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Hiring Mike Budenholzer could make Bucks big factors in Eastern Conference

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USA Today Sports Images

Hiring Mike Budenholzer could make Bucks big factors in Eastern Conference

The Milwaukee Bucks were expected by many to take another leap forward in the 2017-18 season with Giannis Antetokounmpo's continual rise as one of the best young players in the NBA, a deep roster and a front office that has proven to be both smart and aggressive in improving the team. That leap did not happen.

Instead, the Bucks dragged their feet to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, exited in the first round of the playoffs and fired head coach Jason Kidd along the way. They finally found a long-term replacement for Kidd this week and the man they chose could be the key to getting them over the hump and into the top tier of the conference.

In comes Mike Budenholzer, formerly of the Atlanta Hawks. ESPN reported on Wednesday that he has reached an agreement to become the Bucks' next coach, replacing interim coach Joe Prunty.

Budenholzer and the Bucks appear to be a great fit. Milwaukee has become progressively worse on defense in each of the past three seasons despite having a roster that should lend itself to that end of the floor. Antetokounmpo is a turnover-inducing force and he is surrounded by capable defenders like Malcolm Brogdon, John Henson and Khris Middleton.

Budenholzer coached the Hawks for five seasons. During the first four, when they made the playoffs each year, his Hawks ranked no worse than 14th in the NBA in defensive rating and they were top-6 in three seasons from 2014-15 through 2016-17.

When Atlanta was at its best under Budenholzer, it was because of their defense. In 2014-15, when they won 60 games, they were fifth in points allowed and sixth in defensive rating. The next season, when they won 48 games, they were sixth and second in those categories.

Budenholzer had some talented teams in Atlanta, and got them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015, but these Bucks may ultimately have a much higher ceiling with Antetokounmpo in the mix. Budenholzer coached several All-Stars in Atlanta, yet none were on the level of Antetokounmpo, an MVP candidate.

Antetokounmpo has a chance to be one of the very best players in the NBA and transcendent stars often make the difference in the playoffs. Budenholzer's Hawks teams were always limited by the fact they lacked superstars that could take over games offensively. Now he has one.

Milwaukee now has a chance to be major factors in the East, but their roster needs some work. Outside of Antetokounmpo, they have considerable talent but will probably need another star to contend for championships. What they have is only so impressives compared to the Sixers and Celtics, in particular. Philly has two budding superstars and Boston has more talent overall. They are best set up to control the conference in the long-term future.

The Bucks, like the Wizards and Heat and other teams, are hoping to join the ranks at the top of the Eastern Conference. By hiring Budenholzer, the Bucks have improved their chances.

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Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards 2018 NBA Draft prospect profile: Jerome Robinson

The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...

2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Jerome Robinson

School: Boston College
Position: Shooting guard
Age: 21
Height: 6-5
Weight: 188
Wingspan: 6-7
Max vertical: N/A

2017/18 stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.1 bpg, 48.5 FG%, 40.9 3PT% (2.3 3PT/5.7 3PA), 83.0 FT%
Player comparison: Danny Green
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 29th, NBADraft.net 16th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 17th

5 things to know:

*A three-year player at BC, Robinson developed into a big-time scorer before making the leap to the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points as a sophomore and then 20.7 points as a junior while improving his shooting percentages across the board. He went from 42.3 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.5 in 2017-18.

*Robinson turned himself into an excellent three-point shooter. After shooting just 33.3 percent as a sophomore, he got that up to 40.9 percent as a junior and on 5.7 attempts per game. That trajectory bodes well for Robinson's chances at the next level.

*He has a quick release on his jumper, giving him the ability to be effective on catch-and-shoot plays off screens. Robinson could develop into a reliable scorer who doesn't need the ball in his hands as a primary focus of the offense. He also showed the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and finish with creativity at the rim. He didn't record a vertical leap at the NBA Combine, but playing above and around the rim didn't appear to be a problem in college.

*Though it didn't show in his last season at Boston College, Robinson was adept at forcing turnovers in his first two years. He averaged 1.6 steals per game across his freshman and sophomore seasons and 16 times in his career had three steals or more in a game.

*Questions for Robinson would include his versatility and speed. Some draft evaluators wonder if he will be able to get separation off the dribble at the NBA level. Also, he put up decent rebounding and assists numbers in college but didn't exactly stand out in either category.

Fit with Wizards: Robinson would give the Wizards depth at the shooting guard position and they need that. He could help Bradley Beal pare down his minutes and offer a scoring punch off the Wizards' bench. The Wizards could use a reliable shooter to help space the floor for Kelly Oubre, Jr. and others in the second unit.

The problems with Robinson's fit would be his lack of positional versatility and what appears to be a relatively low ceiling. He's not the freak athlete that some of his counterparts are at shooting guard. If the Wizards are choosing between Robinson and guys like Zhaire Smith and Lonnie Walker IV, they could view the latter two as more enticing because of their potential. Robinson would represent a safer pick while others could pay off big-time and have a greater impact on the franchise in the long-term.

Best highlight video:

More draft prospect profiles:

Kevin Knox, PF, Kentucky

Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State

Robert Williams, PF/C, Texas A&M

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky

Zhaire Smith, SG, Texas Tech

Landry Shamet, PG/SG, Wichita State

Gary Trent, Jr., SG, Duke

Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami

Anfernee Simons, PG/SG, IMG Academy

Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Chandler Hutchison, SG/SF, Boise State

Kevin Huerter, SG, Maryland

Mitchell Robinson, C, Western Kentucky

Troy Brown, SG/SF, Oregon

Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Villanova

Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Michigan

Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Keita Bates-Diop, SF, Ohio State

For more on the NBA Draft, check out our latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Draft prospect profiles on Moe Wagner, Michael Porter, Jr., Grayson Allen and more

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Draft prospect profiles on Moe Wagner, Michael Porter, Jr., Grayson Allen and more

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes was joined by Nick Ashooh and Stefon Marquis to talk NBA Draft. 

They broke down five prospects and their potential fit with the Wizards: Moe Wagner of Michigan, Michael Porter, Jr. of Missouri, Grayson Allen of Duke, Collin Sexton of Alabama and Omari Spellman of Villanova.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

MORE WIZARDS COVERAGE: