After drafting forward Joe Alexander(notes) with the eighth overall choice in the 2008 NBA draft, the Milwaukee Bucks will make him the highest pick ever to have his rookie contract option declined, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Friday.
For Milwaukee general manager John Hammond, the rejection of Alexander’s 2010-11 contract option is a sobering admission that his organization made a major misjudgment with the first pick of its regime. The Bucks have until Monday to pick up the $2.7 million option or allow Alexander to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Only two other players – Golden State’s Patrick O’Bryant(notes) (ninth pick, 2006) and the Los Angeles Clippers Yaroslav Korolev(notes) (12th pick, 2005) – have had their teams pass on their first contract options.
Alexander, a 6-foot-8 forward, averaged less than five points and 12.1 minutes in 59 games as a rookie last season. Bucks coach Scott Skiles played 2008 second-round pick, Luc Mbah a Moute, over Alexander. The Bucks did find a gem in Mbah a Moute, and he continues to be part of the team’s regular rotation.
Once Milwaukee traded starting forward Richard Jefferson(notes) to the San Antonio Spurs this summer, it was believed the franchise would give Alexander a shot to earn significant minutes, but he suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason and isn’t expected back until December.
His inability to stay healthy is also a factor in declining the option, sources said.
Before the 2008 draft, Alexander, 22, was considered something of a long-term prospect. He had grown up in China and had played little structured basketball prior to earning a scholarship to West Virginia. He blossomed in his junior season at WVU, had a great Big East and NCAA tournament and moved up the draft lists with several impressive workouts.
To be fair, Hammond wasn’t the only GM high on Alexander. The Knicks nearly selected Alexander with the sixth overall pick, before settling on Italian Danilo Gallinari(notes). New Jersey GM Rod Thorn also considered moving up to take him, but certainly doesn’t regret that Brook Lopez(notes) dropped to his Nets with the 10th pick.
Even now, there are still teams who are intrigued with Alexander and believe that over time he can develop into a productive pro. As it appears now, that’ll have to happen somewhere besides Milwaukee.