A reliable backup center would be nice for the Milwaukee Bucks. Not nice like Brandon Jennings finishing at the rim somewhere near 50 percent nice or another 3-point shooter who converts at more than 37 percent nice, but it’d still be a pretty chill thing for the Bucks to get. It’s consensus. Another consensus: the options aren’t that appetizing. You say: “But Ian, it’s just a backup, they’re not supposed to be good.” Well I’m a fan of a football team whose backup quarterback often doubles as the second best quarterback in the league, so excuse me for having standards (Matt Flynn and Doug Pederson Forever!).
That said, here are some seemingly logical options, either because of their previous work under John Hammond, who seems to favor such guys, or rumors that the Bucks have had discussions with them.
Wilcox is a tricky acquisition. Last year was the best season of his career (7.4/4.8 in 17.5 mpg and an 18 PER), but it came at the age of 28 which makes him eligible for John Hollinger’s fluke rule. The fluke rule basically says any player 28 or older whose PER jumps by more than three points in a season and is above 14 will regress next season by the same amount. Bucks fans have experience with Hollinger’s fluke rule in the form of Corey Maggette.
But no matter how much Wilcox regresses this year, he finishes, often with an explosive dunk. Last year, he finished at a fantastic 70.3 percent at the rim. His career has shown very little variation from that number. He offers a very different offensive game from Andrew Bogut. Bogut’s production comes mostly from his post-up attempts; Wilcox’s offense is built off cuts and PNRs. He has great hands for catching the ball of cuts, scoring 1.23 PPP in those play types. As a roll man, he scores a decent 0.96 PPP. He’d be a decent running buddy for a game manager like Jennings.
As for his defense, Wilcox is below average to terrible. He allows an awful 1.07 PPP in post-ups and 1 PPP defending PNRs. For comparison, Bogut allows 0.81 PPP and 0.87 PPP in those respective situations. His other weaknesses include a total lack of post game and a tendency to foul a lot in a short period of time. Bucks fans might remember Wilcox under his alias: Dan Gadzuric.
The Vanilla Gorilla’s entire game was based on his quick leaping ability. It made him a strong finisher and a decent defensive presence in the paint. Two knee surgeries have left him with nothing, at least offensively. He ranked second-to-last among centers in scoring and PER. His turnover rate was a league leading 29.6. Just absurd.
He’s no longer an imposing presence that can snuff out hard-to-reach shots, but he’s playing a more honest brand of defense now. He fights hard in the post to keep guys from their spots and to battle for rebounds. He’s just a grinder now.
History says that Przybilla has been robbed of his athleticism permanently, but it’s hard to imagine that he’d come back for one more season if he didn’t feel well. Regardless of the team that he ends up on, watch him early in the season to see if he’s getting up and down the floor quickly. That’s a good sign that he’s at least partially back to his old self.
Theo Ratliff/Melvin Ely
These two guys have been in the league forever. The reason: uncertain because they’re not very good. In an ideal world, one of them is probably the third center. But if the none of the above options pan out, then this is basically what’s left unless people are okay with going the Francisco Elson route again. Both of these guys are veterans that have just found ways to stay in the league. Their use on the court died a long time ago.
Ratliff can run the floor well, but is useless in a half-court offense: can’t post-up, shoot, defend stronger centers (which are all of them) and doesn’t rebound well. Like Przybilla, his best quality was his leaping ability and like Przybilla, it looks like that talent was compromised by a knee injury he suffered last year. He’s still a better option than Ely whose large frame may be his only use.
There isn’t even the slightest hint that Chuck Hayes will be a Buck. But I want to write about him because he is magical and my favorite choice for the Bucks next backup center. He’s a 6’6” center that doubles as a big ball of abstract logic. He’s a decent NBA player and no one can explain why. But he’s effective and people from miles away would flock to the Bradley Center to watch him shoot free throws.
He’s immovable in the post because of his leverage and strength. His PNR defense and ability to cover the floor are spotless on the floor because of his quickness. He’s not a great offensive player, but has improved his scoring every year and his assists per 40 minutes were close to 4 last year. Pretty damn good for the center position.
Yes, that glowing paragraph does try to put a glossy sheen over the less desirable aspects of Chuck Hayes’s game. But Hayes’s flaws are so glaring and obvious to the point that it’s endearing.
Ian Segovia is a contributor to Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter, fan us up on Facebook.