“Options” the key word at power forward for the Bucks

In a seemingly impossible turn of events, it has become even more crowded inside for the Milwaukee Bucks. When Milwaukee left for Vegas Summer League last Sunday, they did so with Darnell Jackson seemingly in line to split the majority of minutes at the power forward position for the week in Vegas. Of course, Jackson was fighting an uphill battle to stay on the roster come October, much less earn any minutes. But it seemed he’d be in line to prove himself in Vegas.

And after his first game, Jackson seemed like he was heading for a bright week. He scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and looked like Milwaukee’s most polished player. Yet still, as good as Jackson looked, he was still low man on the totem pole that’s become the Bucks power forward situation. He was the most likely to move, and moved he will be in the coming days … for another power forward?

What’s interesting about the Bucks upcoming acquisition of Jon Brockman is that they are getting a player more talented than Jackson and with more of a rotation player ceiling. Brockman could step in and give the Bucks a solid rebounding, hustling power forward for 15 minutes-per-game starting tomorrow if need be. He’s without question better than Darnell Jackson.

And that only leaves things more complicated today than they were yesterday when it comes to the Bucks big man rotation. But not necessarily in a bad way. The depth the Bucks have merely gives them a variety of options for the time being. I’ll go through each of the Bucks options at power forward and attempt to make their probable role a bit more clear.

The mainstay: Drew Gooden
Gooden has the inside track to start opening night for the Bucks. If anything, the versatility Larry Sanders displayed throughout summer league, may have cemented this even further. Sanders often lined up at center for the Bucks in Vegas, giving some legs to the idea that both he and Gooden could split backup center minutes for the Bucks. If Sanders shows he can capably backup Andrew Bogut, as well as play next to him, it probably makes it that much easier for the Bucks to start Gooden.

In addition, Gooden’s contract will likely give him the right to fail his way out of the starting lineup and it also leaves him as the most secure Milwaukee Bucks power forward by default; he cannot be traded until December 15th of next season since he signed a new contract this off season.

The new prospect: Larry Sanders
Heading into Vegas, most weren’t sure if Sanders would have a shot at playing time this season. With an already crowded and young power forward situation, it seemed like Sanders may spend a year largely riding the pine getting adjusted to the speed and strength of pro basketball. But Sanders performed very well in summer league and may have surpassed Ersan Ilyasova as the Bucks most coveted young big. As shocking as his court awareness was on defense, it was the shooting touch Sanders displayed on occasion that was one of the biggest surprises last week in Vegas.

If he can knock down shots with some consistency in training camp and early season games, Sanders could be in line for big minutes. He’ll earn some time on his shot-blocking and rebounding alone. His defense and athleticism were his strengths coming out, but few players that have his athletic gifts are so in control of themselves and able to use them so to their advantage the way Sanders did in summer league.

The old prospect: Ersan Ilyasova
Excitement over Larry Sanders has, to a degree, left Ilyasova a forgotten man. Of all the Bucks bigs, he’s the only one who’s shown a consistent 3-point stroke in the NBA, and that’s something that the Bucks think he’ll improve on going forward. Ersan’s hustle game and rebounding ability do have their limitations though. He’ll never be the athlete that Larry Sanders is and while he gives great effort on defense, he has to rely heavily on getting to the right positions and drawing charges. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it makes it difficult for him to stand up to the best power forwards. It’s hard to guard Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudamire simply by drawing a charge or giving good effort.

Ilyasova is still an intriguing enough prospect that it might make him the most likely Bucks player to be moved. If the Bucks are dangling the contract of Michael Redd in order to get back what they consider a final piece, Ilyasova is the type of player any team will want back in order to sweeten the deal. If the Bucks think that Larry Sanders is their power forward of the future, they likely won’t have much hesitation in including Ilyasova in a deal that they think makes them better.

The swiss army knife: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
The versatility of Mbah a Moute (LRMAM) will never have done him as well as it could this year. It’ll be tough for LRMAM to see a lot of minutes at the four. If the Bucks want to go small, he could still see a few minutes here and there next to Sanders, Gooden or Bogut at the four, but the sheer options and his size limitations would seem to limit his playing time up front. Offensively, LRMAM is without question more effective finishing easy plays inside than he is shooting 15-20 foot jump shots on the perimeter, but I’m sure that’s not news to LRMAM.

It’s likely the Bucks informed him before this off season that they’d be looking to address the power forward position. Hopefully with that in mind, Mbah a Moute has been working on his perimeter skills, as some room could still be open for him at the three. Everyone knows LRMAM is going to be out there mainly for his defense and with this added depth, they’ll be able to deploy their stopper with lineups that mesh well with his offensive limitations. His ability to guard any position on the floor makes it easy to envision their being 15-20 minutes-per-game available for him next season, one way or the other.

