So what’s the best way for a young player to get better over the summer? It sure sounds like a good idea for a player to work on individual skills. During the NBA season there is hardly enough times for teams to get a lot of practice in, let alone time for individual skill development. If a player works hard enough over the summer, they may be able to add a little something to their game in the off season, but if a guy thinks he can go about developing a three-point shot or post game from October through June, he’s probably sorely mistaken. Summer gives the unique opportunity of allowing specific training that can transfer into the regular season.
Of course, if there is an opportunity for a player to play in some important games in the off-season, they head into NBA action with more experience and poise. Younger players are often scape-goated if teams struggle in the playoffs. Their experience and clutch skills are called into question. The only way to get better in important, pressure packed situations is to play in them. Training situations like the World Championships give players those clutch minutes they need to develop, even if it comes at the cost of their individual skill development.
The Bucks will be a case study in what’s the best way for young players, and specifically young power forwards, to develop.
Larry Sanders has been working out at the Bucks training center since late August along with other Bucks youngsters like Chris Douglas-Roberts and Jon Brockman. Sanders summer has gone something like this: get drafted, sign contract, workout with summer league team, steal the show at summer league (almost, John Wall still owned the show, but Sanders certainly was something), keep working out on his own while mixing in rest, find apartment in Milwaukee and workout with teammates at the Cousins Center. It’s an appropriate amount of work with the team mixed with a lot of individual development. It sounds like a recipe for success.
Sanders and the Bucks other young players get the opportunity to work on their games and their chemistry with a few teammates. In recent weeks, Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut have arrived, affording the team extra time together before the official start of training camp. For newer players like the three youngsters, it gives them time to get a feel for how teammates play and try and refine the things they’ve worked on all summer on their own.
Ersan Ilyasova on the other hand, has been getting big time minutes as the star of the Turkish national team. Ilyasova’s home squad fell short against a typically talented U.S. squad in the gold medal game, but he finished the tournament as Turkey’s leading scorer (13.4 ppg) and rebounder (7.6). Ilyasova’s struggles in the last two games don’t do anything to remove the role player label from his name, but that’s belies the larger point.
If the Bucks are looking to take the next step this season, they’ll need their guys to be ready to handle important minutes. Last season they were learning on the fly in the playoffs and they took some bumps along the way. They’ve got some playoff experience under their belt after the success of last season, but the single elimination games Ilyasova played in this past week were closer to NBA Finals contests than anything else. Pressure packed experience can only help a player who once looked awfully nervous in the closing seconds of even regular season games at times.
Ilyasova once looked like the Buck most likely to be traded, but so long as he hasn’t worn himself out playing big minutes the last few weeks, he looks like he’ll be an important part of the Bucks rotation next season. Should the Bucks want to bring Larry Sanders along slowly, “Turk Nowitzki” looks more than ready to build on the strong season he had last year and contribute with even more consistency. But if he breaks down from the grind of the 100+ game season he’s sure to endure when factoring this tournament in, we’ll see how the other side of training works out for Sanders.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com