richardson and the 18th pick for the Bucks' 6th overall pick. Yi Jianlian's reps have made it pretty clear that his preferred destinations don't include Milwaukee, while there's mutual interest in bringing Yi to the Bay Area. However it's difficult to see how Richardson makes a lot of sense for the Bucks given he's a shooting guard making $12 million who doesn't play much defense. It'd certainly be possible to move either him or Redd to SF, but his value to the Bucks is still lower than it might be to other teams. The only obvious player the Bucks could use is Andris Biedrins, but it's unlikely the Warriors would want to part with their 21-year old big man. He's entering a contract year and the Warriors partly want to move Richardson so they can re-sign him.
  • Jonathan Givony offers his latest lottery insights at DX. He notes that the Bucks would prefer Horford but will be looking for Conley or Brandan Wright if they're available.
  • Matt Kamalsky posted an overview of the Bucks offseason situation at DraftExpress. Pretty decent synopsis, though the salary information doesn't provide any insight on our actual cap situation. I'll try to post more details about this soon.
  • The Bucks' free agent camp will be held from Wednesday to Friday. Former Bobcat Kareem Rush will be there, as will former Cal PF Rod Benson, who has the best player blog on the planet.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Jeff Green, Thad Young Are In

Georgetown junior Jeff Green and Georgia Tech freshman Thaddeus Young will each remain in the draft. Green has been talked about going as high as fifth to the Celtics or sixth to the Bucks, so it's unlikely another year could have done much to help his draft stock. However, Green's return to Georgetown would have made the Hoyas a favorite come March, so it's understandable he might have been tempted to go back for his senior season. Taking Green would give the Bucks depth at the small forward spot, and he could also provide spot minutes at the 4, so the Bucks' wilingness to take him will likely also depend on how confident they are Bobby Simmons can be healthy. Check out his scouting video below:

Young meanwhile would potentially have a lot to gain from another year at Georgia Tech, as he's currently projected as a top 15-20 type. Here he is winning the Jordan Classic MVP a year ago:

Mike Conley Workout

As Chuck Gardner writes, Mike Conley's workout went very well this morning. While Conley catches a lot of flak for his outside shot, his excellent in-between game shouldn't be overlooked. While he only shot 30% from three, he still managed a terrific 52% overall thanks to his ability to use both hands:

Conley is truly ambidextrous but decided he would be a left-handed shooter as a youngster.

"I just started shooting left when I was little for some reason," Conley said. "I never shot a shot right-handed until I was probably eighth or ninth grade. And when I shot it right-handed, I found out I was shooting better.

"I was, 'Wow, I didn't know I could do this.'"

Conley showed he could sink right-handed runners during the workout, but he said he is sticking primarily with his left hand.

He said he seriously considered switching to his right hand during his freshman year in high school. He had injured his left hand, and in a tournament he was 90% from the free throw line and sank 5 threes in the championship game, all with his right hand.

"I was like, no, I've got to stick to my left hand," Conley said. "I felt like it was too late. Now I just try to shoot right-handed inside the paint a lot and shoot left-handed outside." now has a helpful Draft Central page with the official workout schedule and player highlights.

Monday News/Notes

  • David Mosley has posted a pretty great update of his "Eight Common Profiles of a Bust" article on DraftExpress.
  • Sam Smith posts some rumors/ramblings of a crazy old man. He suggests the Celtics are thinking about Yi (which everyone thinks) as well as Jeff Green, noting that Doc Rivers' son Jeremiah played with Green at Georgetown. That would leave the Bucks with either Conley or Brandan Wright.
  • Chad Ford's new mock has the Hawks taking Al Horford, which makes almost too much sense. It also suggests Shelden Williams should definitely be available as trade bait. Wondering aloud, would the Bucks/Hawks take Conley then trade him to the Hawks for Julian Wright (at 11) and Shelden Williams? It's possible if the Hawks think Conley is that much better than Law/Crittenton.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Australian Article on Bogut

  • Pretty long piece on Bogut in the Australian The Age. Some of the same stuff we're used to hearing--how he doesn't buy into the NBA culture, how many NBA players get carried away with the lifestyle, etc. It also mentions his penchant for playing poker at Potawatomi.
  • TMJ4 has a video feature on Bobby Simmons' comeback. So we know he's shooting and dribbling balls slowly around the court, but otherwise there's very little insight into how far he is from returning. There was a rumor he could start running next month. The best indication of how confident the Bucks are in Simmons' return may be on draft night--if Jeff Green, Corey Brewer or Julian Wright gets called when the Bucks pick 6th, it might be a strong indication the Bucks aren't counting on Simmons to be in the starting lineup come November.

