Time Travel Drafting

By Alex Boeder

Time Machine

If you had a time machine and could go back to the previous three NBA Drafts (naturally, your first places to visit), how would you change Milwaukee’s draft picks?

Who would you pick, if you could do it all over? Easy for us to say, now. Not easy. Easier.


But it is not so easy at the time for John Hammond or any other general manager to identify the very top player still on the board. It rarely happens for any team, actually. If you can look back years later and even say that you picked one of the top three or four players at your given spot, you probably did well.

Think of it this way: You are not choosing between one player or the other player. This is not a 50-50 shot. You are choosing between 60 players, or 50 players, or 40 players. And so on.


So, what would you have done differently in 2010, 2011, and 2012, if you knew what you know now about those drafts?

Hardly anything, maybe.

In 2010, the Bucks held the #15 pick. In 2011, they selected at #19 (after trading down from #10). And in 2012, they chose at #14.

In all three of those cases, they arguably selected the best player on the board. At the least, they picked one of the three or four best players each time.

Let’s take a little trip back in time.

Larry Sanders Draft Photo


Draft: Here is the full draft board.

Bucks Pick: #15

Selection: Larry Sanders

Best players drafted ahead:

  • Of the 14 players drafted ahead of Sanders, only five can make a legitimate case for being the better or more promising player. And frankly, all of them are closer to star level than superstar level… except the best of the bunch: Paul George (#10). The Pacers shooting guard was occasionally brilliant while pushing the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Interestingly, George carries a relatively modest career 15.8 PER, and only boasted a 16.8 PER this past season. But he is an ace defender and a rising star at a relatively sparsely talented position.
  • The other four: John Wall (#1), Derrick Favors (#3), DeMarcus Cousins (#5), and Greg Monroe (#7). Wall can make a decent case, but Sanders measures up pretty nicely and evenly against the three big men that went considerably higher. And again, these guys all went ahead of Sanders anyway.

Worst players drafted ahead:

  • Things haven’t gone as planned for Wesley Johnson (#4), but there is still some time. And Xavier Henry (#12) is not tossing buildings to his left and right on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Best players drafted behind:

  • As usual, some rather useful players were drafted after #15, but none of them stand out as superior overall players to Sanders. Two point guards put together mini-breakouts this past season: Eric Bledsoe (#18) and Greivis Vazquez (#28). Very nice players, both. Like Sanders, Avery Bradley (#19) is a keen defensive player. Second rounders Lance Stephenson (#40) and Landry Fields (#39) have carved some space for themselves in the league.

Final thoughts:

  • Sanders. Who would argue now that he was not that best player available at #15? Maybe Bledsoe, who possesses two-way star potential, would argue. But at least for now, Sanders is an elite post defender; Bledsoe is a great backup guard.
Tobias Harris Draft Photo


Draft: Here is the full draft board.

Bucks Pick: #19

Selection: Tobias Harris

Best players drafted ahead:

  • Disclaimer: The Bucks traded Tobias Harris. I am aware. But for this story, I am evaluating strictly draft picks. Also, the Bucks actually had the #10 pick in this draft but traded down. I am approaching this hypothetical with the Bucks selecting at #19.
  • Kyrie Irving (#1) is a number one pick, absolutely. One year after the Bucks nabbed Larry Sanders in the same spot, Kawhi Leonard (#15) is another top-shelf choice and par for the Spurs course. Klay Thompson (#11) probably wasn’t as good you thought in the regular season after you watched the postseason, but is full shooting guard steam ahead. I think everyone is still undecided about Kemba Walker (#9), but that is half good. Nikola Vucevic (#16) emerged. This draft is a little light so far. Not bad, just a little light.

Worst players drafted ahead:

  • For example, we have Jan Vesely (#6) and Bismack Biyombo (#7). Teams are not begging for players like these two.

Best players drafted behind:

  • Like Harris, the rest of the best are also forwards. And the list starts with Kenneth Faried (#22), who already helps define the Nuggets, and in a good way. He has figured out his strengths and limitations, a plenty unique trait for a 22 year-old. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler (#30) earned more than 40 minutes per game two rounds into the playoffs this season, and is a keeper for Chicago. Chandler Parsons (#38) earns honorable mention.

Final thoughts:

  • After #19, Faried is the steadiest, strongest choice. He is already a very fine player. How much better will be than he is now? Probably a fair bit better, but perhaps never star-level. Harris feels like almost the anti-Faried. The wild card. Most every team could use a player like Butler; an athlete, a defender, a three-point threat, in one. Either way, Harris looks like a top three guy. Reminder: Please refer to Disclaimer.
John Henson Draft Photo


Draft: Here is the full draft board.

Bucks Pick: #14

Selection: John Henson

Best players drafted ahead:

  • Disclaimer #2: Using a time machine to go back to 2012 is odd, preposterous. But here we are.
  • Again, we really have no idea what to make of this group, but at the same time… we do. Anthony Davis (#1) is a player no matter. Damian Lillard (#6) has a future. Andre Drummond (#9) looks all like a steal, and he didn’t even really fall all that far. We don’t have a great read on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (#2) yet, but he probably has a pretty good read on us.

Worst players drafted ahead:

  • As for Austin Rivers (#10)? He wore that 5.9 PER as well as you can wear a 5.9 PER. I don’t even know what other stats to cite here. The 54.6 % he shot at the free throw line? Mercy. Seems a bit early to call out anyone else.

Best players drafted behind:

  • So difficult to say, but there are no clear standouts yet. Maurice Harkless (#15) looked promising at times. Arnett Moultrie (#27) and Andrew Nicholson (#19) had some moments. Surely some players will come on in their sophomore years. Wouldn’t be surprised if it were to be Terrence Jones (#18) or Evan Fournier (#20).

Final thoughts:

  • I remember hanging out at the Cousins Center last year on Draft Night. Some people felt down went Terrence Ross went off the board at #8 (I may or may not have been part of this group). Others had their eyes on Jeremy Lamb, but he went #12. Then still others feared that the team would go with Tyler Zeller, who dipped to #17. Terrence Jones was available, and he was a popular fellow that night. But if I could take a time machine back to that night and change it all, I would close the time machine door and stay here and today.


Reminder: #BucksDraft is the hashtag. And check out Bucks Draft Central here on Bucks.com for more well-spent time.



Alex Boeder

My passions? Writing and the Bucks, to start. So it is good to be here. I have reported on media row for just about every Bucks home game since 2009-10 – almost all of that time writing for BrewHoop. I have also written for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, SB Nation, ESPN Milwaukee, Slam Online, etc. You can follow me on Twitter @alexboeder or email me at adboeder@gmail.com.