ST. FRANCIS, Wis. Locked in a state of NBA limbo too good to receive a franchise player in the draft and not good enough to make a splash in the playoffs there are only so many options available to the Milwaukee Bucks to build their roster into year-in and year-out NBA contender.
All of those options start with adding as much talent to the roster through the draft as possible, regardless of position. And on Thursday, the Bucks undoubtedly started off in the right direction.
By drafting North Carolina's John Henson in the first round and Kentucky's Doron Lamb in the second round, Milwaukee added two players that had fallen further than their draft stocks had originally dictated. The Bucks thought Henson was deserving of a spot between pick five and 10. As for Lamb, Bucks general manager John Hammond said the sharpshooter was on their board as a definite first-round pick.
That's not only drafting for talent, but also for value. And when you combine the fact that Milwaukee not only got the prospect they had coveted in the first round, but also traded down to add a legitimate center in Samuel Dalembert, then there's really no way to look at the Bucks' last few days as anything other than a slam dunk.
"To add a piece like Dalembert, to add a piece like John Henson, and to add a piece like Lamb, I think those are all good gets for us and all needs that we had," Hammond said after all was said and done on Thursday night. "So I think it's been a good couple days."
Indeed, it seems Hammond is right in this circumstance.
With Henson, Bucks coach Scott Skiles got another piece to fulfill the defensive formula he has coveted since coming to Milwaukee. The North Carolina product was arguably the second-best shot blocker in all of college basketball last year second only to this year's No. 1 pick Anthony Davis. He is an old school rim protector in every sense of the word, and for a team that failed frequently to protect the rim last year, Henson should be a breath of fresh air.
To the critics of Milwaukee's first-round pick though, Henson represented yet another power forward that needs polish, something the Bucks admittedly have plenty of. Adding Henson, means five of Milwaukee's 12 roster spots are filled by power forwards. On the surface, the Bucks probably could have filled a different position. Say, by drafting a big, athletic wing?
But that strategy isn't one likely to yield much success for a team like Milwaukee. The Bucks need as much talent as possible, and if that means eventually trading away players at a logjammed position, then that's what Milwaukee will do.
Bucks coach Scott Skiles had the right idea in his post-draft press conference.
"You can't have too many good players," Skiles said. "We're trying to get good players anywhere we can, all over the floor. We feel like we have some and draft day is about trying to get more. It's an opportunity we felt like to move back, get a center, and maybe get the same guy we wanted at the spot anyway. It kind of worked out that way."
Of course, that string of good luck started with the Bucks trade on Wednesday, as Milwaukee gave away virtually zero irreplaceable output for a reliable defensive-minded center, something they identified as a desperate need since last season ended. Add Dalembert, essentially for free, to Henson, Larry Sanders, and Ekpe Udoh, and the Bucks now have one of the best shot-blocking corps in all of the NBA.
That can change the outlook of a team, albeit slightly, for years to come. And if Henson can develop into a reliable starter and Lamb into a solid 3-point shooter off the bench, then the Bucks could have taken their first step to being a playoff team. Keep in mind, however, it's just the first step.
There's a lot of time left until the season begins this fall, with an interesting few months of free agency ahead. Re-signing Ersan Ilyasova will be the newest goal (and yes, he would represent another power forward on the roster for next season), as well as likely adding the athletic wing they couldn't on draft night. But the Bucks showed on draft night that they have the right idea.
Talent is the answer. And with John Henson, Doron Lamb, and Samuel Dalembert now in the fold, it's undeniable that the Bucks' roster is more talented now than when this hectic week began.
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