Brandan Wright Workout

As Chuck Gardner reports, Bucks Director of Player Personnel Dave Babcock came away from Brandan Wright's individual workout on Friday sounding very impressed. Gery Woelfel was also there and came away singing Wright's praises. It's very possible Wright will be available at 6 given the possibility that Al Horford, Mike Conley, and Yi Jianlian could all go ahead of him (in some order). There have been rumors that Atlanta GM Billy Knight has been in love with Wright for weeks, but who knows what to make of that given the amount of disinformation flying around. Certainly from a readiness standpoint guys like Horford and Joakim Noah appear to be well ahead of the 19-year old Wright, who said he's currently at around 210 lbs after weighing in at an even 200 lbs at the pre-draft camp.

I'm still having a hard time seeing Wright as the best pick if he's available. With his slender frame he looks to be at least a year or two away from being able to physically match up with NBA power forwards, and it remains to be seen whether he can score as consistently in the pros given his complete lack of a midrange game and poor free throw shooting. He was a poor rebounder at Carolina last year despite his size, and while he blocked a fair amount of shots he wasn't prolific either. To his credit, he put up really good numbers as a freshman for a good Carolina team, including shooting a rather ridiculous 66% from the field. He's got a great feel for scoring around the hoop, and if he can pack on 15-20 lbs he could become a very good defender as well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bucks Notes

Bucks Check Out Green; Hawks-Bucks trade?

I don't know what's more surprising--the Bucks getting mentioned on ESPN or the Journal-Sentinel actually being on the ball with some off-season happenings. OK, so it was ESPN Radio, but still. Either way, lightning struck twice tonight:

  • Ric Bucher on ESPN radio mentioned that the Bucks have talked trade with the Hawks, possibly involving a package of Charlie Villanueva and the 6th pick for the Hawks' 3rd overall selection. The Bucks could then use the pick to take Al Horford, the best complement in the draft to Bogut, but who most likely will be gone by the 4th pick. The Hawks meanwhile may very well want to take Mike Conley--certainly the most logical choice for them--but realize that he's not quite that high on most draft boards. The first problem with this is that it's a huge price to pay for the Bucks to move up three spots--while CV may not have had a convincing sophomore season, he's still an extremely talented young big man who the Bucks have yet to see at full speed for an extended period. I am a huge fan of Horford, but is he really worth Mike Conley AND Charlie Villanueva? It's unlikely, so I would guess that some other player might be coming from Atlanta. The most obvious would be Josh Childress, who would give the Bucks some much-need swingman depth. Still, would both teams do Childress/Horford for Conley/Villanueva? It's possible. The other problem is that with the Grizzlies supposedly focused on Horford at 3, what would they do if he's gone? They could also use a PG, so the trade could hit a serious snag if the Grizzlies grab Conley at 4. Then again, it's also possible the Hawks like Brandan Wright and Yi a lot, and if Horford goes at three they'd be guaranteed to have their choice of at least one of Conley, Yi and Wright at six.
  • Charles Gardner wrote about the Jeff Green's workout with the Bucks. An army of staff made the trip to DC, including Larry Harris, player personnel director Dave Babcock, coach Larry Krystkowiak, assistants Brian James and Bill Peterson, as well as Senator Kohl. Sounds like they were pretty impressed, and the sheer number of people with important titles suggests Green is very much in the mix should the Bucks keep the sixth pick. I like Green's game a lot--as previously stated, he does pretty much everything well, has good size, a great mind for the game and he looks ready to contribute right away.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mike Conley Interview

Nothing specific about the Bucks, but Mike Conley was interviewed by a local sport show in Indianapolis. Watch it here. Seems like a pretty mature, well-spoken kid. Check out another video below for a good feature on MCJ.

