In the eyes of most observers, Peyton Siva has come a long way since, as a 10-year-old, he fell to the floor crying because he could not break the press of a bigger, more developed player. With that picture in mind, it is coincidental, possibly even serendipitous, that Siva played four years for a Louisville program dictated by the full-court press and, in his senior season, was the heart of a national championship-winning team. Rarely is there a rabid crowd of suitors for an undersized, 22-year-old point guard when it comes time for the NBA Draft, but Siva’s performance in his final season improved his standing and he will very likely be available when the Milwaukee Bucks pick at No. 43 in the second round.
The Bucks have a need at point guard whether the incumbent Brandon Jennings leaves within the next two seasons or decides to stay with the franchise for another contractual go-around. Siva is neither the most lauded player in his position nor the point guard with the highest ceiling in the draft. However, Siva has a do-or-die mentality and the rare ability to motivate his teammates beyond the usual “rah-rah” of a role player.
He’s no slouch as far as basketball particulars go, either. Surrounded with a solid big man (Gorgui Dieng) and a reliable backcourt partner (Russ Smith), Siva averaged 5.7 assists per game — equating to 7.3 per 40 minutes — against opponents in the Big East, widely regarded as college basketball’s most competitive conference. As a sophomore, Siva put up an average of 9.9 points in 27.9 minutes per night (14.2 points per 40) before scaling back his production to defer to other scorers. This number belies the point guard’s 6’1″ frame and can be attributed to two things: his basketball IQ and his outstanding athleticism. Siva was the undisputed leader of his Cardinals teams as a junior and senior, having developed a nuanced feel for a team’s most base needs of a point guard. Posting a thorough 47.6 percent from two-point territory, Siva uses his first-step quickness to build a head of steam before adjusting as necessary and exploding near the rim using a 41.5″ maximum vertical leap to finish well on the interior despite being on the small side. Refining his three-pointer (28.8 percent as a senior) is a must, even if the improvement is slight, and his overall jump shot could use work if he is to thrive in the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop offenses prevalent with the Bucks and in the NBA at large, but Siva has proven to be a dedicated student willing to learn and take on whatever role necessary to improve his team, as witnessed by his decreased turnovers from his junior (4.3 per 40 minutes pace adjusted) to senior (3.3) seasons.
An uptempo offense would suit Siva best, making Siva intsomething along the lines of a Ty Lawson-lite (if clunky comparisons are your thing). The Bucks’ current rotation of big men would hypothetically mesh well with the Louisville product, as Siva is very effective at finding his partner in the two-man game. The facilitator could inflate the scoring numbers of defensive-minded big men Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh (although this also depends on Udoh learning to catch a basketball) and the prospect of implementing Siva in combination with John Henson is a thing of beauty.
Not to be overlooked, though, is Siva’s ability on defense. Pairing him with Sanders in limited minutes, assuming Siva fills the role of a reserve, could give opposing teams fits. The same quickness on which Siva’s offense is predicated comes in useful when he moves laterally to defend other point guards and his already slight stature allows him to move into low stances through which he can do one of the things at which he most adept: pick pockets. Playing in Louisville’s full-court press certainly gave him extra opportunities to force turnovers, but his 2.8 steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted is nothing to take for granted. While some of the steals were created by the very nature of the full-court press, much of Siva’s success in this category can be attributed to his craftiness and anticipation of an opponent’s dribble.
Siva is rough around the edges — edges which will never be much different physically, as the 22-year-old is not likely to hit another growth spurt. He gambles on both ends and, while it typically translates into success on defense, most facets of his offensive game leave much to be desired, though he excels in certain situations such as finding teammates and creating a path to the rim. Though No. 43 is a high spot to take Siva, it is not out of the question for John Hammond to trade back if he sees something in the former Cardinal that entices him.
There is nothing wrong with projecting Siva a career back-up because if that tag is attached to him even before his turn on the NBA Draft stage, Siva will be pushing to eclipse those goals set for him. He will attack them tenaciously and provide a jolt of energy for the teammates sharing his bench. If those do not sound like qualities that could be useful for the Bucks — or any sports team at any level of competition — then count Siva out. He won’t do it himself, though.