Bucksketball Podcast

The backup center turned starting center who really isn’t a center

| April 17, 2012

Category: Bucks Player Features

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Gooden was overwhelmed by Hibbert on Saturday. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Andrew Bogut played in 65 games last season, but in the other 17 Milwaukee cobbled together starting lineups that included Jon Brockman, Larry Sanders or Drew Gooden in the center position.

Since Bogut’s injury and then eventual trade, Gooden’s assumed the majority of the center minutes this season. When he’s been out, Milwaukee’s been forced into some tougher positions again, using Sanders, Ekpe Udoh and even at times Ersan Ilyasova at the five.

So yeah, the Milwaukee Bucks lack size inside.

Flirtations over the past two seasons with Erick Dampier, Joel Przybilla and Kyrylo Fesenko haven’t result in the backup, and probably now starting, center Milwaukee’s seemed to need. But speaking with reporters before a recent game, Scott Skiles made it sound like the Bucks got all the backup big they wanted when Gooden was signed.

“One of the primary reasons of signing Drew was to be the backup five to Bouges,” Skiles said. “Not that he wouldn’t also start at the four, we didn’t rule that out or anything. We thought because he’s done it before, that in a pinch, he could swing to the backup five and pick and pop and shoot the ball like he has and things like that.

“This year it’s just worked out that that has been his primary role. That’s just what’s happened. Drew is a four/five, he’s not a five/four. But for us right now he’s a five. Strictly a five.”

Gooden hasn’t rebounded as well this year as he has previously in his career – the 6.4 rebounds per game he’s averaging would be his lowest season total of his career – possibly because he’s dealing with a different kind of player defensively.

To his credit, Gooden has responded with one of his more productive seasons offensively. At times he’s been consistent with a mid-range jumper shot that’s helped open things up offensive for the Bucks. His assist rate of 16.3% his more than twice his career rate of 7.6%. Plus, he’s admirably fought for position and ground defensively with the league’s largest players all season.

“He causes problems on the other end of the floor for the other team’s center, so there’s a bit of a trade off there,” Skiles said. “We’ve asked him to do some things this year that are, on paper, unfair. Getting out there and battling with Dwight Howard and then still getting out there on guards and trying to trap on pick and rolls. We feel in total he’s been very, very positive.”

But the Bucks realize they are losing something defensively without a true center.

“We’re trying to go out there and hurt teams on the other end and make up for anything on the defensive end,” Skiles said.

How the Bucks have gone on so long without addressing the center position remains a bit of a mystery though. Granted, the options were pretty slim once this season commenced. Fesenko has played just two games since signing with the Indiana Pacers. The aforementioned Dampier never was relevant in Miami, another size starved team. The Heat even gave Eddy Curry a chance, with predictable results. If the Heat couldn’t find a center, what chance did the Bucks ever have?

So Milwaukee continues to move forward with its barrage of power forwards trying to make do as the playoff race heats up. The Sixers lost again last night to a Magic team without Dwight Howard. You’d think the Sixers might have been able to take advantage of Magic center Daniel Orton in one of his first starts since his high school state championship game. But they couldn’t.

Why  not? It probably had something to do with the power forward, Elton Brand, they started at the five.

Bucks fans, you are not alone in your search for size.

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. He’d love it if you stopped by every time you wanted to buy something on Amazon and gave him some click-through love on the banner up on the top right. Also –Twitter.

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Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in January of 2009 because he hated his job. It’s like basketball, but with Bucks instead of basket. I know ... I’m sorry. He might come off as a bit negative, but I'm really not so bad. He just wants the Bucks to succeed, so he points out areas where they are coming up short. Someone has got to do it and he's ornery and opinionated enough to take on that task. He isn't sure if this should be in third person or not. Contact him at Jeremy@Bucksketball.com if you must use e-mail.