Bucks Notes

Cousins Center beware--a recent workout victim of Carl Landry

As usual, it seems like Gery Woelfel is the only journalist paying any attention to the Bucks, but hey, better than nothing. Here's an update on workouts:

  • This week: Bucks officials will reportedly travel to see Yi Jianlian in LA and Jeff Green in DC. Bucks officials supposedly had talks last week with Yi's reps, so either they're OK with letting him come to Milwaukee or they're just trying to hype the Bucks possibly taking him at 6. While Yi's skillset is certainly intriguing, it just seems a little counterintuitive for the Bucks to go with a soft PF who likely will need a couple years to adjust to the NBA. Green on the other hand doesn't have the upside of Yi but will probably be able to contribute immediately at SF. He's a very smart player who does everything reasonably well, though he has yet to sign with an agent and is said to be considering returning to Georgetown for his senior season. That seems unlikely given he's a lock to go in the lottery and could easily go top ten.
  • June 15: UNC PF Brandan Wright. As previously reported, he's doing all his workouts alone, which isn't surprising given his slight frame would likely fair poorly against the older and more mature Horford/Noah types. Refusing to work out against other players doesn't win you points with GMs, but given the knee-jerk way in which draft buzz works, it makes sense that agents try to keep players out of situations that aren't going to be favorable to them. Julian Wright and Yi are employing similar strategies. While he could eventually be a dynamic PF on both ends of the floor, Wright's extremely slight frame (6'10", 200 lbs) and lack of shooting range leave me somewhat skeptical about the "next Chris Bosh" tag some have given him. While both left college after one season, Bosh had a far superior mid-range game and was also an inch taller and 25 lbs heavier.
  • June 18: Ohio St. PG Mike Conley, the current favorite to go to the Bucks at 6, will be working out alongside Georgia Tech swingman Thaddeus Young. Young is considered a late-lottery candidate, but coming out of high school a year ago he was mentioned in the same breath as Kevin Durant. He wasn't consistent at GT, but showed good range as well as explosive athleticism. In terms of playing style he's similar to Florida State's Al Thornton, another athletic 3 who also projects to the late lottery. It's possible Thornton/Young would be targets if the Bucks traded down with a team like the Bulls.
  • June 19: Florida teammates Al Horford and Corey Brewer will be the big names, but Wisconsin natives Carl Landry of Purdue and Matt Lojeski of Purdue will also be there. Landry could still be around when the Bucks pick in the second round (56th overall), while Lojeski is getting worked out mostly as a courtesy. Landry, the brother of UW forward Marcus, put up 19 ppg/7 rpg last year, but NBA scouts questioned his size (he was listed at 6'7" in college), athleticism, and his surgically repaired ACL. He's a really interesting story, having not been recruited out of high school before working his way from junior college to the Big Ten. Given the concerns about his height and athleticism, his pre-draft measurements really stand out: nearly 6'9" in shoes, more bench press reps than Al Horford, and an impressive 36.5" vertical to boot. Combine those stats with the productiveness he showed in college, and you have to look at him as a possible Paul Millsap/Craig Smith type sleeper PF.
  • June 20: Kansas forward Julian Wright. Lojeski's agent also said Lojeski would be there, but I'm not clear if he's working out on consecutive days or if it's just a mix-up on when he's going to be there. Wright supposedly refuses to work out against other players, so I assume the two would be working out separately if they are both there.
Woelfel also expanded slightly on the story about Noah not working out with the Bucks, noting that it was rumored he didn't see the Bucks as a "good fit" for him. While many people want to rip Noah for reasons other than what he does as a player, he certainly could provide some things the Bucks need, notably rebounding, defensive energy, and shot-blocking. Still, with Bogut and Villanueva already on the roster I can see how a guy like Noah might be concerned he wouldn't get enough playing time. I had initially wondered if the non-workout was a smokescreen, but it appears that is not the case.

