To hear the Milwaukee Bucks tell it, or to watch them react to it, they weren’t all that concerned about the center position last season. Or the season before for that matter.
Hopes were pinned to Andrew Bogut before each season began, despite his injury history and rehabilitation from his infamous elbow injury. Two seasons ago, his health was most certainly in question heading into the season, but the Bucks failed to secure a steady backup center, opting to stick with a hybrid 4/5 in Drew Gooden as the next most logical solution if anything happened to Bogut.
Well something happened to Bogut. He played in 65 of 82 games and the Bucks struggled without him. Frankly, the team struggled with him too, as he was clearly not his typical self all season long.
Heading into last season, there was optimisim that another full summer of rest and rehab would have Bogut resembling his near All-Star self of 2009. But surely the team would be prepared if anything were to happen to him again given the struggles they had without him the season before. Surely a backup center would be a top priority.
If it was, consider that priority a complete failure.
The Bucks again failed to secure a backup center, Bogut played in just 12 games before an ankle injury sidelined him. The Bucks would eventually move the one time franchise cornerstone as a new direction was taken. Gooden again was forced to man the middle. His efforts were valiant, but nightly battles with the likes of Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler left Gooden exhausted by season’s end.
Gooden’s deficiencies as a team defender reared their ugly heads all season as well. Without a shot-blocker or even really a solid rotator behind them, the aggressiveness of the Bucks perimeter defenders went unrewarded. Milwaukee struggled to keep the opposition out of the paint or turn them away once they got into it.
So will the Bucks look to address the center position come draft night?
DraftExpress’ mock draft now has the Bucks taking Illinois center Myers Leonard at 12. Leonard has the size that the Bucks are currently lacking inside for sure, standing 7-foot-1 and weighing in at 250 pounds. He’s the natural center the Bucks don’t have in Gooden, Ekpe Udoh or Larry Sanders. Additionally, he said at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago that he feels like he can get up and down the court better than the average big man as well.
“My ability to step out and shoot the ball, my ability to run the floor and be a little more agile than most guys my size, and my athleticism has definitely shown a bit in these workouts.”
But his main goal is to be that defensive backstop – the one the Bucks lack right now.
“I think the way Joakim Noah plays with passion and a lot of energy and tenacity, I model my game around that a bit,” Leonard said. “Tyson Chandler, his ability to be a backstop to the defense and block shots and be a good on-the-ball defender, is something I strive to do.
Chad Ford says Leonard’s name was hot all of last weekend in Chicago, noting that he may have moved ahead of Tyler Zeller on many draft boards. Ford had Leonard in the 9-14 range right now and should have a new mock draft up today some time.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with Leonard or just want to see a well put together video on him, Mike Schmitz of Valley of the Suns and Draft Express has you covered.