Another Mid-Round Steal: Rashad Vaughn Looks Like Milwaukee’s Latest Star


Rashad Vaughn shouldn’t be a Milwaukee Buck right now. He’d never say it, because he’s far too modest, but there’s no way Vaughn should’ve fallen all the way to Milwaukee at pick 17 in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft. He’s just too good to not be a lottery pick.

More from Bucks News

To make sure my suspicions on Vaughn were right I talked to one of the men who knows his game better than anyone else. Todd Simon recruited Vaughn to both Findlay Prep and UNLV, and spent last season coaching him and watching him play basketball practically daily.

Simon, currently the UNLV Associate Head Coach, has nothing but the utmost praise and respect for the rookie. Simon told me that he really believes Vaughn would’ve went higher than 17 overall if not for a torn meniscus, suffered in a February game against Fresno State.

Simon went on to say he was actually pretty impressed Vaughn went as high as he did, considering his injury–he said Vaughn being drafted by the Bucks “goes to show the character of his workouts and the development of his game while he was here [at UNLV]”.

Many Bucks fans and writers didn’t expect Vaughn to have much of a role initially in his first NBA season, but from what we’ve seen from the dynamic wing thus far it’s going to be hard to keep him off of the court.

Jason Kidd threw young Rashad into the fire in his first ever pre-season game, giving him the start against a strong Chicago Bulls team.

“I don’t bet against those guys that are that talented and have that mindset and that ability.” – Todd Simon

Rashad seemed to fit in well with the team right away in Chicago however. He even led the team’s pregame huddle.

Vaughn was lined up against Bulls’ star Jimmy Butler, but he didn’t let that–or the fact that he would be starting the game, his first with the Bucks (aside from Summer League, which doesn’t count anyway)–affect him in any negative way.

In his 35 minutes against Chicago, Vaughn dropped 20 points, three rebounds and two assists. He was efficient as well, shooting 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point territory. The rook led the Bucks in scoring in his debut. The big stage didn’t faze him.

In fact, the big stage probably made him even better. According to Simon:

"Confidence is never an issue with Rashad…he believes in himself and is willing to bet on himself."

Simon went on to further explain Vaughn’s mindset, which should have Bucks fans very excited about his future in Milwaukee:

"I told a lot of teams throughout the [draft] process, that hey, just know that the kid’s going to put the work in. He believes in his process and his work ethic, and I don’t bet against those guys that are that talented and have that mindset and that ability. I think the best is still to come, I think he’s really figuring it out as he goes and there’s no question that he’s put the time in and he’s starting to see the early results, but I think he sees the big picture as well."

Vaughn himself spoke a bit on figuring out his game as he goes along as part of this excellent article by Charles Gardner. Although playing NBA level competition would seem to be a major adjustment, Vaughn handled it with his usual cool demeanor:

"It’s basketball and I’ve been playing this all my life. Once I took my first shot, it was comfortable after that.You’ve always just got to get that one shot up or that one moment in, and everything goes back to normal. Now it’s each day trying to get more confidence in myself."

It’s readily apparent that Vaughn is not going to have many confidence issues on either end of the spectrum–he knows that he can make shots and score, but he doesn’t seem to be egotistical or selfish at all.

“He’s driven to be good, and he wants to win–he’s a super competitor.” – Todd Simon

Attitude is just as crucial to prospects panning out in the NBA as skill is, and sometimes it’s even more important. Larry Sanders (who probably isn’t going to play for Dallas) had tons of talent and potential, but he simply didn’t have it in him to want to go out there and compete.

Vaughn definitely doesn’t have that problem, as evidenced by Simon’s description of Vaughn’s motivation:

"He’s mature beyond his years. He’s driven to be good–any time you’re coaching him, he’s driven to be good, and he wants to win–he’s a super competitor. It makes a world of difference. He’s an easy one to push and he’s inherently a good kid."

Todd Simon isn’t the only coach to praise Vaughn recently, either. Jason Kidd made sure to make note of some of the same things about Rashad that Simon did, when he spoke to Gardner after the Detroit game:

"Making shots, he’s not one to celebrate. He just does his job. Every shot looks like a good shot, and he’ll learn what’s a good shot and a bad shot. He just plays the game. Make a mistake, he moves on to the next moment. When he does well, it’s not as if he needs the whole world to know. He just keeps playing. That’s what really stuck out for us when we saw him working out."

Coaches that have worked with Rashad Vaughn all feel the same way about him–he’s got the right attitude, he’s a good kid, and he’s very driven. Those things, combined with his ability to score the ball in impressive fashion, are what gives him such a chance to be something special in the Association.

“We’re going to be dealing with him for a long time in the league.” – Stan Van Gundy

But it’s not just his coaches that are impressed by Vaughn–other NBA minds have taken notice too. After his team beat the Bucks, Pistons’ Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Stan Van Gundy also took time to recognize Vaughn’s potential when talking with Gardner:

"We’re going to be dealing with him for a long time in the league. He’s got a quick release and can really, really shoot the ball."

Van Gundy isn’t one to say something he doesn’t wholeheartedly mean either, especially when it’s about an opposing player. The respect for Rashad Vaughn is very much real, and it’s well-earned.

Oct 6, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Rashad Vaughn (20) dribbles the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not as much about the numbers right now, because this is pre-season basketball. But things like maturity, composure and obvious shooting ability won’t just disappear once the games start counting.

It’s not just shooting in Vaughn’s arsenal though. Simon made sure to note that Rashad plays both sides of the ball well, and that his rebounding (Vaughn averaged nearly five boards per game at UNLV) helps him to create fast-break opportunities.

And as he showed with a great inside move against the Pistons, Vaughn can do a lot of exciting things with the basketball even besides his three-point shooting and running the break.

Right now Rashad Vaughn is a far more complete player than most expected. There will still be an unavoidable rookie learning curve, but Vaughn’s potential and his level of play already show that he’s got a great opportunity to be a very good player in the NBA, and for a long time too.

Sep 28, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Rashad Vaughn (20) poses during media day at Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

He was seen by many as a reach by the Bucks on draft night–the latest mock draft done by DraftExpress had him and Portis flip-flopped, with Portis coming to Milwaukee and Vaughn heading to Chicago. But any Bucks fans that remain disappointed in that decision will probably change their tune in the coming weeks.

Taking the low-ceiling, high-floor guys in the draft is a nice way to get complementary players, but it doesn’t win championships. Swinging for the fences on guys like Vaughn–and Giannis Antetokounmpo–are the kinds of gambles that can turn a franchise’s fortunes around.

Rashad Vaughn is a star in the making. He has the ability and the mindset to make himself a premier player in the Association, and Milwaukee is lucky to have him. Vaughn is going to make John Hammond look like a genius–yet again–by taking a risk to draft him when safer picks existed.

Next: Q&A With Franchise Legend And Broadcaster Marques Johnson

More from Behind the Buck Pass