Too Much TV: Bucks

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Former South Dakota State star Nate Wolters is roughly halfway through his rookie season in the NBA. It’s been an eventful stretch to say the least, the point guard starting for games at a time and sitting for others.

This week on the Too Much TV podcast, Milwaukee Bucks beat writer Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel tells us where the Bucks are at and how Wolters factors in going forward.

Here are ways to listen: linklink and link

Also, stop back at 2 p.m. Thursday for the weekly live chat. 

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

That was unexpected

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The plan Wednesday night was to have the Bucks-Knicks game on the background while I worked on another story, just in case former South Dakota State star Nate Wolters got a some garbage-time tick in his NBA regular-season debut.

He got much more than that, serving as the primary point guard for nearly 30 minutes because starter Brandon Knight injured a hamstring in the first 1:45 and back-up Luke Ridnour sat out due to back spasms. So there was the 22-year-old Wolters, a quiet and polite kid from a college that hasn’t had an NBA player in 39 years, running the show in the World’s Most Famous Arena in his pro debut. 50 Cent, Howard Stern and Woody Allen were among the witnesses.

This was not the plan for the second-round pick, not by a long shot. In fact, Milwaukee probably didn’t expect the 6-foot-4 Wolters to play 29 minutes, 41 seconds in the first couple weeks or month of the season. It did not go perfectly, of course. But the experience has the potential to fast-forward his development.

A couple observations and notes:

* Wolters scored four points in the first half on 2 of 4 shooting and five in the second on 1 of 8 shooting. He wound up hitting a 3-pointer, a long floater, a layup off a cut to the rim and both free-throw attempts. He also got blocked three times, the last leading to a fast-break hoop that iced the game for the Knicks.

* He finished with four assists and could have had more if not for some easy misses by teammates. The Bucks starting posts went a combined 1 of 7.

* There’s a fine line between playing in control and being tentative. It looked like Wolters was doing the latter early - and then the Bucks regrouped and gained the lead, overcoming a 25-point deficit.
Let’s be honest: Most rookies aren’t prepared for the spot that he wound up in Wednesday (the Bucks’ first-round pick hardly played) and he’s going to need to be able to cut loose in order to become a lineup regular. But his calm and insistence on getting the Bucks into their offense had at least a little to do with being able to dig out of that hole. Looking at in a different way, what are the odds Milwaukee makes it interesting if Wolters plays out of control or commits a bunch of turnovers?

* On a related note, the Bucks did not have to play Wolters as much as they did. Veteran Gary Neal could have handled the point when Knight went down and/or in the final minutes. Or they could have gone with a big lineup. Instead, coach Larry Drew stuck with Wolters, playing him alongside Neal. That seems like an endorsement; either he genuinely believes in the St. Cloud Tech grad or at least is dedicated to finding out what he can do.
Milwaukee had nothing to lose when down 25 yet Wolters helped them rally instead of cashing it in. He proved more reliable and productive than several veterans, including the high-paid Sanders, who was scoreless.

* If I’m Wolters and/or Drew, here’s how I view what went down: Ignore the stats. Don’t listen to outside criticism. Consider the context. View the experience gained as invaluable - because it is. On the first night of his pro career, Wolters wound up getting way ahead of the game, playing heavy minutes and earning crunch-time experience on one of the most famous stages in pro basketball. (He’d never been been to the Garden before Tuesday.)
Usually, a rookie third-string point guard has to work his way into a larger role before even being considered to get any meaningful minutes - that could take years. Wolters got it right out of the gate due to multiple unexpected situations.
Maybe he gets to build on that Friday at Boston and Saturday in the home opener. Or maybe Knight returns (because Ridnour will be out again) and he plays sparingly - as seemed likely Wednesday. Either way, Wolters wound up making an unforgettable debut.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Former South Dakota State star Nate Wolters after playing for the Milwaukee Bucks in an NBA preseason game at the new Sanford Pentagon. 

Sizing up Wolters’ summer start

The Milwaukee Bucks got the win - that was the foremost concern of Nate Wolters heading into his NBA Summer League debut Saturday night in Las Vegas. But how did the former South Dakota State star fare individually?

