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Hammond sweats over Bucks’ pick

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Associated Press
June 24, 2010
— When the Milwaukee Bucks took point guard Brandon Jennings last year, it turned out to be a transformative moment for one of the league’s worst franchises.

Now instead of being thought of as a doormat, the Bucks are coming off a playoff appearance and looking to get better with the No. 15 overall pick and a handful of second-rounders in tonight’s NBA draft.


Bucks general manager John Hammond said last season’s success gave the team a sense of confidence, but he’s also aware that expectations will be much higher going into next season.


“I think there is an air of confidence to a certain extent,” Hammond said. “I always say that the coaches and the players have to have that confidence, that’s what makes them who and what they are. For me? Tons of anxiety and concern. Because we raised the bar on ourselves. Last year at this time, people weren’t expecting us to be who and what we became. We’ve done that now. We won 46 regular season games, we became a playoff team. So it’s, ‘What have you done for us lately?”‘


Hammond made a significant move to improve already this week, acquiring scoring small forward Corey Maggette in a trade with the Golden State Warriors. Hammond also got a second-round pick for sending guard Charlie Bell and center Dan Gadzuric to the Warriors.


In terms of his draft strategy, Hammond says he’ll stick to taking the best player available instead of reaching to fill an immediate need because the Bucks still need a little bit of everything.


With John Salmons expected to test the free agent market by opting out of his contract, and Michael Redd’s status uncertain coming off his second straight season-ending knee injury, shooting guard could be a priority.


The Bucks also would like a big man to back up Andrew Bogut.


“If it addresses a need, so be it,” Hammond said. “But in reality, any player that we pick, I think, is going to address a need.”


Several mock drafts have the Bucks taking a shooting guard, either Kansas’ Xavier Henry or Oklahoma State’s James Anderson. Butler small forward Gordon Hayward also is a popular projection, though Maggette’s arrival could change that.


Hammond said the team has identified three to five players it likes, and expects at least one of them to be there when their pick comes up.


“There’s a chance that all of them could be gone,” Hammond said. “If that’s the case, then we probably go into a scramble at 15. But if one of those players are there, I think we walk away from the draft and feel good about it.”


Hammond will be thrilled if he and his scouting staff can strike gold again, like they did with Jennings last year.


“What Brandon meant to us for this past season was fantastic,” Hammond said. “We appreciate him so much, the fact that he came in and started 89 games for us this year and helped us win, first and foremost, and was one of the top rookies in the NBA. Hey, the draft is the draft. You take it for what it is, and it is an inexact science. We did have a good get last year in Brandon and if we’re fortunate to do something like that at 15, we’d obviously be thrilled.”


The Bucks also have three second-round picks going into Thursday’s draft, although there is speculation that at least one of them could be dealt before the draft.


“Second-round picks are assets,” Hammond said. “Some people think they’re kind of throw-ins on deals, but for us, they’re much more than a throw-in. They’re always an asset to us and they do have value.”



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