The hustler and The project: Jon Brockman and Tiny Gallon
If the Bucks enter the regular season with their roster looking like it currently does, it’s difficult to envision much time for either of these two. Both will be eligible for the D-League, though I wouldn’t bet on Brockman going down to work on his game. He’s already an NBA rebounder and he probably won’t be launching jumpers any time soon. Brockman could just work his way into Scott Skiles rotation as so many undersized hard working forwards have done before him. Adrian Griffin? Malik Allen? Those guys were no more talented than Brockman. Skiles will make sure none of his guys are taking anything for granted.

Gallon could use the work on his game at the lower level. He could get a better feel for the NBA 3-point line and work on limiting the turnovers that haunted him this summer. Gallon was forcing things a bit in Vegas, but did show tremendous potential as a rebounder. At 19-years-old, Gallon has loads of time on his side. A year in the D-League  or, if the Bucks so choose, on the end of the bench, wouldn’t do him much harm.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in…

16 Comments

  1. Like the blog and story, but I think I’ve got to disagree with you and other posts I’ve been reading a lot lately. There seems to be an assumption that Sanders is already the ‘PF of the future’ and ready to contribute more than Ilyasova or Luc. Just knowing how to block shots does not make Sanders a better defender at the 4 than either of those guys, both of whom are excellent defensive 4’s, just a little undersized against a few matchups. However, I’d guess that Boozer, Amare, etc could still eat Sanders up right now as they’ve got more strength and big-time moves. Experience counts, especially for bigs in knowing how to get position, make rotations, knowing when to switch, not making stupid fouls, etc. Right now Sanders is our 4th PF and 3rd C. Love his potential, but that’s all it is so far. As such, I really don’t like the idea of trading guys who already contribute greatly in Ersan and Luc–we need that depth up front–unless packaged with Redd for someone like Chris Paul who could really make us a championship contender. People are saying trade one for a backup PG or C–this is totally ridiculous!

    • Oh, I’d be shocked to see Ersan or Moute traded for a backup PG or C, those aren’t positions that require such an upgrade as to trade a prospect. But if Milwaukee could bring in a top flight small forward, that would be more intriguing. That’s the situation in which I could see Ersan moving. It’s possible summer league served as a mirage regarding the immediate impact potential for Sanders, but his awareness was superior to most players there. That was what had me thinking he can step in and play some minutes quick. If Milwaukee thinks that length and athleticism are what can take them to the next level, his value to them is certainly going to be higher than Ersan’s.

  2. I suspect you are missing the point of the deal (which, apparently, is still being consummated). I suspect that the deal has more to do with improvement in the back-up center position than power forward. This (improving back-up at center), I think, was an issue second only in importance to the Bucks behind finding a backup at point guard (now dealt with with the signing of Dooling). Brockman has experience as a back-up center and even started for Sacramento at center for some games last year. And he became expendable in that role with Sacramento’s addition of Dalembert, Cousins, and Whiteside. And less valuable at power forward with their addition last season of Carl Landry. And, despite being only 6-7, he is a very big body (the Monster), unlike the others except for Jackson–who really was more of a power forward (and not a center). There is, I think, a somewhat justifiable concern about how Sanders and also Gooden match up at center against big bodies.

    I do not think the trade would be made (with the second rounder) if this was about the power forward position.

    • I’d argue that Brockman didn’t play all that much center last season. The majority of his minutes came next to Jason Thompson, who would assume the center role when they played together. It seems like Brockman played between 100 and 200 minutes at the center position last year, which is certainly more than Jackson did, but nowhere near the amount Gooden did. You could be right though. Were he the primary backup center, I’d see that only netting him around 15 mpg or so still.

  3. I think Jackson (who probably played no minutes at center last year) had value for Bucks only if he could play some backup center. I think the Bucks made a decision (perhaps supported by his success at forward in the first game of Summer League) that he was merely a power forward and wouldn’t contribute as backup center. That thought, I think, is supported by the Milwaukee J/S piece on Jackson of a few weeks ago, that talked about the one-on-one coaching he was receiving, especially in low post play. Perhaps he has some value for Sacramento, though that isn’t clear.

    Based on what I have read about Brockman, I can’t see him taking away many minutes from Gooden, Ilysova, Sanders, or Mbah a Moute at power forward. I can envision him being in the mix as a backup center–especially when there is a matchup that might challenge Sanders, who I think will end up getting many minutes as Bogut’s backup. Despite Gooden’s “minutes” at center, I will be surprised if he gets that much time at center. But time will tell.

