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Bucks need to add scoring punch in NBA draft

  • Article by: JIM HOEHN
  • Associated Press
  • June 26, 2013 - 1:45 PM

MILWAUKEE — The daily parade of guard candidates working out for the Milwaukee Bucks is indicative of their draft focus following the departure of leading scorer Monta Ellis, who opted out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent.

The Bucks, who have the 15th and 43rd picks in Thursday night's draft and a new head coach in Larry Drew, are looking to the deep backcourt pool to fill the void at shooting guard left by Ellis, who averaged 19.2 points and was the only player to start all 82 regular-season games.

In addition, point guard Brandon Jennings, the team's second leading scorer at 17.5, is a restricted free agent, which allows the Bucks to match any offer. Shooting guard J.J. Redick, acquired in February trade with Orlando, and wing player Mike Dunleavy are unrestricted free agents.

"I think that there'll be a grouping of potential guards and wing-type players at 15, but at the end of the day, we're probably going to take the best player on the board," said Bucks general manager John Hammond. "We're excited about our opportunity at 15. We're hoping that we can get a good player that can help us and I think that we will."

Among the shooting guards who have worked out for the Bucks are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from Georgia; Tim Hardaway Jr. of Michigan; Ricky Ledo of Providence; Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State; and Shane Larkin from Miami.

Glen Rice Jr., who helped Rio Grande Valley to the D-League championship, was brought in Tuesday for a second workout.

Allen Crabbe, a 6-6 shooting guard from California and the Pac-12 player of the year, also was on hand Tuesday, but limited due to a foot injury suffered in an earlier workout with the New York Knicks.

"There's a lot of teams in the draft that are in need of a shooting guard and I feel like that's one of the strong points of my game," Crabbe said. "I definitely feel the place here would be a good fit for me, but I don't control that. The only thing I can do is to come out here and try to impress and leave a good impression."

Although Hammond would not rule out taking a frontcourt player, he said that's not the focus.

"If you do look at our roster, the center spot and power forward spot are probably not a real logical position for us to choose someone in the draft at that position, but once again, if it's the best player, we'll do what's the right thing to do for us long term," Hammond said. "We have more of a need in the backcourt and even on the wing position, and it looks like the draft could unfold in that manner, but we'll see."

The Bucks made the playoffs for just the second time in eight seasons, but went 4-12 down the stretch and then were swept in the first round by the eventual champion Miami Heat. They also have undergone two coaching changes. Scott Skiles stepped down in early January and was replaced by assistant Jim Boylan, who was let go after the season. In early June, the Bucks hired Drew, who was let go at the end of the season by the Atlanta Hawks, whom he led to the playoffs each season.

Milwaukee has not won a playoff series since advancing to the Eastern Conference finals in 2000-01 behind the big three of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell and coach George Karl.

The Bucks have had recent success in the middle of the first round, obtaining two players who form part of the team's young nucleus. With the 15th pick in 2010, the Bucks tabbed Larry Sanders, now the team's starting center and leading rebounder. Last year, the Bucks traded down to No. 14 and landed power forward John Henson, who played well at times late in the season, including a 17-point, 25-rebound performance against Orlando.

In addition to Sanders and Hanson, the only other players under contract are Ersan Ilyasova, Drew Gooden, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh and Ish Smith. Gooden played in only 16 games last season and Smith was the fourth guard after being acquired in the same trade as Redick.

"If you look at mock drafts from these different sites, and for the most part some of the have a pretty good handle on what's happening in the draft, you look and say certain guys won't get to us," Hammond said. "We were a little surprised and pleasantly surprised when John fell to us last year at 14. That same scenario could present itself this year."

Assistant coach Nick Van Exel, a Wisconsin native who was on Drew's staff at Atlanta, knows what draft night can be like for a player.

"The projection for me was anywhere from 12 on and I went 37," said Van Exel, a shooting guard who went on to average 14.4 points over a 13-year career. "I was not disappointed at all. I lot of people around me were disappointed, but I said it's a blessing. Coming from Kenosha, Wis., a small town, not many people make it from that place. So I just tell everybody, it doesn't matter where you get drafted, it's about what you do when you get there."

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