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Bucks keep losing, eye No. 1 overall pick

Jacob westendorf , Sports Writer, Commentary
April 8, 2014
Filed under Sports

A famous coach in Wisconsin once coined the phrase, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” Former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s quote, which was made famous during his time with the team in the 1960s, is something that has been referred to by coaches constantly throughout the years.

For this year’s Milwaukee Bucks, however, they had to take on a different mentality. With a roster full of holes and a deep draft class coming in, the Bucks had to go against the words of Lombardi. They had to lose to ensure themselves a top pick so they could add one of the top stars entering June’s NBA Draft, to go with center Larry Sanders and the raw but talented rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Bucks have put together a good roster to do so, and currently hold a sizable advantage over the Philadelphia 76ers for the worst record in basketball. They assembled a roster at the beginning of the season likely with the hopes that the season would turn out just like it has.

Losing short term, or what’s commonly referred to in the NBA as “tanking,” to gain long term is not a new practice.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have practically perfected the practice since LeBron James left for Miami in 2010. In the process, the NBA Draft Lottery has rewarded them with the first pick in the draft in two separate years. One of those years they were able to draft a player, Kyrie Irving, who has made an immense impact on the team.

This year’s draft class contains players who are even better prospects than Irving, which is good news for the star-hungry Bucks.

If the Bucks are able to finish with the worst record in the NBA, that would guarantee them one of the top four picks, in addition to a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick. If they’re able to do so, there are plenty of big-time prospects to choose from.

The No. 1 prospect on ESPN’s big board is Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins. Despite some claims that he struggled this season, Wiggins was one of the top players in the country, averaging 17 points per game and just less than six rebounds. Wiggins declared that he intended to turn pro a week after the Jayhawks’ season ended at the hands of the No. 10 seed Stanford Cardinal.

The debate raging among NBA circles is between Wiggins and Duke forward Jabari Parker, who hasn’t yet declared his intentions on whether he will go pro. In fact, some NBA scouts have said they believe Parker could return to Duke for his sophomore season after a disappointing finish in the NCAA tournament.

Parker was the most polished freshman in the country this past season, scoring at a 19 points-per-game clip and adding just less than nine rebounds per game.

Other options for the Bucks could include Kansas center Joel Embiid, Kentucky power forward Julius Randle or Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart.

Embiid was arguably Kansas’ best player during the regular season before he missed the latter part of the year with a back injury. Embiid, like Parker, has not announced his intentions as of yet, but if he goes pro he would be a top prospect in the draft. The Bucks could pair him with Sanders and give them a frontcourt with plenty of size to defend the rim.

With Kentucky’s struggles early in the year, Julius Randle became the forgotten man among the star freshmen. There’s little doubt now that he’s one of the top players coming into the draft. He’s big and versatile. His game has been compared to Memphis forward Zach Randolph, with better ball handling and superior athleticism. He would give the Bucks a different dimension.

A fourth possibility is Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart. Smart came under fire during the regular season when he was involved in an incident that included him shoving a fan. Despite all the negative attention, Smart was one of the best point guards in college basketball. He’s big and able to create his own shot, while distributing to his teammates and making them better. He would give the Bucks a point guard that could potentially help them combat the modern age point guards such as Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, or Chicago’s Derrick Rose.

The Bucks have certainly not been successful in terms of winning games this season, but their lack of success could pay huge dividends going forward if they are able to score one of these prospects in June’s NBA draft.