    Way back in April, I was telling my friends that Sanders should be the Buck’s first round pick. He clearly is their PF of the future–despite the fact that he may get limited minutes at PF this year. I think almost all of the scouts are surprised by how much Sander’s offensive game has improved–and he likely would be a top 10 pick if the draft were held over.

    I much appreciate the contributions of this blog!

  4. Here is where I’m thinking the bucks should utilize there minutes. I don’t think they need any more than a 10 man rotation.

    PG Jennings 34 Dooling 14
    SG Salmons 32 Maggette 16
    SF Delfino 28 LRMAM 10 Maggette 10
    PF Gooden 20 Erson 20 Sanders 8
    C Bogut 32 Gooden 8 Sanders 8

    Totals
    Jennings 34
    Salmons 32
    Bogut 32
    Gooden 28
    Delfino 28
    Maggette 26
    Illyosova 20
    Sanders 16
    Dooling 14
    LRMAM 10

    Hobson-3rd string PG or minutes at 2 guard
    CDR-minutes at 2 or 3 if we need more offense instead of LRMAM
    Gallon or Brockman- sparing minutes at 4 or 5 if we need big man help or if Sanders isn’t cutting it at center.

  5. Any chance the Bucks trade PF’s or two/picks for Gortat? Magic want an upgrade at PF. Lewis would go back to SF. Gortat’s contract is a concern and might be too much money for a backup center. The Bucks still need a legit backup for Bogut, not a PF who can play a little 5.
    Lots of Poles in Wisconsin.

  6. Maggette who played power forward and center for the Warriors last year getting 16 minutes per game at shooting guard for the Bucks (by the way, how many threes did Maggette shoot, or make, last year–or, for that matter, in his career?)??? Instead, CDR will be part of the 15 minute or so rotation (you don’t bring him onto your team and give him 3 minutes per game).
    Maggette may not start at SF (if Gooden starts at PF, it would be helpful to have someone who starts at SF who can shoot threes), but will probably split minutes with Delfino.
    If Brockman signs, he will get 5 minutes or so at center. I suspect Sanders will get most of the other non-Bogut minutes.
    Actually, this exercise is a pretty simple one–if you can figure out where Sanders will get his 16-20 minutes.

  7. I don’t see Larry Sanders as the Bucks power forward of the future at all. He’s going to play center.

    Luc Richard Bah a Moute, meanwhile, will backup at small forward, with Maggette or Delfino splitting time at small forward and shooting guard behind Salmons.

    Chris Douglas-Roberts will likely be caught in the minutes game; Brockman won’t get big minutes either at power forward or center.

    Tiny Gallon, meanwhile, will sit on the end of the bench in a suit.

  8. Questions:
    Is Sanders going to beat out Bogut for the first string center position (and when?) or just be the second string center in perpetuity? I do think that, this year, Sanders will get most of his minutes at Center. I would expect that by year 3 he will be The PF. Sanders “model” is KG, who is not a center–and the offensive strength of his game is face-up to the basket.

    (Assuming the Bucks send a 2nd rounder to Sacramento for Brockman–he has a chat scheduled in Seattle for 1 pm tomorrow), is Brockman just going to sit on the bench (noone is talking about “big” minutes for Brockman–he only averaged 12 minutes in 54 games this year)?

    How can Maggette who has never, to my knowledge, played shooting guard in his life going to shift to (even a part-time) shooting guard after ten years in the league as forward? It is very reasonable to thing that Delfino, with his skill set and background-especially defensively, can get into the SG rotation?

    CDR, because he is a “penetrating wing” whose approach fits in with Skiles offensive wing-centered approach to creating offense, will get his minutes (maybe 12 to 20)–the acquisition of Maggette and CDR (as well as the trade of Meeks–who was basically a jump shooter) was all about getting wing players that fit with Skiles’ offensive philosophy (and not just jump shooters, which is why James Anderson of OSU was never a draft option, but Hobson was a good fit)). Salmons and Defino were B-/C+ last year in doing this–Skiles would like to get this to B+ or A-. See Hammond’s comments in Milwaukee JS as to the significance of the Maggette and CDR acquisitions.