Comments (21)

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  1. DarvinHam says:

    Gooden has played admirably, he battles, he passes well, he seems able to draw 3-point plays all the time, and when his mid-ranger is hitting, he can be really effective on the offensive end…but good God his defense sucks. He doesn’t challenge shots at all–he pump fakes on defense! He doesn’t help well, he doesn’t iso well, he gives up back door cuts all the time. He’s always overpowered or undersized. Didn’t he just give up 10 straight points to Roy Hibbert? I think Mike Gminski could go 50-10 on this guy, unless Gminski shaved, then he’d go 38-8 on Drew.

  2. BrianShetrompf says:

    I love the effort and attitude Drew plays with. But unfortunately he is not a center no matter how much we want him to be. This off season we need a true center that is our biggest need. Who would’ve thought going into this year we would be saying we needed a center :D

    • PattiRafalskiDavison says:

       @BrianShetrompf Even Ersan & LRMBM are SF being forced to play PF.  It’s been our problem for a while, with Andrew missing games or playing injured.  Because of this situation, all of these guys have stepped up and played admirably, but they are all playing out of position.  Everyone KNOWS the problem, it’s just that nobody knows the solution.  Will it be  Udoh?  Sanders?  Zeller?  Melo? Kwame? Guess we’ll just have to hope and see.

      • Wombat02 says:

         @PattiRafalskiDavison Thad Melo seems like a more raw but beefier version of Larry. If the Bucks make it to the playoffs and somehow are picking in the 20s instead of the teens then he is a possibility. I just don’t want any centers where the scouting reports say they like to take 3s.

      • Funnyman4WI says:

         @PattiRafalskiDavison Ersan came into the league as a small forward, but he has become a power forward.  Ilyasova needs to play near the basket, he is to good at offensive rebounds to play outside on the wing.  Ersan should gain more strength to help contend with some of the league’s best power forwards, but power forward is his best position.

  3. Wombat02 says:

    I hope Ekpe, Larry and Leuer all keep developing into a solid front court. They are guys who are easy to root for and are still all young but need to improve on rebounding. The Bucks probably need to grab a veteran C for next season but hopefully these guys can start solidifying the 4-5 spots. Also can we send Larry to the Hakeem school of big men?

  4. MatthewSchwendinger says:

    How scary would Ekpe Udoh & Tyler Zeller be at stating PF & C next year. Just saying. Provided Ekpe works on rebounding skills this summer.

  5. flyingking says:

    It would be REAL scary. Because they would suck.

  6. Funnyman4WI says:

    I hope, but doubt Milwaukee will be able to re-sign Ersan Ilyasova.  Regardless the Bucks will need to acquire a true center.  Chris Kaman and Aaron Gray will be able in free agency this summer.  Either would start for Milwaukee, but Kaman is a better option.  I know some are thinking, really Kaman?  Kaman has the size coveted and like Gooden, when given the minutes Kaman produces.  He has made an all-star team, something Bogut has not done.

  7. Funnyman4WI says:

    I hope, but doubt the Bucks will be able to re-sign PF Ersan Ilyasova.  His production will need to be replaced.  Regardless Milwaukee will need to acquire a true center this summer.  Chris Kaman and Aaron Gray will be available in free agency.  Kaman would be the better option.  I know some are thinking, Kaman really?  When given the minutes Kaman produces.  He has been  an all-star, something Bogut never achieved.  If Ilyasova can be re-signed than the Bucks should go for Gray.  He is capable and will cost less.

    • JustinNixon says:

       @Funnyman4WI This is a slippery slope, because I want Meyers Leonard in the draft. So i would love to have Kaman come in and be a mentor to a guy like Myers, but that is essentially a stop gap. The next question is how many years and at what price? He is coming off of an $11 million/year contract and he is only going to be 30. Yes he has been an All star, but those days are gone and he has had some weird injuries over the years. Similar situation with Ersan.. how many years and at how much? ILya has been invaluable to the team this year, but as much as he has meant to us I think he is a backup Power Forward.. So how much is that worth? Do not like Aaron Gray mostly because he cannot play many minutes.

