Basketball / Sports

Odds are in Bucks' favor for NBA lottery

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. -- Ben Brust admitted he's still getting over it.

The NCAA Tournament ride for the Wisconsin Badgers was a thriller. Now it's on to new challenges for the sharpshooting guard, who helped his team reach the Final Four with a remarkable post-season run.

So here Brust was on Friday afternoon, going through the paces at the Cousins Center in the Milwaukee Bucks' first draft workout.

Brust joined Marquette and former Racine St. Catherine's player Jake Thomas, North Dakota State forward Taylor Braun and Oregon forward Mike Moser in the session, directed by Bucks assistants Bob Bender and Josh Oppenheimer.

"I'm just going to finish up graduation next week," Brust said. "Get graduated and get off to L.A. a little bit to see the sun. I know we haven't seen it here in Wisconsin at all.

"Basketball and sun will be fun."

Brust said he will be working out with Wasserman Group athletes at a Los Angeles training base, including projected lottery picks Joel Embiid and Marcus Smart.

The 6-foot-1 senior from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., has more modest goals but said he wants to see where the workout process will take him.

"You've got to play against those guys to get better and see where you rank," Brust said.

Wisconsin lost in the national semifinals to Kentucky after freshman Aaron Harrison sank a deep three-pointer in the final seconds, ending the Badgers' dreams of a championship.

"It took me a little bit to get over that game, and I don't think I'll ever get over it fully," Brust said. "But it was a great experience."

Moser, a 6-8 senior, already was working out for his third NBA team after earlier sessions with Sacramento and Utah.

And Thomas showed a sense of humor when talking about his experience on the Bucks' practice court.

"My options are open," Thomas said. "I'm realistic. I don't think the Bucks are taking me with their first pick. But if they did, I would gladly accept."

"I'm taking every opportunity and taking advantage of it. I think if I keep working hard and keep making shots, you never know what will happen."

The Bucks, after finishing with the worst record in the NBA, have the best odds of landing the No. 1 pick in the June 26 draft.

They are guaranteed one of the top four picks in the draft and also have the 31st, 36th and 48th picks in the second round.

Bucks vice president of player personnel Dave Babcock and general manager John Hammond witnessed the workout. It's still business as usual for the Bucks even while the sale of the team to billionaire investors Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens is being finalized.

Babcock said the Bucks should have an intriguing summer league team in Las Vegas. The plan is for second-year players Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters to play on the squad, and the Bucks' draft picks also should be there.

"In the summer, you can put them (Antetokounmpo and Wolters) in positions they weren't in last year," Babcock said. "Giannis can be the focal point of the offense, and Nate can run the show. It's a lot different."

Babcock said the Bucks may actually work out fewer players this year due to their elevated status in the draft. But much will depend on the results of the May 20 lottery in New York.

"It's going to limit us to maybe five or six guys there (in the first round), and then we have 31, 36 and 48," Babcock said. "So a lot of those players in between are saying, 'We're not coming in there, because we don't think we'll be at 31.' You know how that goes."

Babcock said agents for the top players will wait until the lottery results to determine their moves.

"If we're No. 1, we will get anybody we want in," Babcock said. "If we're No. 4, there will be a couple guys that say, 'No, we don't want to come.' I'm sure of that. But we'll see how it goes."

The Bucks will have a full contingent of seven staffers at the NBA draft combine in Chicago next week.

Babcock said Bucks staff members have seen the top prospects -- Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Embiid, Julius Randle and a few more -- at least 15 to 20 times in person.

"Except for (Dante) Exum," Babcock said of the Australian point guard. "He's the only one. He's been very limited. I saw him last summer for a week; he was at the (Nike) Hoop Summit game (last year) and there was a summer thing two years ago I saw him."

Exum played in the FIBA Under-19 World Championship in Prague last summer and the Australians finished fourth. The U.S. team led by Smart and Aaron Gordon won the title.

(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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