The NBA summer league schedule is officially in the books, with all 30 teams having competed in either Orlando or Las Vegas, and each year the league’s executives find it to be more and more useful as a way to evaluate the best young talent in the NBA. Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond loves seeing all of the teams, but also sees the benefit of having many of the executives in one place for the purpose of discussing possible transactions.
“The league in general, I think it’s a great league and Warren (LeGarie) and the NBA have done a great job over the years of just making it bigger and better,” Hammond tells HOOPSWORLD. “That’s the greatest thing to me about the league. There’s so many of us here and you can get a lot of work done, a lot of business does take place while we’re here and from a scouting standpoint, a chance to see so many young players coming into the league or first- or second-year players still playing, so I look at it as a great scouting venue. Someone like myself, I don’t go out and get a chance to watch a lot of summer leagues, so to have everyone here, I really appreciate that.”
Coming into the offseason, the Bucks had glaring needs in the front court. By acquiring Samuel Dalembert from Houston and drafting John Henson, Hammond believes they have taken significant steps in the right direction.
“First and foremost, we had to get some size. After trading Andrew Bogut, our team changed for the better offensively, but you can’t replace what Bogut does on the defensive end of the floor so we struggled there. We were scoring a lot of points but we couldn’t get a stop, we couldn’t get the need rebounds so at the draft we made a trade and went from 12 to 14 and were able to pick up Sam Dalembert from the Rockets and we think that Samuel can help us with those two factors. He can help us protect the basket and help us in those need rebound times. In the draft we were able to draft John Henson from Carolina, and with his length and being the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year and, I think, a guy that’s going to have a bright future in this league. Then we picked up Doron Lamb from Kentucky, so at this point that’s what we’ve done and I think we’ve made ourselves better.”
Henson is an interesting player, to be sure, but there are questions about whether or not he can become a great NBA power forward. Hammond admits he doesn’t know for sure that Henson will be great, but does believe that his character makes him a pretty good bet.
“Sometimes you go through the draft and there’s always going to be a question and I know that with John, there’s not a question about the character of the man,” Hammond explains. “He’s an outstanding person and I think when you start with that basis, that you have a great person and I know the work ethic is there and I just think that someday he can be a high-caliber shot blocker, a high-caliber rebounder in this league. He has a great feel for the game offensively and as he just improves his shooting stroke. I don’t want to say the sky’s the limit but I think he’ll have a very bright future.”
Of course, the University of North Carolina pedigree doesn’t hurt, either.
“That’s a big factor,” admits Hammond. “You look at that program and what they’ve done and the players that they’ve produced there and as I said, you talk about a guy like that, two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year, that’s pretty good basketball they play in the ACC and that’s a good pedigree.”
The Bucks have addressed their front court needs to a certain extent, but there are still questions surrounding their lineup. A Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings backcourt looks an awful lot like the Warriors’ duo of Jennings and Steph Curry, and Hammond says the key to a different outcome for Milwaukee is the strength of their front court defense and rebounding.
“We’ll see how it goes. Once again, we finished a season without a center. Drew Gooden did a great job for us, playing that position for us and did all that he could do, but Drew will tell you he’s a power forward in this league, not a center. He can play some backup center but with that being said, after the trade we still finished 17 and 13 with those guys, with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis playing together, and that’s without much help up front defensively and rebounding-wise. Let us get better defensively, let us get better rebounding the ball, put that backcourt of Brandon and Monta together and I like it. I think we can be very good with it.”
The Bucks have already accomplished a great deal in free agency, but Hammond admits he may still have some moves to make.
“I don’t know; we’re all in the same boat,” says Hammond. “We’re always looking to try and improve our team, so if there’s one more thing to do, or two more things to do, we’ll do that.”
Milwaukee’s summer league team had a good showing in Las Vegas, with Tobias Harris having an MVP-worthy showing, John Henson getting better with each passing game and Doron Lamb having his moments, as well. Whether or not they climb into the East’s playoff picture this season, they are clearly a couple of significant pieces closer to doing so.