Charlie Villanueva is the most terrifying player the Bucks have had in years. He can get hot from the outside, he has a feathery touch inside, he can handle the ball well for a man his size, he can monopolize rebounds, and he can be the emotional center of a team.
He can also be the guy who scores 0 points in 11 foul plagued minutes. Throughout his career he’s had a love affair with the three point line. His defense has been the only consistency he’s shown, and it’s been putrid. There are times when it honestly looks as if he doesn’t even care about the game he is playing.
But has the switch been flipped?
Villanueva has put together the most consistent stretch of his career in the month of January. His averages of 19.9 points and 7 rebounds are the highest he has ever had for a single month. His three point shooting has been one of the most obvious factors. A career 32% shooter from behind the arc, Villanueva has shot a staggering 43% in the month of January. And it’s not as if he’s shooting less, he’s shot twice as many threes than any other month of the season. It’s possible that he is becoming more comfortable with his role as a scorer since Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd have not been in the lineup together much this month. Comfort is not something Villanueva has been familiar with thus far in his time in the League.
As Villanueva was entering the league teams weren’t sure if he was a shooting four or a big three. No one questioned his offensive gifts, but their have been persistent questions about his defense and effort. The effort switch has been on full this season in Milwaukee, but the defense still lags behind. Similar to his first three years in the league Villanueva has seen extensive time coming in off the bench to provide a scoring punch. This seems to be an easy way for coaches to say that a player cannot play defense. Many thought Villanueva had no chance with Coach Skiles this year, given Skiles preference for gritty players who work hard on defense and take solid shots on offense. It appeared to be a match made in hell. When injuries once again decimated the Bucks Skiles hand was forced and Villanueva made his way back to the lineup to provide much needed scoring help. Now it appears the Bucks have found the power forward they have been looking for.
And it could not have come at a better time…for him or the Bucks.
Villanueva very well could help save the Bucks playoff chances and earn himself quite a payday in the process. Judging from the Raptors game, it looks like the Bucks are in full on chase the 8 spot mode. Skiles rode what he has apparently deemed his top eight all night and played Charlie V. an unheard of 41 minutes. Until two nights ago, Charlie V. hadn’t cracked 40 minutes all year, and now he has done it twice in one week. Coach Skiles has instilled his trust in Charlie V…much to Chuck’s delight I’m sure.
See this is where things get murky: it’s a contract year. Charlie V. is due for a raise next year…sort of. He’ll be a restricted free agent, meaning that the Bucks can match any offer he receives, but he’ll likely want a nice raise and extension if he carries the wobbly Bucks into the playoffs on the strength of his scoring. The Bucks will have to wonder if he is truly worth it. They don’t want to fall into their own trap again and overvalue their own players. It could be like that Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on the rakes. Is Charlie V. only now producing because he is only now receiving consistent minutes or is his effort now more focused due to the light at the end of the payroll tunnel?
I’d imagine there is almost no chance he will be traded considering how badly the Bucks want to make the playoffs, but how eager will they be at the end of the year to re-up with him will remain an intriguing issue to watch. This seems like a great situation for him. He has a coach who will keep on him to gain consistency at the defensive end and can slide in between Bogut, THE defensive epicenter of everything the Bucks wish to do, and Mbah a Moute, an all time effort and defense guy already in Milwaukee. The pieces are lining up right for Charlie V. So will he be terrorizing opponents for years to come in a Bucks uniform, frighten away fans with more lackadaisical efforts or show up one or two times a year wearing the uniform of a competitor and haunt us Milwaukeeans with what couldabeen.
Only time will tell.