Sep 4, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
The Bucks finished an NBA-worst 15-67 last season.
Being bad stinks, but it’s a lot worse when you’re trying to be good. That’s why Milwaukee’s season was much more problematic than that of the 76ers, who went a similar 19-63.
But the Bucks realized the hole they’re in, so now they’re truly rebuilding. And owner Marc Lasry thinks they’re doing a good job.
Is Lasry right? Do the Bucks really have the best collection of players under age 23?
Here’s how I rate the NBA’s top dozen teams by the collective value of their under-23 players:
- Jeremy Lamb
- Steven Adams
- Perry Jones
- Andre Roberson
- Mitch McGary
- Josh Huestis
- Grant Jerrett
- Semaj Christon
This is a deep group of players who could become long-term NBA starters, but Adams is the only one I think gets there. Still, there’s a lot of talent between McGary, Lamb and even Jones. And maybe Roberson, who has a knack for doing the little things, ends up better than all three.
Valanciunas is on track to become an All-Star, but there’s no guarantee he gets there and he’s the only under-23 Raptor of significant value. It’s not ideal to put all your eggs in one basket.
This list includes multiple players – Vonleh, Kidd-Gilchrist and Biyombo – I know I’m higher on than most. So, I struggled to rank Charlotte, and I’m not sure whether I overcompensated or undercompensated for my personal preferences. Zeller really looked more comfortable late last season, and between him and Vonleh, I think the Bobcats have a strong future at power forward.
Burke and Exum could each become one of the NBA’s better guards, though it’s unclear whether they can reach that level together. Kanter hasn’t panned out as hoped, though it’s soon to close the book on him. Gobert, as Zach Lowe of Grantland detailed, has intriguing upside, though he didn’t play much last season. Essentially, it’s easy to find reasons for optimism, but just as easy to find reasons for pessimism.
It might not be long until Beal is the NBA’s best shooting guard, and though I don’t think he ever hits that level, he’s still very good. Porter had a rough rookie year, but I’m not giving up him yet.
- Tobias Harris
- Maurice Harkless
- Victor Oladipo
- Evan Fournier
- Aaron Gordon
- Elfrid Payton
- Roy Devyn Marble
Outside of Oladipo, I’m not that high on any of these players – and I’m not even totally, absolutely, 100 percent sold on Oladipo. But it’s a deep collection of young talent, and I bet at least one other player emerges as quality.
Wiggins has incredible potential. He went No. 1 in a loaded draft, after all. LaVine has tremendous upside, but he’s extremely raw. Maybe Bennett, who was awful last season, capitalizes on his impressive summer and turns around his career.
Lasry’s Bucks didn’t quite make it to the top spot. There’s a major disconnect between Antetokounmpo current production (not great) and potential (great), and I want to see more from him before I’m convinced he’ll bridge that gap. I would have taken Parker No. 1 in the draft, though I essentially viewed him and Wiggins as a tossup. Knight made major strides next year, and I’m interested to see whether he continues progressing as he settles into a larger role.
Drummond is a singular force individually lifting Detroit so high on this list. Underrated for what he already does, Drummond has potential to become the NBA’s top center – and it’s not a far climb. Caldwell-Pope, who could be a nice 3&D threat next to Drummond, boosts the Pistons, too.
Irving is already a two-time All-Star, a true offensive game-changer. I think his defense could come around to at least competent now that Cleveland is ready to win. I’m not big on Waiters, but he has talent, and the Cavaliers are here due to Irving anyway.
- Michael Carter-Williams
- Tony Wroten
- Nerlens Noel
- Joel Embiid
- Dario Saric
- K.J. McDaniels
- Jerami Grant
- Pierre Jackson
- Adonis Thomas
Carter-Williams just won Rookie of the Year, and he’s a good athlete with great size for his position. Noel, for my money, was the best prospect in the 2013 draft ignoring his injury. We’ll soon see how much that affected him long-term. Embiid would have gone No. 1 in this draft if healthy. And Saric has impressed in the World Cup. The 76ers might be years away, but I like where they’re going.
Davis is just that good. He could be the NBA’s third-best player as soon as this season, so if you can get him, you do. Worry about depth or hedging bets later. Davis is the real deal.
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