Draft Night 2012 in Review: Part 1
Shut the front door.
That is precisely what John Hammond did after climbing into his vehicle on the night of June 28 following the 2012 National Basketball Association Draft.
He had been there and done that numerous times during his seven seasons as vice president of basketball operations with the Detroit Pistons and in his four previous drafts as general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks.
This time, though, Hammond sensed something different.
"When you make a trade, you get in your car and as soon as you shut the door and you’re in that car by yourself, you have a moment where you think, ‘I hope it works,’" Hammond said on the day following the draft. "The same thing happens with the draft, or maybe when you sign a free-agent player.
"But I can tell you, I did shut that door night when I got in the car and felt pretty secure … as secure as you can feel, at least."
The draft unfolded quite differently – in a positive way for the Bucks -- than Hammond anticipated it might.
He visited with several Bucks veterans shortly before the draft and tried to give them a sneak preview of what they might expect.
"We were talking about wing-type players," Hammond said. "I told them, ‘Hey guys, expect this.’ We were thinking about adding some wing pieces, going athletic if possible, or maybe adding another veteran-type piece at a wing or backcourt-type position."
A couple of surprise selections within the lottery dropped several players deeper into the draft than expected, and Milwaukee pounced on one of them, selecting University of North Carolina forward John Henson with the 14th overall pick in the first round.
"I said, ‘There’s no way he’s going to be there,’ even before the ninth pick," Hammond said of Henson. "We thought John’s range was five to 10. We’re not really questioning why he was there.
"Getting John Henson with the 14th pick … we didn’t think that was going to happen. I think many people expected him to go a lot higher than 14. We’re just thrilled to have him."
The Bucks were impressed with the performances of Henson and his UNC teammate, 7-foot center Tyler Zeller, during pre-draft workouts. Hammond was asked if the team contemplated selecting Zeller, who was chosen 17th by the Dallas Mavericks before his draft rights were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"We really liked Ty," Hammond replied. "Not taking anything away from Zeller, but we felt like Henson had some attributes we were looking for. This guy is an extremely high-character person. I know that Scott Skiles and his staff are really going to enjoy coaching him, and I know that his teammates are really going to enjoy playing with him. And I know he’s going to represent our organization and this community and our fans very well."
During the scouting process and the pre-draft workouts, Hammond and his staff developed a profile of Henson that became convincing when the team had the unexpected opportunity to draft him.
"He can defend today and he can rebound today," Hammond said. "He’s got some work to do offensively, but when you watch him play, you can see signs of his ability.
"Workouts are just part of the process, but he had a very good workout here. He did some things we got very excited about, offensively in particular. We get the opportunity to spend time with these guys during the workouts, and we were extremely impressed with his character and what he stood for."
Hammond feels the same way about center Samuel Dalembert, whom Milwaukee acquired the day before the draft from the Houston Rockets along with the 14th pick in exchange for forwards Jon Leuer and Jon Brockman, guard Shaun Livingston and the 12th pick in the draft.
"We were very happy to get a player of Samuel Dalembert’s ability and character, but we were very disappointed to lose Jon Leuer and Jon Brockman and Shaun Livingston," Hammond said. "They’re three solid, character guys … good people.
"But to come out of the first round of this draft with a guy we really like who has the character we’re looking for, that’s good for us."
One of the main reasons Hammond felt a sense of security as he left the Bucks training center on draft night was the fact that the team fortified its interior defense with the trade for Dalembert and the drafting of Henson.
"We’ve done that; there’s no question," he said. "At the end of last season, we had a very difficult time protecting the basket. I think right now, there’s no reason for us not to have a quality shot-blocker on the floor at all times, whether that be Samuel Dalembert, or if that be Larry Sanders, or if that be Ekpe Udoh or if that be John Henson. We’re going to protect the basket."
As Hammond prepared for the second round of the draft, he wasn’t even sure the Bucks would keep their pick. He left all doors open, and there was plenty of knocking going on. One of the hot topics of conversation was University of Kentucky guard Doron Lamb, who the Bucks snapped up with the 42nd overall selection.
"Our phones started ringing early in the second round just to acquire the pick," Hammond said. "A lot of teams do that. They’ll trade a pick for a future pick or something like that. That’s the normal process; so there was nothing unusual there.
"But as we started moving deeper into the second and getting into the late 30s, I think (Assistant General Manager) Jeff (Weltman) would tell you, we’ve never seen such activity around a pick. One of the reasons the phones were ringing all over the building was because of Doron. And I can tell you that after we picked him, they continued to ring. So he’s a good get for us."
Hammond made it clear on draft night that the Bucks did not select Lamb with the idea of dealing him.
"We’re definitely going to keep him," Hammond said. "We just put our roster up on the board. We really like Doron Lamb and we’re very excited to get him. We think he’s one of the better shooters in this draft.
"A lot of people are saying the same sort of thing right now, that he was going in the first round, and we had him rated as a first-round pick."
During Hammond’s preparation for the draft, he didn’t classify Lamb as strictly a shooting guard.
"He shoots the ball extremely well from 3-point range," Hammond said. "I did have a chance to see Kentucky three or four times. I told Scott (Skiles) that I was a really big fan of his, because I also liked the fact that not only is he a shooter, but he played a lot of point guard for them.
"When (Marquis) Teague came out of the game, they put the ball in his hands. So I don’t think it’s a stretch for him to be a combo guard in this league, and he has the size to do so."
The next morning, after taking that secure ride home and driving back to business, Hammond expressed his satisfaction with a rewarding two days’ work.
"We can’t be any more excited," Hammond said. "We’ve walked out of other drafts and there might have been some uncertainty and we didn’t know exactly how things were going to fit or the kind of player we had. There’s the theory that you really don’t know what you have until you live with them. There might be some truth to that, and that might be part of the process here. But I’ve got to say I’ve never been more assured of what we’ve got than I am in these two guys. I think they’re going to be great fits for us.
"In going through the process and getting to this point and getting guys like this, the guys who work with me – Jeff Weltman is the assistant general manager, who I think is as good as anybody in the business at what he does. Then there’s Dave Babcock and Billy McKinney, and we can go on – Jon Horst and Dave Dean and Jon Nichols – they all do a tremendous job. Last night was kind of a fun night for all of us.
"We’re going to try to continue to improve our team. But I’m pleased to be able to add a player like Dalembert, a player like John Henson and a shooter like Lamb. I think we addressed all the needs that we had. I think it’s been a good couple days."
Followed by a secure drive home.