We know Andrew Bogut is going to be out (UPDATE: We now know it will be 8-to-12 weeks too. Damn). His ankle won’t unfracture quickly. Whether or not this torpedoes Milwaukee’s already fragile season largely depends on who replaces the majority of Bogut’s 30 minutes each night.
The early candidate is Drew Gooden. He will likely get the start in Bogut’s spot against the Chicago Bulls on Friday and Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. For the time being, he’s Milwaukee’s best option for big minutes.
That isn’t saying much.
Last season, Gooden’s PER while playing the center position was 13.6, roughly six points lower than his PER at the power forward position. The numbers have remained consistent to last season this season. Gooden’s PER as a center this year is 13, while his PER at the four is 29. The smaller sample size for this season makes me hesitate a bit, but since they are consistent with last season, it seems to be a pattern worth recognizing as far as Gooden’s role on the Bucks is concerned, although Gooden did post an 18 PER while playing center with the Mavericks three seasons ago.
The aggressive, athletic Gooden can occasionally thrill, but he often seems to make the most simple parts of the game difficult. Many passes become no look ones. Pump fakes turn into foul drawing exhibitions. Suddenly, Gooden has developed a taste for the outside shot too, which is probably better than him shooting 22-foot jump shots, but isn’t an ideal shot for a starting center that has never demonstrated that range before.
An apparent general lack of attention to detail seems to make Gooden a less than ideal candidate as a back line defender. Simply, he isn’t the guy who erases the mistakes of his teammates. But if Gooden isn’t a perfect fit offensively and isn’t the defender Milwaukee thrives with, is there a better internal option to replace Bogut?
Larry Sanders is a very good shot-blocker and very, very athletic. He can dunk as well as anyone on the team when he decides to dunk. This season he’s even been a bit of a creative passer. He still seems to struggle with his awareness and has bad hands though. Currently, Sanders is averaging 8.9 fouls per 36 minutes. He also turns the ball over on more possessions than he uses.
Ersan Ilyasova has bounced around Milwaukee’s lineups over the past three seasons. Sometimes he’s starting, sometimes he’s coming off the bench, sometimes he’s forced into the five role with a small lineup and sometimes he’s a natural fit at the four. Getting him just a bit of balance, some reliability in his role, seems like it should be a priority, even with Bogut out.
Ilyasova has consistently been the first forward off the bench since coming out of the starting lineup eight games ago and he’s averaged 8.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. He actually performed well at the center position last year, despite his apparently lack of size. His high effort, physical game likely helps him at the five.
Aside from Sanders and Ilyasova, Milwaukee has Jon Brockman (calm down) and Jon Leuer (good as a four, seems like a huge stretch as a five).
The pickings internally are slim. Externally, no one will stop talking about Joel Przybilla until he tells everyone on the record he’s done playing forever. Francisco “That’s fun to say” Elson has been signed by the Philadelphia 76ers. Dan Gadzuric is still available. I’m really writing these things. The D-Legue isn’t exactly brimming with center options either. Mikki Moore might be the best they have to offer, though there is a 7-foot-5 guy that blocks a lot of shots there.
That’s the situation right now. It’s Drew Gooden or bust, unless the Bucks can swing a trade.