Should the Milwaukee Bucks keep or trade their first round pick?

Mjs Bucks22 Bucks Sisti Desisti 8413
Mjs Bucks22 Bucks Sisti Desisti 8413 /

Even with the 2022 NBA Draft about a month or so away, there has already been a lot of discussion and debate among Milwaukee Bucks fans as to what the team should do with its first-round pick at number 24.

Admittedly, I’m biased on this because I love the draft, love young players, and want the Bucks to use their pick to get cheap, young talent. Milwaukee hasn’t used a first-rounder since the 2018 draft with Donte DiVincenzo and their history of first-round picks between DiVincenzo and Giannis Antetokounmpo is a gross.

Still, there’s a worthy debate to be had about the philosophy of a championship-contending team using its draft pick to select a young player or as a trade asset to acquire a more established player. I see both sides and I’d like to lay out the reasoning and thought process for both as well as some potential flaws in either option.

The case for the Milwaukee Bucks to keep their 2022 first-round pick

I’ll start with keeping the pick because that’s the side I’m on so I’ll get my little bias out of the way first.

Heading into the 2021-22 season, the Bucks were the third oldest team on average at 27.9 years old. That only got worse when Wesley Matthews was signed, Georgios Kalaitzakis (remember him?) was waived, and they traded Donte DiVincenzo for Serge Ibaka.

Matthews and George Hill are candidates to return next year and both will be 36 when the season starts, Brook Lopez will be 34, and Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday will be 31 and 32 respectively. Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis, and Grayson Allen are all around the same age in their mid-to-late 20s while Pat Connaughton will be 30 in 2023.

They need an infusion of young talent in the worst way. DiVincenzo was their best young asset and he was moved for Lopez insurance. It’s also clear that they have been trying to add younger role players around Antetokounmpo’s age to match his timeline.

I understand the idea that they need to maximize their window now while Antetokounmpo is in his prime. He’s at the peak of his powers and adding a 19-year-old who won’t contribute meaningfully doesn’t help that “win-now” mentality.

At the same time, we’ve talked a lot about how the Bucks’ resources are limited for adding impact players since they traded a bunch of draft picks for Holiday (which I supported then and support still). Trading the pick for someone like Eric Gordon doesn’t move the needle enough. Look at teams like the San Antonio Spurs and how they were able to nail their late first-round picks to add impact rotation talent. It’s unlikely that the player you could acquire for the 24th overall pick in the draft (plus other assets to match salaries) would move the needle as much as hitting on a draft pick could.

Milwaukee has very little cap or asset flexibility, why would you turn down a chance to get an impact rotation player that will be on a rookie contract for four seasons?

Well, let’s look at why you wouldn’t take this option!

The case for the Milwaukee Bucks to trade their 2022 first-round pick

You wouldn’t do it because if the player doesn’t hit and make the rotation (which is definitely not a guarantee with the 24th pick in the draft), then you’re left with a non-rotation player who has no trade value to supplement your superstar in his prime.

A draft pick at any spot is a lottery ticket and the odds of you winning the lottery only get worse the further down you go in the draft. There have been some very good players taken at 24th overall: Terry Porter in 1985, Kyle Lowry in 2006, Sam Cassell in 1993, Andrei Kirilenko in 1999. But there is also its fair share of players who did nothing. Tyler Lydon in 2017, Jared Cunningham in 2012, and Damion James in 2010.

Why risk getting a player who can’t contribute or may take a year or two to crack the rotation when you can get a rotation player right away?

If a team wants to trade back into the first round to get a player that they like and you can get someone like P.J. Washington, that’s better than drafting someone you hope can become as good as Washington (or whatever player you want to instead).

Any time there’s a discussion about prospects, I’m always reminded of Peter Griffin taking the mystery box over the boat. Sure, P.J. Washington is P.J. Washington but the draft prospect could be anything! He could even be P.J. Washington!

The Bucks’ roster is built to win right now and they need to maximize every opportunity that they can to win while they’re squarely in Antetokounmpo’s prime. You can’t overhaul the roster overnight and make the core pieces younger, what is one draft pick going to change?

The front office hasn’t had the best process in getting to the point of becoming a championship contender and has Antetokounmpo and Middleton’s brilliance as well as their work ethic to thank for developing into franchise cornerstones.

They need to take advantage while they can because there are never guarantees in the NBA and winning even one championship is incredibly hard. It would be incredibly foolish to waste a year or two of Antetokounmpo’s prime by waiting for a young player to develop into something you hope can help him and the core down the road.

All in all, neither philosophy is wrong in my view. Both have their merits and both have their drawbacks. I’d rather have this problem than wonder how the Bucks could get their hands on a superstar or superstar-adjacent player to put them into contender status.

I was already going to be interested in the Bucks’ offseason but having this type of roster-building philosophy conundrum will make it all the more fascinating to see how they approach using this pick.

Next. Ranking the Milwaukee Bucks 3 biggest needs in 2022 NBA Draft. dark

The Milwaukee Bucks, thankfully, already have the most important piece to the championship puzzle and only need to find the right pieces to fill in around the edges.