Posted: 5:48 p.m. Friday, June 28, 2013
By Adam Hermann
To the Milwaukee Bucks, point guard Brandon Jennings remains the franchise's cornerstone. He will enter this, his fifth NBA season, fresh off a four-game smack down from the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat. Jennings and the Bucks have been mired in mediocrity for years, and despite a number of middle-of-the-road trades to boost their profile, the team has never been able to achieve lift off.
One silver lining for this season? They just landed the second-best player in the NBA Draft -- according to Benjamin Miraski's HOOPWAR ratings -- and they didn't even have to draft him.
After originally being selected by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 38th slot -- a pick they wrested from the Washington Wizards -- the Bucks traded the 43rd pick, Providence guard Ricky Ledo, and a 2014 second-round pick to Philadelphia for Wolters.
Now Wolters heads to the Bucks as they try to shape their backcourt of the future.
Eleven days ago, ESPN's Chris Broussard reported that Ellis was not interested in returning to the Bucks and would instead head to free agency.
So Milwaukee turned its attention to securing Jennings, saying they would match any offer during free agency in an attempt to protect any semblance of competition for next year.
With all this hullabaloo surrounding the Bucks' guard situation, there seems to be an opening for Wolters to prove himself this season. There's little certainty as to what the backcourt will look like in Milwaukee; if Wolters can perform at a high level early on -- which we believe he can -- he could find himself playing significant minutes on an average team in his rookie season.
Well, it's Milwaukee. Nothing there is exciting. But it has to be exciting for a mid-major player like Wolters.
Here's what he'll be facing as he vies for playing time this season.
At point guard, Wolters will face marginal competition from Ish Smith, a second-year player out of Wake Forest who averaged just 9.9 minutes per game for Milwaukee last season. In college, the former Demon Deacon scored 13.2 points per game and dished out six assists, nearly 10 fewer points than Wolters regularly put up for South Dakota State last season. And Wolters did it with 6.5 percent better accuracy from the field. Expect Wolters to see more minutes on the green and red court than Smith this season.
In terms of being used as a shooting guard, the Bucks' J.J. Reddick isn't much competition to Wolters' game. While Wolters is a distributor and a playmaker, Reddick does his damage when he doesn't touch the ball until he's ready to spot up. As is illustrated in this article from Grantland contributor Kirk Goldsberry, Reddick's game is outside the arc. While Wolters shot 37.9 percent from (college) three point land during his senior year, his best abilities are displayed in the lanes.
This all really means that Nate Wolters, the pride of South Dakota State, should have a relatively wide open lane to the hoop in 2013-14. With the departure of Monta Ellis becoming increasingly inevitable, Reddick should slide into his spot in the starting lineup, leaving Wolters the Bucks' premier point OR shooting guard come sub time.
As I mentioned in an article last November, his vision is ready for the NBA. Wolters has a slow, plodding way to his game at the point; that is, until he blows by defenders and finds either a lane to drive or an open teammate.
The Bucks are lucky to have snagged him from the Sixers, another team that would have benefited from Wolters' diverse guard skill set. Hopefully Milwaukee head coach Larry Drew recognizes just what he landed in the young guard: a court general with a bright future.