What Are They Doing: Memphis Grizzlies

While the Celtics' lottery misery may have gotten more press, the Grizzlies' crash from the top three in spite of the worst record in the league was an equally crushing blow for a franchise facing great uncertainty. With Jerry West retiring three days after the draft and ownership yet to decide on a successor, the Grizzlies also have the most front office uncertainty of any team. New coach Marc Iavaroni was hired away from Phoenix and has stated a desire to bring a similar up-tempo style to Memphis, while the most frequently named GM candidates are the Celtics' Chris Wallace (huh?) and former Knicks/Pacers point guard Mark Jackson. Even with the presence of Pau Gasol, one of the big men (Horford, Yi, B. Wright) might be too tempting to pass up. But given the reliance of the Suns' offense on Steve Nash, a top-shelf point like Mike Conley might be exactly what Iavaroni wants, while Jackson might also place a premium on a point guard given his experience at the position.

  1. Who's available? The big vs. Conley debate will be a lot easier if the Hawks decide to take Conley third. Virtually all the mocks have Memphis taking Horford, and it appears Atlanta is currently leaning towards Yi or Wright (huh?), so he's likely to be there unless Atlanta comes to their senses, which is never something to gamble on. Corey Brewer has been mentioned as well, but swingman isn't a particular area of need. Mike Miller quietly had a career year (18 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg), while Rudy Gay will be looking to build on an inconsistent rookie season. Also of note is Tarence Kinsey, who came out of nowhere to be a garbage time all-star, averaging nearly 20 ppg over the last month of the season.
  2. Is Pau Gasol their franchise cornerstone or trade bait? Gasol spent most of last season as the most available star in the NBA, but remained in Memphis perhaps mostly due to John Paxson's reluctance to break up his young core to acquire him. He's not asking for a trade at the moment, but stay tuned. Even if the Grizzlies want to keep Gasol, it certainly doesn't preclude them from taking a defensive, skilled big man like Horford to complement Gasol's more offensive mindset. While the Grizzlies are reportedly high on second-year PF/C Alexander Johnson, he's yet to prove himself as a long-term answer. Hakim Warrick stepped up as a valuable contributor in his second season, but also isn't a pure PF and former second overall pick Stromile Swift gives them depth but won't ever be more than a solid 4/5. A Horford-Gasol combination looks good on paper, but for a young team that's coming off the worst record in the NBA, they could also be willing to gamble on a higher-ceiling project like Yi or Brandan Wright (at least that's my hope from a Bucks perspective).
  3. Who's calling the shots in Memphis? It's unclear how big of an impact West will have on draft night, but it's expected Iavaroni will have input on the GM search as well as the draft. If he's serious about bringing a Phoenix-style offense to Memphis he'll probably be interested in upgrading from Kyle Lowry and Damon Stoudamire at point guard. Lowry was the team's first rounder (24th overall) last year, but played only 10 games last season because of a broken wrist. More importantly, Conley would likely represent an immediate upgrade in addition to having a much higher ceiling. Player Personnel Director Tony Barone seems to acknowledge that needs at certain positions could impact the Grizzlies' pick, and no player would provide a more obvious boost from a need perspective than Conley.
Looking at their team it seems like Conley makes an awful lot of sense, but it's also tough to go wrong with Al Horford, whose game would nicely complement Gasol's. Whichever player doesn't get taken could be the favorite to land with the Bucks, especially given that Boston would be unlikely to take Conley if the Grizz and Hawks pass on him. Horford falling to six is my dream scenario, but at this point it seems he's the odds-on favorite to end up in Memphis, and if he doesn't it's certainly possible the Celtics might grab him at five.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Updated Mocks

Latest Bucks Notes:

  •'s latest mock consensus has Corey Brewer going to the Bucks, with previous pick Mike Conley dropping to 7th. Still, if you look at the more relevant mocks not much has changed. Chad Ford and DraftExpress still have Conley going sixth, while some of the more random/less credible mocks have the Bucks taking Brewer. RealGM
  • Michael Redd will be taking part in the Team USA mini-camp July 20-22. If as expected he makes the 12-man roster, he'll then take part in the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, set to take place from August 22-September 2 in Las Vegas. A lack of pure shooters has been a common complaint
  • Ruben Patterson was fined $1,000 by a Cincinnati judge for failing to register as a sex offender when he moved into a new neighborhood.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

