The 2018 NBA draft is just a month away, and after Tuesday’s draft lottery, the order has been set. The Milwaukee Bucks have known their selection spot for awhile now, picking seventeenth overall for the second consecutive year. Last year, Michigan forward DJ Wilson became the newest addition to “Team All-Length”. The rookie struggled to find minutes in the rotation and was essentially a non-factor for the Bucks in his first professional season.
Even if the argument that Thon Maker could still turn into a good player proves to be right, so far, Milwaukee’s last three first round draft selections have been underwhelming. Rashad Vaughn never got things going and has since been traded, and Maker has yet to prove he can be anything more than an energizing role player. The recent draft history for the Bucks makes Jon Horst’s job with this year’s draft even more critical. The team needs to keep building with quality young players around their core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and company if they want to keep pace with the Celtics and Sixers among others in the near future.
Here is a look at some prospects for Milwaukee to keep their eyes on come draft day:
Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech
In his freshman season at Texas Tech, Zhaire Smith showed the potential to become something seriously special. The 6’5 guard averaged 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists per game coupled with a steal and a block per game on defense. The numbers don’t pop off the page, but his shooting percentages do. Smith shot 45% from deep and 56% from the floor for the season. To shoot so efficiently at 18 years old shows a high basketball IQ and maturity that should cater well towards learning quickly in the NBA. Budenholzer would likely have to coax him into the swing of things slowly, but Smith’s ceiling is unknown right now, and scouts have taken notice.
Mitchell Robinson, C, USA
The former eleventh ranked high school recruit in the country ended up sitting out the entirety of last season and opted to prepare himself for the NBA draft immediately. After decommitting from Western Kentucky early last fall, the seven footer boasts a 9’2 standing reach and has an athletic body to pair with it. He would be an immediate shot blocking threat, and would look like the most prototypical center on the Bucks roster. His size also makes him a fantastic rebounder, something the Bucks struggled to find last year rotating between Henson, Zeller and Maker. On top of all of his physical tools, Robinson has also shown flashes of a jump shot as he is capable from mid-range. Robinson may look like a strange pick because he skipped out on college hoops, but he could end up being a major steal in this draft.
Khyri Thomas, PG/SG, Creighton
Coming through the Bluejays system, Thomas made a name for himself quickly upon getting boosted minutes his sophomore season. Last season, the 6’3 combo guard made another leap in progression, and has found his name in the middle of the first round on many NBA mock draft boards. His 15 points per game came with a shooting percentage similar to that of the previously mentioned Zhaire Smith, but the higher volume makes him potentially more of a safe pick. Thomas shot 54% from the field and 41% from three last season, and his 6’10 wingspan makes his defensive upside intriguing. The Bucks could benefit from adding another three-and-D player to their rotation, especially if Tony Snell is unable to recover from the funk he fell into during the 2017 season.
Dzanan Musa, SF, Bosnia & Herzegovina
European prospects always leave scouts and fans wondering what exactly they are going to get, and this is exactly the case with Dzanan Musa. He has played professionally since he was 16, and just turned 18 earlier this month, so his youth presents upside. At 6’9, 195 lbs, Musa is no muscle monster who is going to abuse opponents athletically. What he lacks in size and strength though, he makes up for with craftiness. Scouts have raved about his quick first step, and he couples it with a fast shooting motion that allows him to knockdown contested jumpers. He has the ability to ball handle and create for his teammates as well, and could fit in well with the Bucks if he is able to space the floor while also opening up lanes for his teammates.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky
After an up and down season for John Calipari’s Wildcats, Gilgeous-Alexander has declared for the draft and will likely be a lottery pick. The 6’6 guard can do it all. He has a 7’0 wingspan, showed he can share the ball well by averaging 5 assists per game, and has a knockdown jumpshot. The freshman would be an utter steal on paper if he falls out of the lottery to the Bucks. The team needs a point guard, and from the looks of things there won’t be any no-brainers on the board to fill that gap when Milwaukee gets on the clock. If by the off chance Gilgeous-Alexander is there, his size, scoring, and ability to facilitate ought to have Jon Horst shaking in his seat.