    The most significant thing in all of this is the way in which a team is being assembled that matches Skiles offensive, defensive, and overall philosophy. By all accounts, Skiles really wanted Sanders–and got him. And he wanted more length (Sanders, Gooden, Brockman), and got it. And more athleticism (Sanders, Maggette), and got it. And players (Maggette, CDR) who could penetrate and draw fouls (so that the Bucks wouldn’t be the laughing stock of the league in that area). And, having coached Gooden at Chicago, I must assume that Skiles was happy with that acquisition. And, by all accounts, Brockman is a coach’s delight at PF/C–one doesn’t need to go far to find Westphal’s comments about Brockman. Hammond, Weltman, Skiles all on the same wave length. If the Bucks are to be genuinely competitive, that is how it is going to happen–not by getting super-stars into Milwaukee. But by alignment. And even with the departure of Redd, there will be almost no money for the Bucks(under the salary cap) to bring in stars or super-stars—so the Bucks are dealing with basically who they have now, draft picks, and additional 2-6M per year players.

    • I think it would be foolhardy to hold minutes back from Sanders, but I think that may be the case. Alignment on the court must be obtained as well, and that means playing them. We’re not winning anything anyway, especially without full on-court team chemistry.

      We do need another superstar C. The Lakers seem to realize the importance of adding superstar-quality players to their existing crew. I think it’s time to hit the button and make some trades for a great player. I like the direction of a two-headed monster (Bogut, ?). Do what we can with this mess I say, and throw whatever we have at a different concept–we then have that bright future to attract someone else. It isn’t wishful thinking, it’s the reality in winning. We have trade bait with nice contracts as soon as they allow. Gooden is decent, on the bench.

      I do see value to our current roster, we could win the injury wars, I would love to roll with this and search for an actual shooter in the future, but Miami isn’t going anywhere and neither are a lot of teams right now in the East. Players are seeming to trend upwards in height again, and that’s just another curve; a curve we could actually try to match for once.

  9. Balanced offense = 1 distributor, 3 scorers or shooters, and 1 “grunt” to set picks, get offensive rebounds, etc.

    Balanced defense = 2 “stoppers” that can guard multiple spots, wherever the opponent’s best offensiver player is)

    First Team
    PG Jennings (distributor) 32 mpg
    SG Salmons (scorer) 28 mpg
    SF LRMAM (grunt/stopper) 24mpg
    PF Ersan 20 (shooter/grunt) 24 mpg
    C Bogut 28 (scorer/stopper) 28 mpg

    Second Team
    PG Dooling (distributor) 16 mpg
    SG Delfino (shooter/stopper) 12 mpg
    SG CDR (scorer) 8 mpg
    SF Magette (scorer) 20 mpg
    SF Defino (shooter/stopper) 4 mpg
    PF Gooden (scorer) 20 mpg
    PF Sanders (grunt/stopper) 8 mpg
    C Brockman (grunt/stopper) 12 mpg
    C Sanders (grunt/stopper) 8 mpg

    Totals:
    Jennings 32
    Salmons 28
    Bogut 28
    LRMAM 24
    Ersan 24
    Magette 20
    Gooden 20
    Delfino 16
    Dooling 16
    Sanders 16
    Brockman 12
    CDR 8

    Inactives:
    Not on roster yet
    Not on roster yet
    Not on roster yet

    D-league:
    Hobson
    Gallon

  10. OK my thoughts, I think Sanders is the Bucks PF of the future. I think Ersan not starting in the playoffs against the hawks is proof he’s not their answer. Mbah a Moute will come off the bench to fill in at the 2 and 3. However, I think all 3 will get a shot at starting at PF before christmas. Gooden is not starting at PF. He’ll backup Bogut but most importantly (and the reason I think he was signed) he’ll teach Sanders to score wwith his back to the basket. People may argue that it’s not Sanders game but I think Scott Skiles thinks he can be taught. Reports on Sanders leading up to the draft critiqued he’s offense in the paint and Gooden’s blurb heading into free agency, has some decent offensive moves. It doesn’t all show up on court but what goes on between games will have a big effect on the Bucks chances.

    I have no idea why the Bucks picked up Maggette. Not to say he’s useless but I don’t see where he fits.

  11. Better to many than too few, I´d say. I don´t think it is that much of a problem going forward. Gooden will propably start and baring any surprises will stay a starter for the season. However he is no longterm fix, Goodens here to bring stability in the Bucks winning ways until the PF of the future materializes. LRMAM is a stopper and he gets minutes where Skiles needs him, it´s no fix and he isn´t in a classical sf or pf rotation. So that leaves us with these questions:

    1. Who is the 2. and 3. PF in the rotation?

    2. What happens at the wing?

    I think 1. heavily depends upon the performance of the players and their showing in training. At the moment I would say Ersan is 2., Sanders is 3. and Brockman gets spare minutes between C and PF however this could change as soon as the season starts. Either way two of the three will get rotation minutes and the third will play sporadically. Gallon should be in the d-league or at the end of the bench depending on injuries.

