Ranking young Milwaukee Bucks players based on potential after NBA Draft

The Bucks are forming a young core.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Milwaukee Bucks
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No. 1: AJ Johnson

This may not be a popular pick for number one, nor was he a popular pick when the Milwaukee Bucks selected him 23rd overall in the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft. However, the more time this writer sits with this pick and the more that is learned about him, the more exciting it gets.

First off, his weight is low, which has been a prominent concern. However, Johnson's size is nearly identical to that of a prominent guard in the NBA in Dejounte Murray.

AJ Johnson measured just over 6-foot-4 without shoes, 167 pounds with a 6-foot-8.5 (the seventh-longest of all guards measured at the NBA Combine) wingspan. Dejounte Murray wasn't at the NBA Combine, but at the Nike Skills Academy in 2014, before being drafted, he measured in at 6-foot-5, 170 pounds with a 6-foot-9.5 wingspan.

All this said, there is certainly a precedent for players his size coming into the NBA. It's also pretty fair to assume that he'll add weight at the NBA level; just look at what Giannis Antetokounmpo has done. While no one is expecting Johnson to add 50 pounds of muscle, if he could add, say, 25 pounds, he'd be very nearly the size of John Wall, who measured 6-foot-4, 195 when he came into the league.

The potential for AJ Johnson is a bit more of a hybrid between Murray and Wall, whereas his size is more similar to Murray but his skill set is more similar to that of Wall. Johnson possesses some insane athleticism for a player his size, boasting a 38-inch vertical.

AJ Johnson put his athleticism on display when he got the chance in the NBL last year, and similarly to draftmate Tyler Smith, he said that opting out of attending Texas to play professionally gave him a leg up in his development by playing against pro players as opposed to college peers.

What he gives the Bucks is an instant shot in the arm of speed and athleticism in the transition game. He is a pass-first player with combo guard potential. Too many people are looking at his stats and saying things like, "Oh, he averaged 2.4 points; he has to be trash," instead of actually watching some of his film and looking at the skills he possesses.

His speed plus long strides chew up open court in a big hurry, something that the Milwaukee Bucks struggled with on both ends last season. Johnson has some pretty good court vision and can deliver some highlight reel passes.

Not only is he a good passer, but he's got some good dribbling skills as well, something that could potentially help the Bucks as early as this year. Everyone has seen the team forced to use non-point guards to bring the ball up the floor far too often.

As previously mentioned, Johnson is insanely athletic, but he is so smooth with his explosiveness, which makes him a threat to cut off the ball and create problems for the opposing defense by finishing at the rim, sometimes with big dunks or finding kick-outs against collapsing defenses. With how the Bucks use the "dunker area" to collapse defenses, having a good passer who can get to those areas quickly with athleticism is a great thing to have.

Interestingly, AJ Johnson has been working out with Houston Rockets' budding star Jalen Green since the eighth grade. It doesn't add to his potential, but he has been working with NBA talent for essentially five years.

All in all, AJ Johnson gets the nod for the top spot in potential partially due to his age, but majorly because of the athleticism, dribbling and passing prowess he already possesses with the flashes of also being a solid shooter. He could grow to be a super athletic combo guard who can shoot threes and dunk on people.

Picking Johnson at 23 instantly made the Milwaukee Bucks a younger and more athletic team, two things they desperately needed.