Let’s take a look, while acknowledging that it’s just one game - and the summer kind at that. Most of the players involved are long shots to make regular-season rosters in the NBA:

* The 6-foot-5 Wolters finished with 4 points on 2 of 8 shooting with 3 assists to 1 turnover plus two steals and two rebounds in 21 minutes, 22 seconds of reserve time. He did not attempt a 3-pointer, instead pulling the trigger on an array of runners and floaters. Why? In part because he had no problems creating space against the Nuggets. Most of the misses - there was one force job - were good looks, plenty makeable. 

* For all the questions about Wolters’ ability to defend at the pro level, he got off to a respectable start on that end of the floor from a team-defense standpoint, coming up with two steals, one near steal and a deflection on an entry-pass attempt.
His primary adversary was Ben Uzoh, a 25-year-old, 6-foot-3, 205-pounder. Uzho has played 60 regular-season games in the NBA - once posting a triple double - in addition to serving time in the D-League. Uzoh finished with 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting.

* Meanwhile, there were signs that Wolters’ handle and ability to manage an offense will translate to the NBA level - perhaps relatively quickly. He appeared to be in command with the ball in his hands. In the first half, for example, he found Bucks big John Henson a couple of different times in a couple of different ways to create buckets – nothing flashy, just smart decisions and quick execution. He didn’t seem bothered by pro defenders and looked comfortable in the pick-and-roll, something he used extensively at SDSU.
It was interesting to read the Twitter comments from Bucks fans about Wolters; the things they seemed to appreciate are the same things he did for four years in Brookings. 

* On the minus side? The plus-minus. Although the Bucks won by 14, Wolters finished at minus-12. That’s compared to plus-26 for Ish Smith, the other contender to play back-up point. Again, it’s not wise to read too much into that, especially since Wolters largely played with the Bucks subs while Smith rolled with the starters. Just something potentially worth tracking going forward.   

* Wolters got considerable run from the NBA TV announcers both in the pregame - he was the focus of the lead-in segment - and during the third quarter. That’s unlikely to help Wolters directly, but demonstrates that he brings some intrigue - potentially useful if things don’t go as planned with the Bucks.

* Wolters won’t have to wait long to get back at it: Milwaukee faces New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. CT today. The game is available through the NBA Summer League app. (I bought it, and it works well.)

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Tuesday Tidbits

Welcome to July:

What’s next for SDSU-turned-Milwaukee point guard Nate Wolters? He’ll go from his home in St. Cloud, Minn., to the Bucks for a couple days of workouts starting July 5. Milwaukee plays its first game in the Las Vegas Summer League on July 13. That contest will air on NBA TV - the only Bucks game in the round robin portion to do so.
(Related note: Yankton High grad Colton Iverson and the Boston Celtics debut in the Orlando Summer League on July 7, also on NBA TV.)

In other Wolters news, his agent - Jared Karnes - posted a blog the day of the draft that touted the point guard as a player and a person. He’d never done that before for a client. And why did he do it?
"I just wanted to," Karnes said. "Nate’s a special player, and I Just felt compelled to send that out so that people could follow along with what I thought was a great story."
Karnes said he ran the piece by a couple of people at his office. The feedback was positive so he pulled the trigger on it. 

SDSU football coach John Stiegelmeier said that the returning players have told him they’ve never been in such good shape so early in the summer. Three incoming freshmen have already joined the mix with at least a couple more doing so this week - that’s an increase from the past.

Jacks football recruit Jake Wieneke, a receiver from Maple Grove, was named the North offensive MVP in the Minnesota all-star game held over the weekend in St. Cloud. He caught two touchdown passes in a 24-14 loss to the South.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

NBA Draft jottings

So … much … happened surrounding South Dakota State star Nate Wolters and the NBA Draft in a matter of about 60 minutes Thursday night. Good grief.

Here are some follow-up notes:

MIlwaukee plans to introduce first-round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo - a Greek forward - at an 11 a.m. press conference today. Wolters will be there, too. It will air on Bucks.com.
Here’s more about the young Antetokounmpo.

The first trade involving Wolters, the one that sent him from Washington to Philly, also featured Glen Rice Jr. He faced the Skyforce a couple of times in 2012-13 as a D-League player.
On a related note, the Miami Heat - the parent club of the Force - did not make any draft picks Thursday, but did trade for the rights to draftee James Ennis.

SDSU faced a whole bunch of the 60 players picked over the last few seasons. The list: No. 8 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia); No. 9 Trey Burke (Michigan); No. 20 Tony Snell (New Mexico); No. 24 Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan); No. 34 Isaiah Canaan (Murray State); No. 42 Pierre Jackson (Baylor); No. 53 Colton Iverson (Minnesota - before he moved to Colorado State).

