Overshadowed by what is shaping up to be a very intriguing Finals series between the Spurs and Heat, the 2013 NBA Draft looms just 16 days away. With teams beginning to narrow their wish lists, prospects are busy competing in workouts around the country, hoping to leave a lasting impression.
The Bucks, holders of the 15th overall pick, have already conducted several workouts, bringing in notable names like Shane Larkin (Miami) and Dennis Schroeder (Germany), as well as local talents Korie Lucious, a former standout at Pius IX, and Marquette’s Trent Lockett. Given the uncertain status of incumbent point guard Brandon Jennings heading into the offseason, both Schroeder and Larkin are believed to be strong candidates for the team’s first round selection.
On Tuesday, the Bucks welcomed another crop of prospects to the Cousins Center. According to the team’s official Twitter account Tony Mitchell (North Texas), James Ennis (Long Beach State), Solomon Hill (Arizona), Adonis Thomas (Memphis), Trey McKinney-Jones (Miami) and Steven Pledger (Oklahoma) all worked out for the team. While none of the six are considered elite prospects, some projections list Mitchell as a mid-to-late-first-round selection.
Mitchell, who was born in Milwaukee, is an absolute freak athlete with jaw-dropping leaping ability and elite lateral quickness for a player of his size. His style of play has drawn comparisons to last year’s fourth-overall pick Thomas Robinson, as well as UNLV’s Anthony Bennett – a projected top-five pick in this year’s draft. A former highly-touted recruit, he originally committed to the University of Missouri, but high school eligibility issues landed him at North Texas. After a stellar freshman season (14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocks) in which he led the Sun Belt in scoring, rebounding, blocks and 3-point percentage (conference games only), the 6-8, 235-pound forward would likely have been a late-lottery selection in the 2012 draft, but opted to return to North Texas with the intent to improve his stock in a much weaker 2013 class. However, the preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year regressed in nearly every statistical category, and North Texas failed to reach the postseason for the second consecutive year. While opposing defenses certainly focused more on Mitchell in his second collegiate season, his field goal percentage dropped a whopping 13 points (57 percent to 44 percent) and he often struggled with turnovers and foul trouble.
Mitchell has the natural athleticism and rebounding ability to compete at the NBA level, but questions remain regarding his maturity and the level of competition he faced in college. Had he been able to improve, or even replicate, his 2011-12 numbers this past season, he would be a lock for the lottery and likely be considered a top-five prospect. If he can put the pieces that made him such a force as a freshman back together, Mitchell could be a steal late in the first round. However, right now the Bucks’ needs lie primarily in the backcourt, so selecting Mitchell – who is a bit undersized to play the power forward spot and not nearly refined enough (yet) to play the three – at number 15 would not make the most sense. But if the team trades back or plans to address the backcourt needs via free agency, Mitchell could certainly be in play as the potential long-term solution to Milwaukee’s revolving door at small forward.
Long Beach State’s Ennis is another big-time athlete Milwaukee could consider in the second round or, more likely, as a possible undrafted free agent target. The 6-7, 210 forward averaged 16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 49 percent from the field as a senior. He was named the Big West Player of the Year and ranked in the top 10 in the conference in eight different statistical categories. With a 6-11 wingspan, Ennis is a capable defender and has drawn comparisons to Milwaukee’s 2010 second-round selection, Darington Hobson. While Hobson, largely due to injuries, has not panned out, Ennis has an outside chance to stick in the league as an end-of-the-bench player given his athleticism and defensive potential.
Hill was a four-year starter for the Wildcats and has already worked out for the Golden State Warriors. As a senior, he averaged 13.4 points and 5.3 rebounds after averaging 13.0 and 7.7 as a sophomore. While he often played inside at Arizona, his 6-7, 210-pound frame will relegate him to the small forward slot professionally. Hill is not a big-time scorer but he’s a solid 3-point threat (39 percent as a senior) and, like Ennis, can defend multiple positions. Most mock drafts currently project Hill as a late-second-round selection.
Adonis Thomas’ decision to leave Memphis after just two lackluster seasons was met with a bit of controversy, but the 6-6, 240-pounder will look to prove to scouts he made the right call. Currently projected as a late second-round pick, the former McDonald’s All-American appears to be a “tweener,” as he played small forward in college, but would likely have to make the transition to shooting guard in the NBA. He’s a great athlete and flashed an adequate mid-range game while at Memphis, but his jumpshot mechanics aren’t pretty, and he shot just 29 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore. Outside of Mitchell, Thomas – who has worked out for the Thunder and Wizards, among others – is the most likely of the six to be drafted highest, but he looks to be in need of some major polishing – potentially in the D-League – before he’s ready for the NBA.
McKinney-Jones attended South Milwaukee High School before committing to play for the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He played just two seasons for the Kangaroos before opting to transfer to the University of Miami. He was largely overshadowed this season by the likes of Kenny Kadji, Shane Larkin and Reggie Johnson on Miami’s talent-rich squad, but McKinney-Jones emerged as the team’s premiere 3-point threat. His size (6-5) and style of play conjure up memories of former Bucks draft pick Doron Lamb. McKinney-Jones knocked down at least one 3-pointer in 29 of Miami’s 36 games last season and hit 6-of-9 from deep in the team’s ACC Tournament Championship Game victory over North Carolina. His Milwaukee ties were likely a significant part of the reason he was invited to Tuesday’s workout, and his chances of being selected on June 27 are very slim.
Oklahoma’s Pledger is a very similar prospect to McKinney-Jones and the two likely matched up in competitive drills Tuesday. The 6-4, 220-pound senior is primarily a jump shooter who thrives shooting off the catch, as well as off the dribble. He does much of his work coming off of screens, with a quick release that enables him to shoot over defenders. After a very impressive junior season (16.2 points, 42 percent 3-point percentage), Pledger’s numbers took a dip across the board, as he saw his scoring average fall to 11.6 points per game and his field goal shooting drop to 41 percent. Like McKinney-Jones, Pledger is not likely to be selected, but his catch-and-shoot ability could land him a summer league invite.