Scouting is hard, coming into the league and flourishing as a rookie is hard and the 2016 draft class wasn’t particularly strong. All of these things are true.
December is far too early to write off any of the first-year players we’re watching (mostly) struggle right now, though some are making their fan bases panic more than others. At the end of the day, a lot of these guys are lottery tickets. Take enough spins at the wheel and you may get something good. But it’s unlikely.
The Milwaukee Bucks had two selections in this past draft. With the first, they selected Thon Maker, a 7-foot-1 project that some projected to fall outside of the first round. With the second, they selected Malcolm Brogdon, a destroyer of worlds at the NCAA level that, for whatever reason, didn’t carry the same cache as guys like Buddy Hield or Denzel Valentine.
As we stand more than a month into the season, the No. 36 overall pick may not wind up being the best player in the draft class. But at this point, is there anybody with a higher floor than Brogdon?
The Virginia product is averaging 21 minutes per game on an exciting 11-10 Bucks squad. His raw numbers don’t jump out at you – Brogdon is averaging 7.8 points per game on 41.1 percent from the field – but he’s making 43.5 percent on his 3’s on a team that desperately needs shooting.
Moreover, Brogdon fits in perfectly with what the Bucks are trying to build. He’s a smart, long defender that has more athleticism than you think; he’s not a disruptor like Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he’s rock solid. Brogdon has even proven to be a solid secondary playmaker, as he’s dishing about three assists per game with limited turnovers. Brogdon is best at curling off of screens near the elbow, but he’s worked hard to expand his range and to attack closeouts with vigor. He’s never going to be a slasher, but he’s not allergic to getting to the cup like, say, J.R. Smith.
Brogdon isn’t changing your life as a franchise, but 3-and-D guys are extremely hard to come by these days. We see what kind of money Khris Middleton is making; the Clippers, for instance, have been searching for a Malcolm Brogdon for years.
Two young, competent wings, in a league starving for them, next to Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker is going to be extremely tough to deal with for years to come. So much playmaking and shooting on offense; so much switchability, length and athleticism on defense. Brogdon is the least important of those four, but when the alternative is Tony Snell, you see how impactful his emergence may prove to be.
Brogdon currently ranks fourth on the Bucks in net rating (1.5); again, not changing anyone’s life, but that looks awfully good when you see what the rest of the 2016 draft class is doing. Particularly at Brogdon’s position.
Hield has been a disaster. Valentine has looked physically overwhelmed. Malik Beasley, Caris LeVert and Malachi Richardson have yet to become relevant, and though Jamal Murray has shown flashes, he’s shooting below 40 percent from the field. Murray will be more dynamic than Brogdon in the long run, but they were also separated by 29 draft spots.
Even if Maker was a questionable choice at No. 10, Milwaukee won the 2016 NBA Draft. And yes, you should never judge a draft class until a few years down the road, at least.
But high floor guys like Brogdon are an exception. Sure things in the NBA rarely exist, but Brogdon becoming a 12-14 point per game guy while playing great defense and shooting around 40 percent from 3-point range every year would surprise nobody. At this point, that’s the expected outcome.
Frankly, it’s surprising he’s not a San Antonio Spur. Brogdon is a complementary piece of the puzzle, but a crucial one for the Bucks moving forward.