We here at Bucksketball.com started our over/under series yesterday largely focused on Milwaukee’s guards and wings. We’ll pick it back up today with more of a front court focus in our final over/under article.
Also be on the lookout for the long awaited return of the Bucksketball Podcast, wherein Producer Jeramey and I debate the over/under numbers.
Larry Sanders blocked shots: 225
Jon: Over. Sanders recorded 201 blocks last season while only averaging 27.3 minutes per game. If he can continue to stay out of foul trouble then he should comfortably surpass 225. Opponents will be much more aware of his presence than they were in the past. But if you don’t believe in Larry Sanders, then what do you believe in?
KL: Under. Some of these choices are more difficult than others. This one is tough. Larry the Coach tends to be overcautious when it comes to foul trouble, so Larry the Player may get slightly fewer chances.
Ian: Under. Part of the reason Larry had so many blocks last year is because he didn’t have the reputation as a defensive force. He has that reputation now, thus opponents will begin avoiding him more. He’ll simply have fewer opportunities for blocks. With all the sieves in the defense, there’s very little reason an opponent needs to go near Sanders to score.
Mitch: Under. This might be the number I struggled with the most. On one hand, Larry Sanders is a shot-blocking god disguised as a human, a destroyer of hopes and layups, a game-changing force of nature. On the other hand, 225 is a heck of a lot of blocks. Larry’s no longer an unknown quantity and teams may be increasingly wary of getting too close.
Preston: Over. Sanders blocked 201 last season, and he did so in just 71 contests and 27.3 minutes per game. If he had played 82 games and averaged 36 minutes per game with the same rate of blocks, he would have rejected over 300 shots.
John Henson minutes per game: 21.3
Jon: Over. Henson will be the first player off the Bucks’ bench and should easily get to 21.3 minutes per game. He’s on the dang media guide for fudge sake! This will be even easier for Henson if my theory of a mid-season trade of Ilyasova comes to fruition.
KL: Over. Contrary to the things that Bucks’ upper management said on Media Day, this season isn’t really about this season. With coach Larry Drew on a three-year deal, he has the job security to gamble on seasoning his future stars with playing time. Sanders’ foul tendencies help here too.
Ian: Over, but it depends. The frontcourt has thinned with injuries to Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh. Ersan Ilyasova suffered a sprained ankle. Initial x-rays showed he didn’t have a fracture, but they are taking more tests. Henson should get plenty of minutes early in the season.
Mitch: Over. Shhhh, John, it’s alright. Scott Skiles is gone now, he can’t bury you on the bench any longer. Shhhhhh. Larry Drew will take care of you.
Preston: Over. It looks like he should get nearly all backup minutes at the four, and Ersan Ilyasova has never averaged more than 28 minutes per game. If Ersan misses a number of games this season due to injury – such as his ankle sprain – Henson will likely surpass 21.3 minutes per game by default.
Ersan Ilyasova 3 point percentage: 42.2%
Jon: Over. The Turkish tidal wave (just go with it) shot above 42.2 percent from three in each of the last two seasons. He finally has other shooters around him this season who will help perimeter spacing. Would he benefit from a guard who could penetrate? Of course. But if there’s one thing we know Ilyasova can do it’s shoot.
KL: Under. Last season, Monta Ellis’ speedy moves toward the basket helped create space for Ilyasova. I don’t think O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight are going to suck in the defense quite as much. Consequently, Ersan won’t have the same amount of space to get his shot off. I think 39% is a better guess.
Ian: Over easily. Since Ilyasova was able to stretch his shooting range in his fourth year, he’s been money. If you remove his dismal November, Ilyasova shot 47.8% last season.
Mitch: Under. This bet is linked to Henson’s increased minutes in my previous wager. Ersan has historically struggled to score in reduced playing time and there’s a lot of forwards vying for minutes in this offense. He’s not suddenly going to drop to 36%, but Ersan may struggle more than we expect this year.
Preston: Over. His career percentage from beyond the arc is 37.9, and he shot 29.8 percent just three seasons ago. Yet, he’s converted 45.5 percent and 44.4 percent of his attempts from behind the three-point line the past two seasons, respectively – and that’s with a combined 326 attempts. It appears he is an elite long-range threat. Never regress, Ersan.
Ekpe Udoh rebounds per game: 3.15
Jon: Under. If there weren’t 5,000 big men in front of him then sure. He could do it. But he probably won’t get the playing time necessary to show off his magical box-out butt.
KL: Over. The “under” is tempting here, even though I think Udoh carves out a niche as a defensive traffic cop this season — a season hugely important to his future contract hopes. But 3.15 is such a small number for a second-string center, even for a poor rebounder like Udoh. My guess is that he tops it.
Ian: Under. This depends greatly on how Larry Drew feels about using Udoh amidst a quagmire of big men. Considering that I think Henson will average 21+ mpg, I simply don’t think Udoh will get many rebounds.
Mitch: Under. I can’t really explain it. I think Ekpe emits some kind of anti-basketball field that hampers his ability to grab rebounds. How else do you explain a 6’10” forward gathering only 10.5% of the available rebounds? It’s some kind of witchcraft. At any rate, Ekpe will struggle to see significant minutes as the third center in the rotation, which doesn’t bode well for his rebounding totals.
Preston: Under. I hope I’m wrong. This is my favorite basketball subject ever (not hyperbolic). Udoh simply doesn’t rebound, but his teams have always rebounded better when he’s on the floor. Last season, he corralled 3.3 rebounds per game in 17.3 minutes. In his career, he has averaged 6.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is an unfathomably poor rate for a center/power forward.