The Milwaukee Bucks hosted their own version of Clash of the Titans Wednesday, as potential 2010 NBA Draft lottery picks Gordon Hayward and Luke Babbitt squared off as part of the most talented workout group to take the floor at the Bucks’ Training Center in St. Francis.
By Jake McCormick
At least one of these two rising stock prospects will be available when the Bucks make their selection, and both fit nicely into Milwaukee’s draft mentality of taking the “best player available for them,” as Bucks scouting director Billy McKinney put it after the workout. Choosing between these two sharp shooting forwards could come down to one or two small differences, so naturally the best thing to do was have them face off against each other.
“Well today we felt as a staff, that without a doubt, this was our best group workout in today,” McKinney said. “… Not to say that one of these guys will be the 15th pick, but it’s the kind of workout that we’re looking for in terms of trying to further evaluate to make a decision for the draft.”
Hayward and Babbitt have similar skill sets (consistent shot, lengthy build, lack of lateral quickness, high motor, sneaky rebounding ability, good body control, high basketball IQ), which makes their match up in Wednesday’s workout all the more intriguing. They have limited ball handling skills that hinder their abilities to maneuver towards the basket in any path other than a reasonably straight line, but their cerebral court vision allow them to recognize and react to defensive shifts.
Hayward experienced a drop in shooting percentage as a sophomore, going from 47.9% to 46.4% overall and 44.8% to 29.4% from three point land. That may seem like a red flag for a player that will need a consistent jumper to succeed at the NBA level, but Hayward was the engine, steering wheel, and gasoline that ran the Butler offense. Opponents had no choice but to focus their defensive gameplans around the versatile forward, and it’s highly unlikely he would see that kind of attention in the NBA as a compliment to Brandon Jennings and Co.
“When I think about Gordon Hayward, I think about a guy that can play multiple positions,” McKinney said. “I’ve seen in games sometimes this year where he’s actually run the point guard and initiated the offense for them. Very smart, savvy basketball player.”
Even with the increase in double teams and contested shots, Hayward compensated for his perimeter decline by stepping up his game inside the arc, shooting 59.2% on two pointers, ranking first out of any small forward in the draft. Part of that can be attributed to his excellent body control and smooth touch, both of which will be an asset in the Association if Hayward hits the weight room while continuing to work on his ball handling.
“I think a big thing for me, both offensively and defensively, is going to be a little bit of strength, a little bit of balance, staying lower” Hayward said. “For me, it will be an adjustment. It will be a challenge, but like I said, I’m ready, looking forward to it and ready to take it on.”
Babbitt, as I pointed out after his first visit to Milwaukee, can score from any point on the floor, thanks to his ability to post up undersized fours and beat bigger defenders off the dribble. He is a little more physical than Hayward because of his scoring ability on the blocks, and he is more of a pure shooter from the outside.
“I’m thankful they want me back and I wanted to come back,” Babbitt said. “It’s a good young team. I think any rookie in my position would want to be here.”
Whether both players are still on the board at No. 15 remains to be seen, as McKinney pointed out that the only sure thing in this draft is the top seven picks, but it has become very evident that small forward is a BPA target position for the Bucks (Paul George was in for one of the team’s first workouts). But as always, a lot can change in the week leading up to draft day.