Personnel needs: high-ceiling talent
Major need: Where do we begin? Any time a team loses 67 games, it's apparent that the needs run deep, but this is the path we've wanted the middle-treading Bucks to take for years. There are two multiyear contracts to young players on the books. One is Larry Sanders' four-year, $44 million extension that begins next season. After a season in which Sanders missed 59 games and was mostly ineffective when he did play, it's safe to say the Bucks won't be offloading that contract anytime soon. With Sanders, the hope is that he can be paired with most big men Milwaukee might acquire, so you don't worry about him blocking anyone, or vice versa. The other contract in question is the two years and $16 million left for O.J. Mayo. Mayo ranked 418th in WARP this past season, so this is another toxic contract. However, a bounce-back season could make him attractive to a team looking for off-the-bench scoring, if the dollars can be absorbed. Either way, his presence will not prevent Milwaukee from taking a shooting guard in the draft.
The Bucks not only have the No. 2 pick, but they also get the first pick of the second round, which is a coveted slot, value-wise. With the first pick, you take the best player on your board, no questions asked. Andrew Wiggins is ideal. Jabari Parker would be a popular pick in Milwaukee, and would have a more immediate impact. Joel Embiid? Sure, there might be fit issues between him and Sanders, and the health history of both would be a concern. But if he's the top talent left when the Bucks pick, they have to take him.
Quiet need: The Bucks were so bad on both ends of the floor that there really aren't any quiet needs. However, the cupboard isn't completely bare. Sanders, Brandon Knight and Giannis Antetokounmpo give Milwaukee a nice base of young talent from which to build. So the question is: What kind of basketball will the next-era Bucks be playing? That makes identity a quiet need. Is that too abstract? Perhaps, but that big-picture thinking can shade a team toward one selection or another if its talent rankings are close. In Sanders and Antetokounmpo, you're looking at two long, defense-oriented players. If that's the profile, then Wiggins and Embiid are more favorable options than Parker or Dante Exum.
Not a need: Few outside the state of Wisconsin noticed, but Knight showed signs of turning into a fine NBA point guard amid the rubble of the Bucks' season. He's well liked, competitive and just 22 years old. So you can look at point guard as being the one position the Bucks can de-prioritize. However, a combo guard like Exum might still be a nice complement, as Knight is a combo guy himself, and having two ballhandling guards is a trend in the league. In other words, just because point guard isn't the most urgent need for Milwaukee, that doesn't mean it won't take one.
Jobs in jeopardy: John Henson is an enigma. His efficiency metrics are outstanding; he led Milwaukee with 4.4 WARP last season despite playing just 26.5 minutes per game. But even with Sanders sidelined, Henson did not become a featured player for the desperate Bucks, and his minus-5.9 RPM strongly suggests his metrics exaggerate his actual on-court impact. He's got one more guaranteed season and a team option left on his rookie contract, and he's just 23 years old and has a 7-foot-5 wingspan. If Milwaukee has soured on Henson, this would be the time to cash him in for a future pick, or maybe even another one this June.
Building blocks: They are Sanders, Knight and Antetokounmpo, with Henson kind of outside the bubble right now, depending on what indicators you value. None of them are franchise-type players now, but each of them could potentially become one. This is what rebuilding looks like. Milwaukee will be hoping to land an elite talent in this draft whose ceiling trumps that of any of the available talent on hand. Antetokounmpo is the most exciting of the returning players, and given his age and lack of experience against top-flight competition, the fact he was able to finish above replacement level as a rookie is a great sign.
What free agency could solve
The Bucks should be targeting overseas players and taking fliers on undrafted rookies with their free-agent dollars this summer. No more middling, veteran deals for guys like Mayo, Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova. If you need to add one or two minimum-salaried vets to provide leadership and accountability, so be it. Just don't clog the future cap with those kind of poor-value deals.
How they draft
Where they draft well: The Bucks had been stuck in the middle for a long time before last year, so it's no surprise that the Draft Initiative metrics compiled by our own Tom Haberstroh rank the Bucks 14th by the average value they've extracted from their draft slots over the past decade. This will be the seventh draft for Milwaukee GM John Hammond, and this will be his highest draft slot yet. His best picks have been in the latter half of the lottery, including Brandon Jennings at No. 10 in 2009, who was eventually flipped for Knight, so that worked out. Henson (No. 14, 2012) was another good value pick.
Where they don't draft well: Hammond's worst pick was his first: Joe Alexander at No. 8 in 2008. Some of the other top 10 misses for the Bucks -- Yi Jianlian, Shawn Respert, Robert Traylor, Joel Przybilla -- were on someone else's watch. Right now, Antetokounmpo remains a potential-over-production selection, but if he pans out as Milwaukee hopes, his No. 15 draft slot could make him one of the Bucks' best-ever draft values.
Three best fits
Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas (Chad Ford Big Board ranking: No. 1): The best player on the board, that's who the Bucks need. A future wing duo of Wiggins and Antetokounmpo would make the Bucks a dangerous defense-and-transition team.
Jabari Parker, SF, Duke (No. 2): Antetokounmpo's length and Sanders' rim protection might help make up for any defensive shortcomings Parker might face in the NBA. Meanwhile, he'd give Milwaukee a bedrock scorer to go with Knight on the offensive end.
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas (No. 3): If Sanders' offensive profile turns into that of an occasional midrange jump-shooter, then Embiid's burgeoning post game would be a nice complement, though he can shoot the face-up jumper, as well. On the defensive end, you're talking about two elite shot-blockers with the athleticism to step out when teams try to spread the floor.