Positional Review: The Forwards Part One

Yesterday, there were two.  Today, there are three.  Meet the second of Bucksketball.com’s new contributors, Josh Hilgendorf.  Josh has been spreading the gospel of Bucks in Madison since the team’s distant memory of a sprint to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001.  He writes constantly and will now be doing so more about the Bucks than he has ever before here at Bucksketball.

– Jeremy Schmidt

It is hard to find many positives on a team that failed to meet almost a single person’s expectations in the 2010-11 season. It is even harder to find positives among a group of forwards that were constantly missing games due to injury. Even if healthy, there was not a lot of consistency to be found here.

For every great Luc Mbah a Moute stop, we had to watch Drew Gooden’s clueless attempt to rotate on defense. For every Carlos Delfino 3-pointer, we were forced to witness Corey Maggette’s head down, “I’m not going to pass the ball even if my life depended on it,” one-man wrecking crew attempt at getting to the rim.

However, no matter how bad a team is, if you look hard enough, you are bound to find something to get excited about.

  • Luc Mbah a Moute’s defense

Bucks fans have known since Moute’s rookie season that he could man up on the League’s premier offensive players. From the beginning he was guarding players of all shapes and sizes. Whether it was Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce or LeBron James, Moute secured playing time that first season because of his effort, and often success, on defense.

After bursting on the scene as a second round surprise, it seems like Moute got lost in the shuffle this season. However, those paying the closest attention saw him still guarding the team’s best player, whether that be a small forward, power forward or even center on occasion.

While his stats will probably never blow you away, Moute finished the season above the league average in almost all major defensive categories. He did have a few eye-opening games numbers wise, contributing five steals to the Bucks season high 16 against the Sixers in April and pulling down 19 rebounds against the Warriors in February. All told, according to 82games.com, the Bucks gave up two more points per 100 possessions when Moute was on the bench compared to when he was on the court. While this is down from the almost five more points the Bucks gave up without him during his rookie season, it still illustrates the importance Moute plays in the Bucks defensive game plan.

It is also worth mentioning that Moute played in the most games among the forwards this season. He saw action in 79 contests, with the next closest being Maggette with 67 games played.

  • Delfino’s 3-point shooting

The Bucks were only slightly better at shooting 3-pointers than they were shooting in general, ranking 24th in 3-point shooting percentage (34 percent) and dead last in overall field goal percentage (43 percent). Nearly everyone on the Bucks shot below the league average for 3-point percentage except Earl Boykins, John Salmons and Delfino. Out of those three, Boykins only attempted 71 threes, while Salmons hoisted up 219. Delfino on the other hand shot 284 while playing in only 49 games due to injury. As you can see, on a team devoid of reliable outside shooters, Delfino was one of the few that could be counted on.

While shooting 37 percent from behind the arc isn’t going to win you an award anytime soon, Delfino was one of the only Bucks that defenses had to pay attention to from long range.

When looking at Delfino’s shooting numbers, you also have to keep in mind that the man missed 32 straight games due to a concussion suffered on November 6. Once back from injury, it understandably took several weeks for Delfino to find his legs again. You began to see how deadly the Argentinean lady killer could be toward the end of March. Against the Nets on March 18, Delfino went eight for 11 from three. From that game until the end of the season, he was hitting shots from behind the arc at a 45 percent clip. While Delfino’s contract is unguaranteed for next season, those are the kind of numbers you have to hope for if he is brought back.

  • Flashes of Gooden

Don’t shoot me just yet. Yes, I know Gooden was a bonehead. Yes, I know (despite his best efforts) he was pretty lackluster on defense. But you know, sometimes the guy just played really well. He displayed a decent array of post moves, showed a surprising touch from midrange and made enough deft passes to be adequate. It would be easy to point to Gooden’s April 9 triple double against Cleveland as evidence of his ability, but he was more than a one game wonder.

In fact, other than Boykins and Andrew Bogut, Gooden’s PER of 15.91 was tops on the team. His 22.9 defensive rebound rate was second to Bogut and his 9.6 offensive rebound rate was behind only Jon Brockman and the Aussie. While saying Gooden had some of the best ratings on the Bucks might be like saying Vinny had the most intelligence on Jersey Shore, you can’t deny the guy has talent.

As long as he doesn’t bring back that tuft of hair on the back of his neck, Gooden at least deserves a chance next season.

Josh Hilgendorf writes for the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (right sidebar).

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