    2. I liked the Magette move for two reasons, it was a smart salary cap move and a short term fix. If Magette plays well (solid on defense, is usual self on offense) he will be the 6th man getting starter minutes all over the wing positions. He may not be a sg but delfino, cdr and Salmons can all play sg alongside him. If he doesn´t play well CDR gets his minutes and Magette his superior trade bait in the following seasons (he is actually saving money the first two seasons). Either way Delfino starts but probably plays less minutes than Magette. CDR will be 2th on sg and 3th on sf. I think the Bucks want to get a good look at him and if he warrants it he may shoot up the depth chart soon.

    So here is my depth chart:

    PG Jennings – Dooling

    SG Salmons – CDR – Magette – LRMAM

    SF Delfino – Magette – CDR – LRMAM

    PF Gooden – Ilyasova/Sanders/Brockman – Ilyasova/Sanders/Brockman – Ilyasova/Sanders/Brockman -LRMAM

    C Bogut – Sanders/Brockman

    Now the actual minute distribution will heavily depend on injuries, match-ups and performance. Which is a good think if you want to win games but may hinder the development of the young players.

    Now what should happen is, in my oppionion, that CDR develops and makes Magette superflous. LRMAM develops more perimeter skills and after testing everyone, one of Ilyasova/Sanders/Brockman gets traded for a backup C. Ideally Sanders would bring his summer league game up to nba level and becomes the starting pf and Brockman grows some inches and becomes the backup C ;)

  12. I think Zeiram’s analysis, with the “what happens on the court” provisos, makes overall good sense.
    I do think though that CDR is likely a “one year and out” guy since he will become a restricted free agent next year–and is likely to be in demand. I don’t think Maggette and CDR are interchangeable, even though they are both penetrating wings. And, if Maggette does not play well, his 11M contract for 2011 will not be easy to unload.
    We can only suspect how Maggette will play after 10 years with losing teams–but I suspect that he will excel. He has something to prove–and everything he has said so far after the trade has been perfectly pitched. Fitting him into the team mix to maximize his value will,in some ways, be Skiles’ greatest challenge. He could have been the greatest player in Duke’s history if he had stayed for three years (rather than one). Playing out west for the last many years for sub-par teams means that we in the Midwest don’t know much about him. I lived in Illinois during the 90’s and remember him coming out of high school then–and he was absolutely great (also a track star in the long jump and triple jump, as I recall).
    Backup center is still something of a question mark–the biggest on the team–but I suspect Brockman (assuming the trade goes through) and Sanders will do well this year, with Gooden also in the mix. Brockman, I think, can give some quality minutes at center. I think there is a good possibility that between year 1 and year 2, Sanders “fills out” and becomes strong enough to become a very solid backup center.
    Had the Bucks just stood pat, they would not have been a 2010/11 playoff team. Now they seem to be genuinely competitive in the East. Skiles has the kind of players that he wants to have–so now we will see how good he can shape them into a winning team.

  13. Looking over comments and learning more about Maggette, I agree he is not going to get many minutes at SG. I can see Delfino losing minutes to CDR this year, especially in games where he is cold or when he is on a cold streak. But these #’s below are meant for averages on the year, not every game because obviously match ups will determine # of minutes game by game.

    To 4th quarter hero’s numbers. I don’t see how Salmon’s goes from playing 37 mpg last year to 28. He’ll be somewhere between 32-35 mpg which means there aren’t going to be enough minutes to go around to get both CDR and LRMAM a lot of minutes unless you take away minutes from Delfino (more likely) or Maggette. Gooden is the starting PF, every comment by Skiles says so. I also won’t like it if Skiles has a 12 man rotation regularly. Players can’t get into a rhythm if they are playing 4 minutes a half, but we have 11 guys that are going to want/deserve minutes which is kinda nice to have. Injuries will help decide rolls. The only position that we don’t have 3 guys able to play big minutes in case of an injury is PG.

    PG Jennings 34 Dooling 14
    SG Salmons 32 Delfino 12 CDR/LRMAM 4
    SF Delfino 12 Maggette 26 CDR/LRMAM 10
    PF Gooden 20 Erson 20 Sanders 8
    C Bogut 32 Gooden 8 Sanders 8

    Totals
    Jennings 34
    Salmons 32
    Bogut 32
    Gooden 28
    Maggette 26
    Delfino 24
    Illyosova 20
    Sanders 16
    Dooling 14
    LRMAM/CDR 14

    Brockman- sparing minutes at 4 or 5 if we need big man help.

    Thoughts?