      • JacobMuhlenbeck says:

         @JustinNixon I agree that picking up Leonard would be smart. In my personal opinion however i think the bucks should get someone more along the lines of a Terrence Jones or Terrence Ross, two very capable guys who would work in the middle where we have lacked strength in a while. Delfino is good but too inconsistent so a 3 would not be a bad pick and with all the bigmen we have drafted recently I think we sould work with what we have in that regard. Anyway we go in the draft is fine with me as long as it leads to the playoffs in the very near future

        • JustinNixon says:

           @JacobMuhlenbeck A little confused by your argument.. You think a shooting guard/small forward like Ross.. or a power forward that plays away from the basket(a la David West) like Jones more than a 7-foot center like Meyers?

        • PattiRafalskiDavison says:

           @JustinNixon  @JacobMuhlenbeck I’ve seen sports writers speculate that Bucks need to draft SF 2012.  Between Dunleavy, LRMBM, Harris, Livingston and throw in Delfino, do we really need a SF?  I don’t think we lack forwards….we lack size.  Where’s the beef?

        • Teddddd says:

           @PattiRafalskiDavison  @JustinNixon  @JacobMuhlenbeck Bucks have plenty of SF’s but only 1 Shooter, they need more shooters, something u can never have too much of, id rather see them draft a 2/3 with their pick than a Center, because Center’s  talent is hard to gauge, if a guy can shoot in college almost always translates to shooting well in the pros. Bucks don’t have time to develop players they need instant production. There are plenty of proven veteran Centers in this FA class for Milwaukee to choose from
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        • JustinNixon says:

           @Teddddd Definitely right on about the center gauge.. I just like two things about Meyers that are obvious.. He is an incredible athlete for a guy that may be 7’1″.. And he did average 1.9 blocks per game his sophomore season, exactly the same as Boguie.. All we can ever do is cross our fingers and hope he is going to put in the work to develop an offensive game.. I would not be surprised to see Leonard’s value rise as he starts to work out for teams.. If we do end up with a shooting, I think Bradley Beal is a stud.. probably won’t fall to us though
           
          I DO NOT WANT: Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III, or Austin Rivers

        • Teddddd says:

           @JustinNixon couldnt agree more about those 3 players. A lesser version of Glen Davis, poor man’s Tim Thomas, and a tweener combo guard who’s average enough to be a C- level PG and too short to be anything more than a C- level SG
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  8. Teddddd says:

    There are alot of good Centers (by today’s NBA standards) in this Free Agency Javale McGee (Huge Talent but headcase that wouldnt get along with Skiles) Greg Stiemmsma (one of best shot blockers in the league and he’s from Wisconsin) Spencer Hawes (Solid body can step out and hit outside shots and is also a great passer for a big man) Chris Kaman (Probably the pick of the litter for Centers this offseason) Omar Asik (Outstanding Post Defender doesn’t get enough credit on that loaded Bulls roster.)
     
    All of these players aside from Kaman and Hawes are RFA but the teams that have them would be unlikely to match any offer made by the Bucks as they are all over the cap and with more strict luxury tax penalties I imagine they could be signed easily. If they decline Livingston’s 3.5 Million option Bucks will have about 12 Mil in cap space (22 if Beno declines his nearly 8 mil Player Option which he was on record strongly considering to do due to lack of playing time) Two Million for whomever their 1st round selection is and they still have their Amnesty Clause for 3 more years which I doubt they’ll use this offseason.
     
    After all of that they would have 1 open roster spot to reach the 12 person league minimum so let’s say they get one of the aforementioned Centers for somewhere in the 4-8 million range that would leave them with just enough room to try and resign Ersan for a respectable amount of money. Plus still have the 5-7 Million MLE
     
    Ideally their roster would look something like this
     
    Guards Jennings, Ellis, Udrih? Dunleavy (forward also) draft pick?
    Small forwards Harris/LRMAM (both can play PF) draft pick?
    Power Forwards Ersan, Gooden, Sanders, Udoh, Leuer, Brockman (all could play Center in a pinch)
    Center Big Free Agent acquisition, draft pick?
     
    What y’all think bout that? Addresses holes they have and they get to keep almost all players not messing up team chemistry. (Sorry for really long post)
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