Milwaukee Bucks' potential top picks bring different strengths

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By Charles F. Gardner
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NEW YORK--Defense or offense?

Take your pick.

If the Milwaukee Bucks wind up with Andrew Wiggins in the NBA draft Thursday, they will be getting an outstanding defensive player with plenty of athletic ability. His offensive game remains a work in progress.

If they wind up with Jabari Parker at the No. 2 selection, they will be getting a polished offensive player, a scoring threat in the post. His defense? Not so much.

Both players have much to recommend as they vie to be the top overall pick in the draft. But they are quite different and how their skills fit may be the ultimate factor in the Cleveland Cavaliers' decision at the top of the draft.

The Cavaliers selected power forward Anthony Bennett with the top pick in the 2013 draft and the former Nevada-Las Vegas player struggled for most of the season.

Cleveland also has Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao to play at power forward, so would the Cavaliers take Parker? The 6-foot-8 freshman from Duke can play both forward positions and is considered the most NBA-ready of the top prospects.

Wiggins, some experts say, has the most potential to be a superstar.

“That's for people to talk about and write about,” Bucks general manager John Hammond said Tuesday. “I think they're different players to a certain extent and even different people to a certain extent. I think both of them have a chance to be really special players in this league.

“To kind of compare the two as to who could be the best at the end of the day, once again, time will tell. I think they both have those kinds of goals and aspirations to be the best.”

The Bucks have to wait on Cleveland before making their pick but have to be ready for any scenario.

Hammond indicated they would be, while refusing to rule out Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid, who suffered a fractured bone in his right foot and underwent surgery Friday.

“I think we have to still keep all of our options open,” Hammond said. “I think this is more than a two-man draft and I think it's going to prove to be that. It was talked about being a three-man draft before Joe (Embiid) got hurt and I think that's still the case. I think it was more than a three-man draft at that time and I think it's more than a two-man draft today.”

Both Parker and Wiggins have worked out for the Bucks, in addition to Australian point guard Dante Exum.

Hammond acknowledged the team is receiving plenty of phone calls from teams looking to move up in the draft.

“It's been significant,” Hammond said. “There's considerable interest in the pick as well there should be.”

The 6-8 Wiggins could slide in at shooting guard or small forward for the Bucks but plays a similar position to 6-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“I think that these guys are multiple-position guys helps that discussion,” Hammond said. “For that matter, I think Giannis is going to be a multiple-position player some day. He came last September he was 6-9, 190 (pounds) and today he's almost 6-11, 217 pounds.

“I think Giannis is a guy that, at his size, is going to be able to play some small forward and he's going to play some power forward some day.”

Parker also can play both forward spots. His ability to score in multiple ways is appealing, even though he will have to learn to defend quicker players in the NBA. He reportedly weighed 254 pounds at the Bucks workout, but Hammond said Tuesday the 19-year-old is in “great shape.”

“The interesting thing about a guy like Jabari is that he's got the big body, he can go in on the post, but he's got offensive skills and can play on the perimeter, too,” Hammond said.

The 19-year-old Wiggins has worked to improve his ball handling and shooting.

He had highs and lows at Kansas, producing a 41-point game against West Virginia but struggling to a four-point showing in a season-ending loss to Stanford in the NCAA Tournament.

Parker, too, had great moments and not-so-stellar ones. But both players showed enough to keep themselves at the top of a deep draft.

“It's such a great chance for us to maybe get a piece that I think our fans will be able to attach themselves to, they'll love watching play,” Hammond said. “And they'll see that potential that this player can be a difference-maker as we move forward.”

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