Will the Milwaukee Bucks buy a second round pick on draft night?

Entering Thursday with just the 17th overall pick, will the Milwaukee Bucks look to buy their way into the second round of the NBA Draft?

The Milwaukee Bucks’ second round pick for the 2018 NBA Draft was in the news on Wednesday, although you could certainly be forgiven if you didn’t notice that.

The Bucks sent what ended up being the 45th pick to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Tyler Zeller prior to the trade deadline, as injury issues and a lack of depth since the early season trade of Greg Monroe left the potential for Milwaukee to be vulnerable at the center position in the playoffs.

As the Nets acquired Dwight Howard on Wednesday, that selection was reported as one of two second rounders headed to Charlotte alongside Timofey Mozgov.

With that selection out of their hands, the question now is whether the Bucks opt to try and add a replacement pick via draft night deals.

The Bucks have had notable success in the second round over the past couple of seasons, landing eventual Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon in 2016, and a solid rotational piece in Sterling Brown last summer.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Bucks general manager Jon Horst at least indicated that there are some appealing prospects in the second round who the Bucks feel could carve out meaningful careers for themselves in the years to come.

“In the second round, I think this is a deep draft. I think there’ll be a handful of players taken in the second round who end up having good NBA careers.”

While the Bucks could look to trade for a pick using players or future picks, in recent years there has been a growing trend of teams being able to buy their way into the second round in exchange for cash considerations.

The Bucks were even sellers in 2016 as the 38th overall pick went to Golden State in exchange for cash, while Milwaukee’s decisions last season even involved some movement, with cash going to Philadelphia in exchange for Brown, and the LA Clippers sending cash to the Bucks for Sindarius Thornwell.

Due to previous transactions involving cash for the Sixers, that Brown trade wasn’t officially finalized until the first week of July last year, and that timing may prove significant on Thursday.

According to Bobby Marks of ESPN, the Bucks will have just $3.3 million to spend on draft night out of the possible $5.2 million that can be used in any given year, due to the nature of that deal for Brown’s rights.

That may still create openings for them to buy into the second round, but it certainly creates the possibility for the Bucks to be outbid too and may even create a ceiling for just how high Milwaukee’s cash can get them in the second round.

The difference between a pick in the 31-40 range and a pick in the 51-60 range is monumental, which is the reason why trading a low-end second rounder is not the same as trading a second rounder if you’re set to pick at the beginning of that round.

If the Bucks want to buy in and can find a taker for their cash in exchange for a pick in the early stages of the second round, that will make trading their own second rounder all the more immaterial in the first place. The problems will arise if the Bucks’ $3.3 million isn’t enough to earn them a look.

Judging by Horst’s quotes, at the very least the Bucks retain a confidence about their ability to identify second round talent.

“I don’t know if we’re scouting that round better than other teams. I think one of the things that we’ve done, and even prior to me being in this position, one of the things we’ve done really well is understand guys’ floors in the second round.

When you try to find a draft pick in the second round, you want to understand what is it they can do at the NBA level. And if they have a skill that they can hang their hat on — whether that’s defense or shooting or rebounding or shot-blocking, whatever that is — and you can say I know they can do that at an NBA level; that’s always given us the confidence in drafting a player like that. And I think we’ve done a really good job identifying that and then pulling the trigger and getting guys like that.”

Of course, even if the Bucks can find a team willing to sell them their pick, the next question is whether there’s a prospect who would make them want to execute such a deal.

Guards like Shake Milton, Jalen Brunson, Landry Shamet, Bruce Brown and Jevon Carter could all be intriguing options, while with a lack of frontcourt options around their spot in the first round, guys like Rodions Kurucs, Kenrich Williams and Chimezie Metu may also draw looks from Milwaukee.

With a new coaching staff famed for development and a cap situation that cries out for cheap, controllable assets, it’s certainly in the Bucks’ interest to look to add a second rounder, now the question is whether they’ll be able to do so.