Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 1/24/12
MILWAUKEE -- Nearly seven years ago, the Milwaukee Bucks faced a difficult choice. With the first overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, then-general manager Larry Harris was expected to use it on either Utah senior Andrew Bogut or flashy freshman Marvin Williams of North Carolina. Heading into the draft, neither player knew for sure where they'd be heading to start their pro careers. Both Milwaukee and Atlanta had an interest and need in both players. Both Bogut and Williams worked out for the Bucks, on consecutive days, and were impressive. Williams went first, right around his 19th birthday. Athletically, he was a gifted player. In one season at North Carolina, he averaged 11.3 points and 6.6 rebounds, coming off the bench for the Tar Heels and scored the go-ahead basket in North Carolina's 75-70 victory over Illinois in the NCAA championship game. Looking back on his workout in Milwaukee, Williams admits that he doesn't remember much about it aside from shooting a lot of jumpers, lifting weights and being taken out for dinner. "I remember that I started cramping up," Williams says. "It was a good experience." Bogut came in a day later, and not only impressed the Bucks' staff with his performance on the court, but also his professional approach to the workout. In two years at the University of Utah, Bogut had emerged as one of the most talented players in the nation. He averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds while shooting 62 percent from the field and earned player of the year honors from the Associated Press and ESPN.com, along with the Naismith and Wooden Awards. He came to Milwaukee in a business suit and during an interview with Harris, outlined ways he could contribute to the team, showing knowledge of the existing roster and the franchise's history. That made quite the impression on Harris. "When you really got down to it, he really presented himself well," Harris says. "He'd done his homework and was worthy of the No. 1 pick." For Bogut, the professional image wasn't by accident. He'd made a conscious effort to research the team, knowing there was a very good chance Milwaukee would be his home for the foreseeable future. He credits his agent for helping him prepare for the workout and interview process. "A lot of guys look at it as if they're they product and the team needs them," Bogut says. "For me, it worked out both ways. I did my research and it certainly worked out very well." Harris says today that the choice wasn't all that difficult. At the time, the Bucks felt confident in their backcourt which had Michael Redd and Mo Williams with 2003 first-round pick T.J. Ford expected to return from a serious neck injury. The focus, then, was on adding some size to the frontcourt. According to Harris, the Bucks were "making do" with guys like Joe Smith, Brian Skinner and Dan Gadzurich but lacked the dominant, low-post presence that Bogut could provide. "We had Mo and we were getting T.J. back, so our backcourt was pretty solid," Harris says. "Once we had the pick, we identified the guys were were going to bring in and took a long, long look at Marvin and Andrew. "We knew our focus had to be at the three, the four or the five. After the workouts and having a chance to sit with my staff, it became pretty clear that Andrew was the guy for us." And so, on June 28, 2005, both Bogut and Williams waited nervously at the Theater at Madison Square Garden for NBA commissioner David Stern to announce Milwaukee's choice -- one that had been decided days before, but until that point, neither player knew what would happen. As Stern strode to the podium, both held their breath. "It was kind of nerve-wracking," Bogut says. "They didn't give us any hint. Atlanta didn't either. I had a hunch that I'd go No. 1 but I didn't really know until I heard my name." Moments later, Bogut was wearing a Bucks hat and posing for the traditional picture with the commissioner. He had an immediate impact as a rookie, appearing in all 82 games and starting 77. He shot 52 percent from the field and finished the season averaging 9.4 points and 7.0 rebounds, landing a spot on the All-Rookie team and finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting. Milwaukee made the playoffs that season, losing in five games to Detroit. Williams, meanwhile, went to Atlanta with the second pick and appeared in 79 games (seven starts). He finished with 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 24.7 minutes per night, earning a spot on the All-Rookie second team but his Hawks missed the playoffs that season. Since then, the two players have followed somewhat quiet paths, especially compared to the players that followed them in the draft. Deron Wlliams, the third pick, joined Bogut on the All-Rookie first team after averaging 10.8 points and 4.5 assists. The fourth pick, Chris Paul, would be named Rookie of the Year after leading all rookies in points (16.1), assists (7.8), steals and minutes in a season highlighted by a triple-double against Toronto on April 2, 2006. Bucks director of scouting Dave Babcock says the team was impressed with those players, especially, Paul, but with a need for a franchise-caliber center, it was hard to look any further than Bogut. "We all loved Chris Paul," Babcock says. "Looking back on it, we could have taken him . . . but you don't pass on a center." Today, Paul is arguably the best point guard in the NBA and in a high-profile trade last fall, moved from the Hornets to Los Angeles, where he and Blake Griffin have led the Clippers to a 9-5 start, good for first place in the Pacific Division. Deron Williams is now with the New Jersey Nets, himself the subject of a high-profile trade late in the 2010-2011 season. In 16 games with the Nets this year, he's averaging 18.2 points and 8.3 assists with 2.3 rebounds. The two have combined for six All-Star appearances, compared to zero for Bogut and Marvin Williams, who both remain with their original teams. Bogut, though snakebitten at times by various injuries and ailments, is still the Bucks' anchor, especially on the defensive end. He's emerged as one of the game's best shot-blockers -- Bogut led the NBA with 2.58 blocks per game last season, despite being limited to 65 games -- and is widely regarded as one of the best passing big men in the game. Bogut is happy to have landed in Milwaukee but readily admits it hasn't been the best experience. It's nothing against the city or franchise, but rather the on-the-court success -- or lack thereof -- that has been, at times, frustrating. "There's ups and downs in NBA careers," Bogut says. "We obvious haven't won as many games as I would like but things are getting better." His appreciation of the franchise and community was reinforced by the five-year contract extension he signed in the summer of 2008, one of the first moves made newly-hired general manager John Hammond. The deal, worth 60 million in guaranteed money, was somewhat below market-value but one that both sides felt was fair moving forward. All in all, things worked out pretty well for Bogut who feels fortunate to have been what the Bucks needed. "I lucked out that Milwaukee needed a center at the time," Bogut says. "I lucked out. I think I've become a pretty consistent big man in the NBA." The last six seasons have worked out for Williams, too. He's has played in 444 games, averaging 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He's appeared in 21 post-season games (four seasons) and in those contests, averaged 7.2 points and 3.5 rebounds. "I'm happy things happened the way they did," Williams says. "Atlanta is a great organization. Everything worked out pretty well for all of us. They got a great player in Andrew and I'm happy to be with Atlanta." Coincidentally, three more players from that draft class would wear a Milwaukee uniform. The Bucks' second-round pick, Ersan Ilyasova, remains a regular contributor to the current team and is averaging 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 15 games this season (nine starts). Charlie Villanueva, the seventh overall pick out of UConn, was dealt to Milwaukee in 2006 in exchange for Ford. Villanueva spent three seasons with the Bucks and established a career high with 16.2 points per game in the 2008-2009 season, leading to a multi-year deal with the Detroit Pistons. The 19th overall pick, Hakim Warrick, signed with the Bucks as a free agent prior to the 2009-2010 season. Warrick appeared in 48 games with Milwaukee before being shipped to Chicago in a deadline deal that brought John Salmons to the Bucks, sparking a late-season run to the playoffs. Follow Andrew Wagner on Twitter.
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