If nothing else, the Milwaukee Bucks’ selections in Wednesday night’s NBA draft illustrated just how much they value outside shooting.
Both of their picks – Jordan Nwora at No. 45 and Sam Merrill at No. 60 – are among the elite shooters in this year’s draft class and are both older prospects who should be capable of contributing right away off the bench. As a team constantly looking for shooting and trying to chase a championship this year, these additions seem like ideal fits.
Nwora is a 6-foot-7, 22-year-old wing who played three seasons at Louisville. He averaged 18.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40.2% from long range in his final season with the Cardinals en route to earning consensus third-team All-America honors. He particularly excels as a catch-and-shoot three-pointer shooter, a situation he may find himself playing a lot in Milwaukee as the recipient of kickout passes.
Outside of college, Nwora played for Nigeria in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers in June 2018, averaging 21.7 points, 8 rebounds and 2.7 assists over three games. His father, Alexander Nwora, is the coach of the Nigerian national team.
The Bucks acquired the 45th pick hours before the draft in a deal with the Orlando Magic.
The Magic sent the Bucks pick No. 45 in Wednesday’s draft in exchange for two future second-round picks. Milwaukee will send a second-round pick – received from Indiana in the Malcolm Brogdon trade – in either 2022, 2023 or 2024. When that pick conveys depends on picks dealt in a separate deal between Indiana and Brooklyn.
The Bucks also will send their second-round pick to the Magic in 2026 to complete Wednesday’s deal.
Merrill isn’t officially headed to Milwaukee just yet, but this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant” is expected to be part of the yet-to-be-completed trade between the Bucks and New Orleans Pelicans that will send Jrue Holiday to the Bucks. Merrill is a 6-foot-5 guard out of Utah State who, like Nwora, is regarded as one of the draft’s elite outside shooters.
During his four years at Utah State, Merrill shot about 42% from three-point range on a high volume of shots. He averaged 19.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game as a senior last season while making 41.0% of his three-pointers and hitting 89.3% of his free throws.
Unlike Nwora, though, Merrill is considered to be more than just a catch-and-shoot guy. Merrill can take a shot out of virtually any action and has a quick release to get it off, even in highly-contested situations.
At age 24, Merrill was the oldest player selected on Wednesday night. He took a two-year Mormon mission to Nicaragua before starting his collegiate career.
As is the case with most rookies, there are questions about how Nwora and Merrill will perform on defense. It doesn’t help that they’re only about a month away the start of the NBA season. Still, their shooting should be able to translate to the next level, which is likely what the Bucks are banking on.