The Milwaukee Bucks added a pair of picks during the NBA Draft on Thursday night, which included Virginia All-American Malcolm Brogdon. The Bucks selected Brogdon in the second round with the 36th pick overall after taking Thon Maker, who played part of his high school career in Martinsville, VA, with the No. 10 pick in the first round.
”They are unique,” Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. ”They’re going to be special and we’re very lucky to have them. You talk about the 3. Both guys can shoot the 3. So when you talk about fitting in, they’re going to help us in that department. But like we talked about [Thursday], defense. We talk about defense first, second, and third and we’ve got to get better and these two can help us in that department.”
If that’s the case, there’s no wonder the Bucks liked Brogdon. He was named the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Defense first? That’s the very fabric of the program at Virginia where Brogdon has been the poster child of for the past three years for Tony Bennett’s 5 pillars and style of play. Brogdon took on the toughest defensive assignment each night while also carrying a heavy offensive load.
Brogdon told reporters in Milwaukee on Friday that he is carrying Bennett’s influence with him to the NBA.
”He’s taught me so much on and off the court,” Brogdon said. “Off the court, the biggest thing he’s taught me is mental toughness. You’re going to go through ups, you’re going to go through downs but staying steady is most important. Being able to bounce back and be resilient is also very important. On the court, he taught me the most important thing is to make good decisions on offense and play defense. Defense will keep you in games when your shots aren’t falling. That’s what I pride myself on. I pride myself on being a defender and being a smart player that’s going to make the right plays to help the team win the game.”
Brogdon, of course, did a lot of things to help UVA win games. A lot of games as the Hoos piled up 89 wins in the past three seasons. Brogdon ended up with more than 1,800 points (1,809), 500 rebounds (563), 300 assists (335), and 100 steals (117) in his Cavalier career. He’s the school record holder for career free throw shooting percentage at 87.6%. He led the team in scoring for three straight seasons, culminating in this year’s career high of 18.2 points per game.
Brogdon earn first-team All-ACC honors three times. He earned consensus All-American status as a senior, joining legend Ralph Sampson as the only players in school history to reach that level. Brogdon was also named the NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches) National Defensive Player of the Year. Over the course of his senior season, he defended everything from point guards to power forwards and scored at least 20 points 18 times.
ESPN commentator Jay Bilas loved the pick during the draft telecast, joking that he didn’t want to call Brogdon Gandhi when describing his character but that he would take his advice despite being twice his age.
”He’s a leader. He’s a defender,” Bilas said on ESPN. ”Another guy with a crazy wing span of 6’10”. Comfortable coming off of screens and scoring. He’s got a little bit of an unorthodox shot – it’s flat, but he makes it. Malcolm Brogdon plays at both ends of the floor. He can handle the ball, he’s an excellent cutter, he knows how to play without the ball, he’ll do whatever it takes to win and whatever it takes to get on the floor. You talk about a great kid, this guy and his character is off the charts.”
The Bucks loved the character aspect of Brogdon as much as his skills. Milwaukee General Manager John Hammond even joked that the team had added a veteran presence and leadership with the second round pick, in part due to the organization’s young roster but also because of Brogdon’s maturity. The coaches and management clearly were excited by the good fortune of landing Brogdon in the second round.
”We added another extremely, extremely high character player,” Hammond said, ”When you look at his career at Virginia and what he did there – I said this to him on the phone and it’s easy to say to a guy like this, everything he stands for, how he’s represented himself and his university, … you’re going to see what he’s all about. He’s an extra special guy. … We’re real excited about him.”
”I think for both guys if you’re listening, you hear them talk about the team first and not I,” Kidd said. ”So when you talk about the Bucks, that’s what we talk about every day. … Being able to talk to these guys in the workouts and the Chicago combine, we got to see or hear from them on the we situation. For us building this the right way, we thought these two guys fit.”
Brogdon, naturally, is ready to fill whatever role the Bucks need. He can defend all the wing positions and maybe even the ‘power forward’ in the NBA’s popular small ball lineups. He can switch on defense as many teams have been doing in order to guard pick-and-roll situations. He can survive in isolation. Offensively, he can play with or without the ball. He can be a point guard or a wing.
According to Synergy Sports numbers cited in this article, he did all of those things well at Virginia. Among players with enough possessions to qualify (30 minimum), Brogdon was in the 94th percentile in pick-and-roll ball-handler defense and in the 90th percentaile in isolation defense. He was in the 75th percentile in off-screen plays, spot-up situations, isolation, and as the ball handler in pick-and-roll plays on offense (88th percentile or better in iso and as dribbler in pick-and-roll). According to this CBS article, he made 53% of his 3-pointers from the left corner and 57% from the right corner so if the Bucks want him to create space for their playmakers while spotting up in the corner, he can do that too.
And no matter what, Brogdon is ready to work.
”I’m excited. I’m ready to take on whatever role that Coach Kidd and Mr. Hammond have in mind for me,” Brogdon said. ”I think at heart I’m a leader, but I think in this situation, I’ll have to listen – I’m going to learn even from the younger guys that are already here. I’m going to listen to them, I’m going to learn as much as I can from them, I’m going to learn from the older guys, and I’m going to feel my way out. I’m going to step in and I think I always naturally lead on the court by just working. I’m going to work. Guys tend to follow that, but I know there are hard workers on this team so I hope I just join in the culture.”