As Bucks resume championship chase, MarJon Beauchamp may help them find the finish line

·6 min read

The last draft night for Jon Horst and the Milwaukee Bucks was a blur, held nine days after winning the 2020-21 NBA championship in Game 6 at Fiserv Forum. That evening, smiling widely outside a raucous locker room, Horst said he and his staff had to work the next morning.

Beginning in that moment – and through that entire offseason – 29 other teams were chasing the champs. How do you stop Giannis Antetokounmpo? How do you combat the Bucks’ dominant interior defense? Who can offset the playmaking of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday?

Fast forward to Thursday, and Horst and his front office team had more than a month away from games since the Bucks were eliminated by the Boston Celtics on May 15. And this time it was the Golden State Warriors who had the week off after formally dethroning the Bucks as champions June 16.

Milwaukee now joins the chase as the game continues to evolve.

How do the Bucks combat the spacing and talented wing players the Celtics used in beating them? A similarly dominant interior team in the Utah Jazz appears on the verge of a teardown after playoff disappointments, and the Warriors won yet another championship behind the three-point line – what is the Bucks’ response if other elite teams try to replicate the two Finals combatants?

The answer, of course, is never one player – let alone a rookie.

It’s not fair to put all of that on MarJon Beauchamp, the player the Bucks selected in the first round at No. 24.

But it is appropriate to fold him into the answer, or at least the prospect of what he may bring to coach Mike Budenholzer’s team in 2022-23.

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First, Horst and assistant general manager Milt Newton didn’t hesitate to say they examined trading up to land the 6-foot-6 wing who played for the Ignite of the G League last season.

Shortly after the pick, Newton said: “A player that we really wanted. We didn't think he was going to be there at 24 and we were desperately trying to move up to make sure that we could get an arrangement where we could get him, but he was there. And we're happy with that selection.”

Horst, at the end of the night: “MarJon was a player that was ranked incredibly high for us. And as the draft progressed, we thought there was more and more of a chance that we could get him and we didn't want to rely on getting him at 24, so we worked really hard to figure out a way to control our own destiny.”

Nov 29, 2021; Stockton, CA, USA; G League Ignite forward MarJon Beauchamp (14) scores during the first quarter against the Stockton Kings at Stockton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2021; Stockton, CA, USA; G League Ignite forward MarJon Beauchamp (14) scores during the first quarter against the Stockton Kings at Stockton Arena. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Why such a desire?

Well, the team loved his overall athleticism and the fact Beauchamp has a 7-foot wingspan and 9-inch hands – “If you shoot over him you’re going to be shooting a contested shot,” Newton said.

Newton mentioned the talented offensive wing players the Bucks face regularly in the Eastern Conference, and Horst said Beauchamp’s skill set could help the Bucks keep up in the chase.

“I think we’re huge, right, as a team, but I think ways to play skilled and bigger is important,” he said. “I think MarJon, as a young guy, we’ll see what he grows into, has a chance to be a really skilled big guard, good wing size, whatever it is, skill and size combination, I think we have a lot of that, more of that, I think our league is constantly trying to catch up to the way we’re playing in adding size.

"I think we’re a huge team and I think he’s a guy that gives us a chance to do that. He’s another guy that can play big, he can play small. He’s versatile. I think he can play 2, 3. As he gets stronger, can he play a 4? How his shooting grows, things like that.

“I think the versatility of him just lines up with the way the league is going.”

Now, that’s not to say Beauchamp is going to play heavy minutes for the Bucks this coming season. Or any minutes in a playoff series.

But by keeping the pick – the first first-rounder Horst has made for his own team since Donte DiVincenzo in 2018 – it gives the team a young player with a mentality and physical abilities that appear to align perfectly with the head coach and locker room leadership.

And Horst insisted Beauchamp was the right player available at the right time to invest perhaps the only first-round pick the team may make for a lengthy period of time to help not only keep the Bucks’ title window open, but extend it a bit further.

Which would be another way to mirror the current champions, who kept their title window open by landing key players late in the draft.

“There's no way we want to put a ceiling on when he can have an impact,” Horst said of Beauchamp. “I also don't think we want to put any undue expectations or undo pressure on him to say that we need him to be good. I think we're a really good team. I think we're on the verge of being great each year, kind of these last three years, and I think that we'll be really good again next year, hopefully.

"I think he has a chance to work his way into that, and if he doesn't, that's OK. We have a rookie-scale guy who we believe in that I think can have an impact, but what that looks like is to be determined.

"We talked about the G League as an opportunity for him to grow and develop if he needs to get minutes. If we have a role for him through the regular season. ‘Bud’ and his staff are incredible at player development, whether they're playing in the games or not, we have a great system where guys get better in our system every single day and we're all committed to MarJon being the best he can be. That could mean minutes on or team early or that could be in the G League. I think that's to be determined.

“We wouldn't have used a very valuable asset, as we talked about the other day, on a player if we didn't think we could figure it out with us.”

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks pick MarJon Beauchamp has potential to help Bucks in title chase