ESPN draft guru Chad Ford on the Wolters selection: I love Wolters; he was the Jimmer Fredette of college basketball this year, but because he was at South Dakota State, few got to see him play. He’s a true point guard who also can really score the basketball. If he can defend anyone, he’ll be another second-round steal.

Some other No. 38 picks you’ve heard of: Doug West, Eduardo Najera, Steve Blake, Chris Duhon and Chandler Parsons. Here’s a longer list.

SDSU now has had a player taken in the NBA Draft (Wolters), WNBA Draft (Megan Vogel), NFL Draft (Danny Batten) and MLB Draft (several) since 2007.
Wolters is the eighth former Jack taken in the NBA Draft - and the third selected by the Wizards/Bullets franchise, following Tom Black in 1964 and Steve Lingenfelter in 1981.
Wolters is also the eighth Summit League player drafted. Three of those have come in the last six years, the others being IUPUI guard George Hill (2008) and Oakland center Keith Benson (2011).

Getting to know key Bucks staffers: GM John Hammond spent three years as a high school teacher and coach in Nebraska before rising up the ranks. Coach Larry Drew signed a four-year deal last month after leading the Atlanta Hawks the previous three seasons. He played 10 years in the NBA, too. Former veteran player Nick Van Exel is an assistant with the club.

Milwaukee’s payroll was $62.4 million in 2012-13. That ranked 26th in the 30-team league.

Plenty more coming in print on Saturday (a follow-up) and Sunday (a look at Wolters’ draft-day experience).

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

SDSU star point guard Nate Wolters - from his home in St. Cloud, Minn. - after being selected in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

An extended reaction to Nate Wolters being drafted in his hometown.

South Dakota State star Nate Wolters was as low key as ever Thursday in advance of the NBA Draft. 

Where will Wolters land?

Anybody that claims to know where Nate Wolters will go tonight in the NBA Draft is insane. There are too many uncertainties ahead of probable place to know - both in terms of conflicting takes on available talent and potential trades.

That said, there are enough bits of information available to at least formulate a short list of the most likely homes. Again, keep in mind this is hardly an exact science. Every team in the NBA scouted Wolters at least once during his senior year at South Dakota State and then again at the NBA Draft Combine in May. For example, maybe a club has fallen in love with him to the extent that it felt a pre-draft interview or visit was unnecessary. 

At this point, there are only clues. For starters, Wolters seems most likely to go in the range of picks 21-50 based on two things: Projections by reputable draft writers and public interest expressed by teams picking in that range.

Here’s how that part of the draft looks when filtered through a code. Bolded teams brought Wolters in for a pre-draft workout; italics means the team met with him at the draft combine; bold and italics signifies a workout and a combine visit; names in plain text did neither:

21. Utah Jazz
22. Brooklyn Nets

23. Indiana Pacers
24. New York Knicks
25. Los Angeles Clippers

26. Minnesota Timberwolves
27. Denver Nuggets

28. San Antonio Spurs

29. Oklahoma City Thunder

30. Phoenix Suns

31. Cleveland Cavaliers
32. Oklahoma City Thunder
33. Cleveland Cavaliers

34. Houston Rockets
35. Philadelphia 76ers
36. Sacramento Kings

37. Detroit Pistons

38. Washington Wizards

39. Portland Trail Blazers

40. Portland Trail Blazers

41. Memphis Grizzlies
42. Philadelphia 76ers

43. Milwaukee Bucks

44. Dallas Mavericks
45. Portland Trail Blazers

46. Utah Jazz

47. Atlanta Hawks

48. Los Angeles Lakers

49. Chicago Bulls

50. Atlanta Hawks

So of those 30 picks, 23 belong to teams that have met with or worked out Wolters. Furthermore, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Portland, Utah and Atlanta have multiple picks in that range - and Wolters visited all of them. He both visited and met with Milwaukee, Cleveland and Portland. The former two of those teams have employed Roosevelt grad and former Skyforce coach Nate Tibbetts at some point during the draft process, for whatever that’s worth.

Now, watch Wolters end up with Miami (which doesn’t currently own a pick) or Minnesota, which has said it won’t pick a point guard. Either way, the guessing game ends tonight. 

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.


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