Athleticism or Shooting; That Is the Question for the Milwaukee Bucks

Before the 2010 NBA Draft, Milwaukee Bucks Director of Scouting Billy McKinney said this of VCU power forward Larry Sanders and the chances he will be taken with the 15th pick in the draft:

“I think that might be a little bit of a stretch, but anything is possible,” McKinney said.

Sanders is entering his first official NBA offseason in a Bucks uniform, and like the rest of the roster, will most likely be hitting the practice floor with the team come October. Milwaukee’s justification for the “stretch” selection was their immediate and long-term needs for length, athleticism, and size down low.

Picking Washington State’s Klay Thompson or TexasJordan Hamilton 10th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, as some recent mock-ups have predicted, may qualify as a similar stretch in the eyes of some fans and analysts (both worked out in Milwaukee on Tuesday). But how much of a real difference is there talent-wise between those two and the current fan frontrunner, Colorado shooting guard Alec Burks?

A quick scan of Bucks message boards, articles, mock drafts, and general blog reader comments gives a slight impression that any selection other than Burks could insight a Vancouver-like meltdown of social discourse. That’s an obvious exaggeration; if anything it would be a forum version of car burning if Burks is passed up by Milwaukee. This means a lot of comments rife with CAPITAL LETTERS and EXCLAMATION POINTS.

Most people already know what Burks brings to the table: He’s a more athletic version of John Salmons (the good parts), capable of getting to the hole, creating his own shot, getting to the line, and in need of some heavy polish along the perimeter. Burks is also a solid offensive rebounder (9.2% of Burks’ 2010-11 rebound totals were on the offensive glass). This is especially attractive, considering the Bucks needed all the extra offensive possessions they could get last season.

The Bucks also ask their wings to do more shot creation and slashing than spot-up three pointers and mid-range jumpers. Naturally, Burks looks like a logical fit for the Bucks offense. However, Thompson and Hamilton offer a few offensive skills lacking in Burks’ game, most notably the ability to hit three pointers consistently. Bucks Director of Scouting Billy McKinney verified those assessments in a nutshell after Tuesday’s workout.

“Burks does get to the hole probably a little bit more, that’s his forte. He has to improve his outside shooting a little bit as everybody knows, but I would say that’s probably the biggest difference,” McKinney said. “These guys really shoot the ball well. Burks has mid-range game, he’s going to have to extend his range as a professional player.”

Burks shot 96 three pointers as a sophomore, and connected on just 29.2% of them. In contrast, Thompson (246 attempts as a junior, 39.8%) is Washington State’s all-time leading perimeter shooter, and Hamilton (234 attempts as a sophomore, 38.5%) was no slouch himself from beyond the arc. Thompson can also mix in some point guard skills, racking up 3.7 assists per game for the 2010-11 Cougars to make up for his lack of high-flying athleticism, and has NBA blood running through his veins (his father is Mychal Thompson).

“I think Klay is a player that can play multiple positions. He’s good enough with the ball to even be able to play some backup point at some points,” McKinney said. “Jordan is more of a two-three, but both players have a lot of versatility in their games and they have the ability to shoot the ball really well from deep outside.”

Unfortunately, current technology doesn’t allow us to combine Alec Burks, Klay Thompson, or Jordan Hamilton into one Joe Johnson-like freak wing player. So come June 23, if all three players are on the board at No. 10, the Bucks will face a quandary over which need is more pressing: shot creating athleticism, or floor spreading, long range shooting. At the end of the day, either one will do as long as the Bucks’ overall wing production is improved.

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Tags: 2011 NBA Draft Alec Burks Draft Stock Billy McKinney Brandon Jennings John Salmons Jordan Hamilton Draft Stock Klay Thompson Draft Stock Larry Sanders Milwaukee Bucks Milwaukee Bucks 10th Pick Milwaukee Bucks Draft Rumors Scott Skiles

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