One of the more interesting things about my time in school was the daily race towards the front of the lunch line. While I wasn’t part of this daily herd of teenagers who raced for the first piece of school pizza, I was always curious at that competition. Perhaps the intrigue of having a whole world (of mediocre lunch food) in front of your hands far outweighed the potential embarrassment.
The art of the “tank” is a similar action as you have a swarm of NBA organizations who are willing to have a season (or seasons) filled with embarrassment to have the opportunity to have the opportunity to pick possible fit for your team. As we move passed the halfway point of the season, Milwaukee is the surefire favorite to land the 1st overall pick during May’s NBA Draft Lottery as they would most likely have a 25% chance to take the top spot.
After a decade-long battle with mediocrity, having an opportunity to grab a potentially franchise changing player is the kind of change Milwaukee needs to turn their franchise around for the better. As there are a bevy of potential superstar talent in the 2014 draft, Kansas big Joel Embiid is quickly elevating himself into the top of the mock draft rungs by overtaking Duke forward Jabari Parker and fellow Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins.
As we move closer to the upcoming offseason, the forces of Milwaukee’s continued struggles combined with Embiid’s dominance of the Big 12 has lead to a potentially franchise changing question. What should the Bucks do with their frontcourt trio (Ilyasova, Sanders and Henson) if they can potentially grab Joel Embiid?
Before we answer that particular question, let’s take a look at how Embiid has made his way to the top of an extremely solid draft class.
As a former Cameroonian volleyball prodigy, the 7 foot Embiid didn’t start playing organized ball until 2011 when he made his journey over to the US. Despite his relative inexperience, Embiid has developed his overall game in a quicker period of time than any prospect since Hakeem Olajuwon.
Similar to Olajuwon, Embiid has made a huge impact at an early age because of his solid abilities from both ends of the court. Similar to current Bucks center Larry Sanders, Embiid is able to utilize his extremely solid 7’6 wingspan and quick feet to become one of the better defensive bigs in the NCAA. With an extremely solid 5 blocks per 40 minutes, Embiid is an intimidating force to the slew of Big 12 guards who dare to cut to the rim.
While Embiid makes a huge impact on the defensive end, the draft value has risen because of his increasingly improving skills on the offensive end. For a player who’s only been playing organized ball for two years, Embiid is becoming an extremely polished offensive weapon on a deep Kansas Jayhawks team. Utilizing his solid footwork and 7’6 wingspan, Embiid is a bonafide low-post threat who can lace up a jump hook with both hands while being able to work around the post defender to make his way to the rim.
As we move away from the rim, Embiid showcases his lack of experience as he has an extremely raw perimeter game. That shouldn’t be surprising an extremely raw big to struggle from the perimeter when he’s spent the majority of his basketball career developing his work in the low-post. With that said, Embiid showcases a pretty nice shooting stroke which has lead to an 66% FT% which is an extremely solid percentage when you consider the fact that he’s only been playing organized ball for three years.
Would those aforementioned skills be enough to change the current landscape of Milwaukee’s front-court? In terms of overall fit, the perimeter minded Ersan Ilyasova would be a solid front-court partner besides Embiid while John Henson is just an all-around solid player. As you might be able to tell from this piece, I’m a huge supporter of Henson and his potential future with the Bucks. While Henson and Embiid share similar traits, they’re both extremely solid players who can be effective on both ends of the court.
With Henson and Ilyasova both being able to fit next to Embiid, that leaves Sanders as the lone man out. While Sanders has showcased himself as an extremely solid defensive big, his skills on the offensive end is not nearly at the level of the aforementioned Henson or Ilyasova. Even though Sanders has definitely filled an extremely important niche as Milwaukee’s defensive stopper, an addition of Embiid would basically make those skills obsolete.
With that fact that in mind, Sanders could be a potentially intriguing but yet expensive trade piece for the Bucks if they’re looking to separate from the four-year veteran. Sanders’ newly minted four year, $44 million deal will be fully implemented during the 2014-15 season which would put him in a similar pay scale as the likes of Serge Ibaka and Joakim Noah who have been compared to the Bucks big. Those comparisons have pretty much vanished as he’s having an extremely rough 2013-14 season both on and off the court. That current rough patch has more than likely placed the potential trade value of Sanders at an all-time low.
With that in mind, Sanders is still working his way back from a nagging hand injury that he suffered earlier in the season so his level of play may start to rise as the season goes on. If that does happen, Sanders could return to a role as an expensive but yet valuable trade piece. While Sanders is pretty raw on the offensive end, his specific niche as a defensive stopper is an incredibly value asset that many NBA teams would be clamoring for. Of course, Sanders would have to return to his 2012-13 form if Milwaukee wants a high value return in a potential deal.
As we near next month’s trade deadline and even the 2014 NBA draft in June, the questions surrounding Sanders and Embiid will start to fall in place. Could Embiid be the next Bucks great to push the team in the new generation? Or will Sanders stay in Milwaukee’s three headed front-court monster with the team looking to go into a separate direction? Those questions will most likely when Adam Silver picks out the ping pong balls during May’s Draft Lottery to see which team will be in the front of the NBA lunch line.