Bucks pick Alexander in No. 8 spot of draft
But Alexander’s freakish abilities were too much to pass up.
“We thought eight was kind of his high range a little bit, to be honest with you,” Bucks general manager John Hammond said. “Word got out we liked him. We didn’t really say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ too much, but to put it out there to say we like a guy didn’t bother us at all. He was our guy, and he ended up being there for us.”
Still, Hammond said he was a little scared to see the rave reviews the West Virginia forward got the day before the draft.
“You pick up the paper today and you see ‘Joe is great’ or whatever, and it’s kind of like ’Ew, I hope other media outlets aren’t reading that,’ ” Hammond said. “But it worked out OK for us. We’re happy to have him.”
The Bucks obviously wanted Alexander, and a reporter saw the lanky forward return for a second interview on a quiet day at the team facility. Head coach Scott Skiles tried to play coy, but knew it’d been discovered.
Alexander, who’ll likely play the power forward and small forward positions, grew quickly on the Bucks, who need someone with tenacity and the desire to do anything necessary to win.
“My long-term goals are to blossom into a small forward and also a versatile defender,” Alexander said.
With their second-round pick, the Bucks selected 6-foot-8 forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute with the 37th overall selection. The 21-year-old Mbah a Moute, of Yaounde, Cameroon, played at UCLA for three seasons and reached the Final Four each time, averaging 8.8 points and 6.0 rebounds his junior season.
The 6-foot-8 Alexander played sparingly his freshman year at West Virginia, but impressed new coach Bob Huggins and became a legitimate scoring threat his junior year.
“The main thing is that I fit well with the coaching style here. It’s similar to what I saw in college,” Alexander said. “I do see myself competing for minutes.”
When he was tested at a pre-draft camp, Alexander had the best vertical leap among players his size and tied for seventh overall at more than 38 inches. He also completed 24 repetitions at 185 pounds on the bench press, second best among all players at the pre-draft camp.
“He’s kind of a freakish athlete,” Hammond said. “Great finisher, plays way above the rim. Shoots the ball well. He shoots the ball well right now from about 15 to 18 feet, maybe that 20-foot range, and I don’t think there’s any question whatsoever he’s going to be able to extend his range some day.”
Hammond likened Alexander’s potential range to that of Magic Johnson, who worked on extending it over his career.
“(Alexander) can put the ball on the floor one or two dribbles in that 15-foot range and rise above people and get a shot off almost any time he wants, but that extra lift can affect your range,” Hammond said. “If you kind of remember the old Magic Johnson days, finally when Magic started shooting a three-point shot, he shot an actual set shot.
“I’m not saying Joe’s going to do that, but he’ll have to adjust his shot a little bit.”
Alexander, 21, averaged 16.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in his final season in West Virginia, while the Bucks had their worst season since 1996 by finishing 26-56 in last place in the Central Division.
“I’m going to bring toughness. I’m going to bring someone who is committed to the game and wants to win, and hopefully I’m going to bring a lot more wins to the Bucks,” Alexander said immediately after the pick.
Born in Taiwan after his father worked overseas, Alexander also spent time in China and Hong Kong over the first eight years of his life. Alexander will become the first Taiwanese-born player to play in the NBA in the fall.
“He was a guy that we’ve been coveting for a few days,” Hammond said. “We liked him, liked him an awful lot. Just a lot of positive things about him.”
Hammond, who took over after Larry Harris was let go in March, wanted to make a big splash in his first draft as general manager, and completed it hours before the draft started by sending Yi Jianlian, the Bucks’ first draft pick last season, and Bobby Simmons to New Jersey for scoring forward Richard Jefferson.
But the Bucks had to take on more salary to do it. The second all-time scorer in Nets franchise history, Jefferson, who averaged 22.6 points per game last year, has three years and $42.4 million left on his contract.
He gives the Bucks a veteran leader to go along with Michael Redd, and Hammond planned to reach out to his sharpshooting guard on Thursday night about the newest acquisition.
“I’m just kind of excited to have a player like that,” Hammond said. “We inherited a little bit of a salary predicament coming into this job and really what we’ve done today has not changed anything we’ve done for the next two seasons. In the third season, we will have an issue to deal with, but I think by that time, we’ll have plenty of flexibility to move some pieces, if necessary.”