Numbers don’t lie: Larry Sanders is breaking out

Larry Sanders had a big weekend.

A triple double on Friday against the Timberwolves followed up with a 18 point, 16 rebound, five block effort in a win against the Celtics. Before this season, Sanders having back-to-back outings like that was unimaginable. But he’s had a pretty solid season since day one, making the last two outings more believable and more exciting, as it seems a sustainable bit of performance.

No, he probably won’t post another triple double any time soon and he may not match the career high scoring and rebounding efforts that he posted against the Celtics, but he appears to be a legitimate threat as a finisher and rebounder now. Historically wrought with foul troubles, he just needs to stay on the court. With just two fouls in both games this weekend, he did that very well.

The strong numbers have been coming all season for Larry.

  • He has scored in double figures 19 times in 127 career games. Seven of those games have come this season.
  • He has grabbed 10 or more rebounds eight times. Four of those games have come this season.
  • He has six career double doubles. Five have come this season.
  • Sanders has failed to register a block in only one game this season.
  • He tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s franchise record with 10 blocked shots while posting a triple double against the Timberwolves.
  • He’s the first Buck to block 10 shots while coming off the bench. Obviously.
  • He currently leads the NBA in block percentage. He has blocked 9.2% of shots while he’s been on the court this season.
  • Sanders current league-wide rankings on Defensive Rebound Percentage, Total Rebound Percentage, Blocks per game and Defensive Rating: 6, 10, 3 and 3
  • Sanders rankings on last season’s Bucks on the above categories: 5, 4, 3, 1
  • Last season, Sanders was just 6-for-25 on shots between 3-9 feet from the hoop and 2-for-13 on shots 10-15 feet from the hoop. This season he’s 5-for-9 and 3-for-6 respectively on those shots.
  • Sanders field goal percentage in his rookie season: 43.3%. Sanders field goal percentage last season: 45.7%. Sanders current field goal percentage: 56.5%.

This sudden improvement brings two thoughts to my mind.

Guards, forwards, centers. It doesn’t matter, Larry Sanders will block them all. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Can he keep this up?

It seems legitimate. Sanders has always had a ton of athletic ability, it’s just been a matter of whether or not he could stay on the court and start to have the game slow down for him a bit. He’s been saying that the biggest thing he needs to work on is being more aware for two seasons. This season he seems to have simplified what he wants to do and maybe that’s made it easier for him to know what’s going on around him. He’ staying by the rim and finishing drop off passes from both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis with great regularity.

19 of his 52 makes this season have come off passes from Jennings and Ellis. 17 of those 19 makes have come directly at the rim.

It’s also apparent how much more care he’s rebounding with. He’s grabbing the ball high above his head with both hands very often now. The way Scott Skiles talks about Sanders and those rebounds specifically leave little doubt that the coaching staff has been drilling into him since he’s arrive to grab the ball strong over his head with both hands when he rebounds. He’s executing on that plan now like never before and he’s improved a ton as a rebounder.

The other thought that comes to mind is a bit more frightening.

Is this Dan Gadzuric all over again?

I saw Frank Madden tweet about this the other day and I’d been thinking the same thing over the weekend. We often saw flashes from Gadzuric, but never saw consistency. In one month in 2004-05, the year before he signed his extension that helped cripple the Bucks cap space for six years, Gadzuric had games of 21 points/20 rebounds and 17 points/14 rebounds. His third season, the one that earned him his extension, wasn’t unlike Sanders current season.

1 Dan Gadzuric 2004-05 26 81 81 1783 4.9 9.1 .539 2.2 4.0 .538 5.3 8.3 13.6 0.9 2.1 1.6 4.5 12.0
2 Larry Sanders 2012-13 24 15 0 343 5.5 9.7 .565 1.8 3.0 .586 3.3 8.8 12.1 0.8 4.3 2.0 6.5 12.7
(Numbers are Per 36 minutes) Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/3/2012.

The numbers aren’t exactly the same, but they are close enough to give one pause. Sanders hasn’t seen the sudden jolt in offensive rebounds the way Gadzuric did in the 04-05 season, which proved to be a number he couldn’t replicate in following seasons. There doesn’t seem to be any category that Sanders is succeeding it that is inflated in the same way. He’s always been a good shot-blocker, he’s just struggled to keep getting minutes to keep those numbers up. He’s improved gradually as a rebounder and finisher and he’s getting more looks at the rim now.

The most obvious stat category candidate for drop off beyond this season is probably his field goal percentage. If Jennings and/or Ellis are gone and Milwaukee can’t replace them with point and shooting guards as willing to drive and dish to Sanders for easy dunks, he could struggle. Or he could find a new guard partner that’s even more capable than his current combo. It’s tough to say.

Regardless, this seems like a real thing now. Larry Sanders, Capable Basketball Big Man.

Categories: Bucks Player Features

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      • Maybe, but only if the reference is to Colonel Sanders from Spaceballs…(yes I understand that Colonel Sanders in Spaceballs is a reference to Colonel Sanders of KFC fame {“What’s a matter Colonel Sanders? Chicken!?!?”})

        Prepare ship for ludicrous speed!

  1. Larry has to be reading these posts, right? I mean how could he all of a sudden get it? He is staying long and not swiping.. thoroughly impressive what he is doing and I am so happy to have been wrong.. I love how in the highlight he gets pushed by Pekovic(with both elbows mind you), a guy who outweighs him by a good 40+ pounds, and doesn’t get frustrated.. Just stays tall gets back in position and swat-a-tat tat.. where the heck you at

    Welcome to Larry’s block party.. it’s B.Y.O.B… Bring Your Own Basketball
    That being said he would be hard pressed to beat out Varajao for player of the week.. Ya never know though

  2. I feel real optimistic as a Bucks fan because Sanders is only going to get better, and I guarantee that Henson will be able to do all the things that Larry can but even better if we give him a year or two, and Henson has way more offensive potential. Should be one hell of a PF-C combo. Now we just need to ship out those playground chuckers in our back court and get a real professional G and PG.