What Are They Doing: Atlanta Hawks

With the 3rd and 11th overall picks, the Hawks in many ways hold the keys to the draft. It's an especially fortunate outcome given that their 3rd pick would have been lost to the Suns had they not finished in the top 3 (remnants of the Joe Johnson deal), and that the 11th pick they acquired from the Pacers in the Al Harrington trade would have reverted back to Larry Bird and co. if it had been in the top 10. While ideally they were hoping to land the first pick and use Greg Oden to fill their gaping hole at center (sorry, Zaza), most Hawks fans were likely breathing a sigh of relief after the lottery.

With a logjam of talent at the forward position (Josh Smith, Childress, Marvin Williams, and Shelden Williams) and Joe Johnson at the 2, the most obvious needs are a point guard and center. Two years ago GM Billy Knight thought he took the "best player available" route by picking Marvin Williams to complement his existing Smith/Childress combo, but instead Williams has managed to show only occasional flashes of the talent scouts saw in him. Meanwhile, Deron Williams (3rd) and Chris Paul (4th) have developed into all-stars at a position where the Hawks have become desperate to add talent. While Shelden Williams had a very productive close to his rookie season, averaging a double-double in the Hawks' meaningless April, his selection at 5th overall in 2006 still looks like a reach, especially given Brandon Roy went two picks later.

While Knight has been coy about his intentions, reason suggests that the Hawks' decision will come down to four players: Mike Conley, Brandan Wright, Al Horford, and Yi Jianlian. Of course, reason typically hasn't been altogether plentiful in the Hawks front office. Still, given the Hawks' only glaring needs are at point guard and center, it would be almost shocking to see them NOT pick up a PG in the first round. Most draft boards have Conley slightly below the three big men, but he's still the best PG prospect since Williams and Paul, meaning he's a justifiable pick at 3. But Conley is also easier to pass on given the Hawks' 11th pick should give them a choice of either A&M's Acie Law and Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton (who has the hometown appeal).

While Horford is the safest pick of the three big men, the current rumors suggest Knight is more interested in Wright and Yi. In 2006, Knight identified Shelden Williams early in the process and stuck with him, taking him 5th overall and leaving most experts scratching their heads. Hawks officials attended a private workout with Yi on Monday, with many suggesting that Yi's impressive workout skills will be enough to convince the Hawks he's worthy of the 3rd pick. Wright and Horford will head to Atlanta in the week leading up to the draft.

Their strategy will likely hinge on four factors:

  1. How do the Hawks view the differences between Conley and Law/Crittenton? If they think Conley is head and shoulders above the others, then they can draft him at 3 and pray Hawes (or maybe even Noah) falls into their laps at 11. The more likely scenario is that Hawes and Noah will be gone, meaning a player like Colorado State PF Jason Smith could be the pick. But most likely the best players available will be wing players, which is the one type of player the Hawks don't need.
  2. How much do the Hawks like each of the bigs, and how would they fit into their existing plans? Again, if one of Yi, Wright, and Horford prove they're head and shoulders above the rest, it might be too tempting to pass on them at 3. Noah is all over draft boards, but some have speculated he might be available even at 11 (which I doubt), and it's possible Spencer Hawes could slip past the Bulls and Kings to 11 as well. Given the Hawks would like a guy who can play center as well, I'm a little surprised Horford hasn't been a more popular option. He's clearly the only one of the three bigs who has the size to play some center. Shelden Williams is more of a lunchpail type big, which gives them a little bit of latitude to take a softer type like Wright or Yi.
  3. Will any team want to trade up to the three spot? Some have suggested the Hawks' apparent love affairs with Yi and Wright are just smokescreens and that they'd prefer to move down a few slots where they could still take either Conley or the leftovers of Horford/Yi/Wright. This would certainly make sense for the Hawks, but it seems unlikely that a team like the Celtics, Bucks, or T-Wolves would be desperate enough to trade up given the depth from 3-8. I would be thrilled if the Bucks could move up to snag Al Horford, but what would the Hawks want in return? A future first, maybe lottery-protected? It would be a difficult move to pull off. Alternatively, the Hawks could take Conley, and then use Josh Childress to move up from the 11th spot and grab a big.
  4. What kind of veteran talent could be had for the third overall pick? Given the perpetual rebuilding project in Atlanta, many have suggested moving one or both 1st rounders for veterans. If the Hawks could somehow find a proven player they would have to consider it, but it's difficult to project what that might look like. Would the Warriors want Yi enough to give up Monta Ellis and their first? Would the Hawks take that? Time will tell.
Given what we know, my best guess is that one of the bigs gets taken 3rd and that they snag a PG 11th. Horford would seem to make the most sense, especially given he'd represent a safe pick for a somewhat embattled GM. However, until now most of the speculation has focused on Wright/Yi, perhaps reminding you why Knight got such a bad rep in the first place. While passing on Conley still lets them get a PG at 11, the odds of taking Conley third and still getting a useful big with their second pick are much lower. At this point Yi's combination of size, athleticism and skills appear to have him in pole position.

Planned Pre-Draft Workouts

UPDATED: Reports of planned private workouts with teams are beginning to trickle in...obviously most teams will work out the guys they are serious about drafting, but it's not to say teams don't use player workouts as misdirection. Check out the RealGM discussion here.

  • Chad Ford reported the Bucks are working out Al Horford (in case he slips to 6), Jeff Green (makes sense), and Al Thornton (who is definitely projected later than 6). There's often little rhyme or reason to who teams work out, but Thornton's invitation suggests the Bucks could be interested in trading down.
  • Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress notes that Corey Brewer is scheduled to workout for the Bucks on June 19th.
  • Chuck Gardner of the JS reported that the Bucks had a call planned with Yi Jialian's reps on Monday.
  • Gery Woelfel reported a week ago that Joakim Noah said he was NOT working out for the Bucks, and that he did not elaborate as to why. At first it seemed as though Noah might not have wanted to work out for the Bucks, but later it was rumored that the Bucks did not ask him. Either way it's a curious situation given Noah (love him or hate him) would provide the sort of frontcourt shot-blocking, defensive energy, and general unselfishness that the team could certainly use. And from Noah's perspective, could he really dislike Milwaukee enough that he'd prefer to drop a few spots in the lottery? At this point it seems likely he's not in the top 5. I've started to wonder whether it might be a smokescreen, especially considering that Noah's considerable college experience means most teams should more or less know what they're getting from him. He also did a private workout earlier this month with Yi and Brewer, which the Bucks may or may not have been invited to. Of course, by the rationale they wouldn't need to bring Brewer in for a workout, which they are...
  • interviewed Texas A&M PG Acie Law, who said he has a workout scheduled with the Bucks. This one is kinda interesting since Law is considered more of a late lottery/mid-first round pick, and of course because he's another PG.
  • UPDATE: On the RealGM forum there's word that Brandan Wright has a workout scheduled June 15th while Julian Wright and Carl Landry have workouts scheduled but without a specific date. The Wrights are both possible at #6, while the 6'9", 248 lb Landry is a Milwaukee native that most had projected somewhere in the second round. However, while he was typically listed at 6'7" in college, in Orlando he measured out at nearly 6'9" in shoes, along with finishing second in the bench press (21 reps) and maxing out at a 36" vertical. While I don't like to put a ton of emphasis on the combine stuff, Landry's a guy who was very productive at Purdue but was generally considered undersized given his post mentality, so measuring out taller than people expected (a rarity) could be a huge boost. If he's almost 6'9" with good athleticism and a nice post game you'd think he could sneak into the first round. He's still not a great rebounder or shot-blocker, but check out the box score of Purdue's season-ending loss to Florida in the tournament. He put up 18/10 with 4 assists vs. Horford and Noah.