(We’re counting down the best 20 Bucks since 1991 over the next few weeks. It’s something to do with the lockout sucking the life out of NBA fans. We continue with number 15. Charlie Villanueva. Often frustrating but occasionally scintillating, Villanueva was an easy scapegoat on poorly constructed teams. But he had some nice moments. – Jeremy)
During the 2005-06 season, the Milwaukee Bucks won 40 games. The team would not best that total again until the 09-10 campaign when they won 46. The three seasons in between featured win totals of 28, 26 and 34 games. Those three down years constituted the Charlie Villanueva era.
Villanueva was acquired during the summer of 2006 to serve as a complement to fellow second year player Andrew Bogut. CV was supposed to stretch defenses with a potent outside shot and team with Bogut to form one of the better passing front courts in the NBA . That was the plan at least. Unfortunately, the best laid plans of Larry Harris and Herb Kohl often went awry.
As was the case with most moves made my Harris, I was initially overjoyed when I found out Villanueva was coming to the Bucks for TJ Ford. In fact, I can vividly recall enthusiastically giving my buddy a few too many high fives after getting a text message alerting me of the news. We had just graduated high school and were visiting some friendly girls from a neighboring town. I began the night with hopes of drinking a few pops and maybe swapping some spit. I ended the night with a black eye and the knowledge to always check on the availability of said friendly girls before saying or doing certain things frowned upon in Sunday School.
As it turned out, my forgettable night proved to be the perfect parallel to Villanueva’s career as a Buck.
He joined the team with the promise to light up the scoreboard and man the power forward position next to Bogut for the foreseeable future. He left Milwaukee as an offensively gifted, defensively inept casualty of the Scott Skiles era.
My initial excitement of the acquisition stemmed from a 48 point barrage from a rookie Villanueva as a member of the Toronto Raptors. Like so many Bucks fans, that was my most prominent memory of CV because it came against the team we loved most. It seemed he was both exalted and doomed from that one game.
Scoring a ton of points as a rookie can do a lot for your reputation. Just ask Brandon Jennings. From that point forward, no matter what kind of player he actually was, Villanueva had shown the promise of an unstoppable offensive force. He had range to the 3-point line and could put the ball on the floor to get by his defender with a quick first step. Basically, Villanueva possessed an offensive skill set NBA general managers drool over. That 48 point game would forever dangle in front of overanxious executives as an example of what CV was capable of when he put everything together.
Unfortunately, Villanueva seemed unable to put much of anything together on a consistent basis. As a Buck, he was a cloud. Drifting on the offensive end, occasionally striking, and completely dissipating when it came time to play defense. To his credit, when Villanueva wanted to score, it seemed like he could.
And here is where the curse of the 48 point game comes into play. When you show that much ability as a rookie, fans, coaches and front office folk are going to expect a lot. They want to see steady improvement. They want to see consistency. They want to see a player realize the potential displayed while still green to the NBA. There is a pressure to perform. And under this pressure, Villanueva crumbled.
He regressed during an injury shortened second season. Things did not get much better until Villanueva’s contract year in in 08-09. Whether it was constant prodding from Skiles or the hope of cashing in, he finally seemed to get his act together and averaged a career high 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. But it was far too late for the Bucks. The fans had already soured on his lackadaisical attitude, and he was never going to play the type of defense Skiles demanded. As a result, few were terribly disappointed when he signed with the Pistons as a free agent.
That isn’t to say Villanueva’s time as a Buck was all bad. He had some memorable dunks and was extremely fun to watch when he was on. CV was also always active in the community and started the Charlie Villanueva Foundation to support anti-bullying programs. He was also an early adopter of Twitter and was even reprimanded by Skiles for tweeting during halftime of a game.
Read that again. Villanueva tweeted during halftime of a regular season NBA game. That should about sum him up.
Josh Hilgendorf is a contributor to Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.