MILWAUKEE — The decision has apparently become a little easier for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA draft.
New team co-owner Marc Lasry indicated Monday that it is down to either Duke's Jabari Parker or Kansas' Andrew Wiggins when the Bucks make the second overall selection in the draft Thursday night. Foot surgery for center prospect Joel Embiid last week seems to have knocked Wiggins' teammate with the Jayhawks out of the Bucks' plans.
With new ownership taking over a franchise that had a league-worst 15-67 record, Milwaukee is looking for immediate help.
"I think it's hard to take Embiid," Lasry said Monday at a joint breakfast meeting of the region's Rotary Club and the Milwaukee Press Club. "I think he's a phenomenal individual, but with the injury and not knowing how severe or long it will take to recover, I think for us today we're going to want somebody who's going to help us on Day One."
New York investment firm executives Lasry and Wesley Edens bought the Bucks this spring for $550 million from former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl. According to Lasry, Edens watched Wiggins work out recently.
If they need a reference on Parker, the Bucks can just go across town to talk with new Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski, who worked with Parker when he was a Blue Devils assistant.
"A lot is going to be dependent on what Cleveland does," Lasry said. "But I would tell you right now it's probably either going to be ... one of the other."
This will be a pivotal pick for a franchise in transition. Lasry envisions building a championship-contending team within five years.
At the same time, the new ownership group could also be seeking public financing to help build a new arena to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center, though it's unclear yet how much funding they might seek. The new owners have estimated that it could take $350-$400 million for a new arena. Lasry and Edens have committed $100 million, and Kohl has committed another $100 million.
Lasry said Monday he hoped to find other people to help come up with the difference and would welcome public support. New potential minority investors in the Bucks could also be announced by July 15. Lasry said he hoped to add local partners.
Lasry spoke of building a foundation of young players over the next two or three seasons that would help attract free agents. Among the more promising current young Bucks are guards Brandon Knight (17.9 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (6.8 points), and power forward John Henson (11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds).
"Nobody's coming to Milwaukee if the team does what it did last year," said Lasry, who added that the payroll would increase.
Lasry also said that the team would soon announce the hiring of a chief financial officer, and would be hiring a team president.