Trying to predict Tobias Harris’ role as a rookie on the Milwaukee Bucks based on precedent is harder than convincing George Lucas not to mess with his Star Wars movies. However, the team’s case-by-case approach to first year players is the preferred option, as it ultimately puts Harris and his professional maturity in the driver’s seat.
Since 2008, John Hammond and Scott Skiles have teamed up to draft players across the entire development spectrum. Luc Mbah a Moute was selected 29 slots below Joe Alexander in 2008, but by the end of the season, he had played 1,398 more minutes and started 52 games to Alexander’s goose egg total. Mbah a Moute has since solidified himself as an elite defensive specialist, while Alexander spends most of his time plowing through D-League defenders.
Despite possessing skills in need of some heavy seasoning, Brandon Jennings started all 89 games in 2009 at the sport’s most important position. Jennings has since regressed, and now sits at a career crossroads despite being 22 years of age, but his workload and role in getting the Bucks to 46 wins as a rookie is still pretty impressive. In contrast, a raw but very athletic Larry Sanders mostly played garbage minutes in his first year, despite the Bucks’ dearth of agile players capable of moving faster than a fat kid with honey on his knees.
Skiles certainly deserves some second-guesses for his simplistic, perimeter pick and roll offense, but it’s hard to criticize the way he manages rookie expectations and contributions. The players that have received solid minutes (Mbah a Moute, Jennings) have produced above the level dictated by their NBA experience. The ones that didn’t (Alexander, Sanders, Jodie Meeks) rarely saw the floor during meaningful situations.
Simply put, Bucks rookies have moderate control over the length of their leash, and that’s what makes Tobias Harris’ and Jon Leuer’s situations more intriguing. As it stands, the Bucks currently have just two veteran wings (Carlos Delfino, Stephen Jackson), although its fair to expect another to join the roster once
if the offseason resumes. Leuer and Harris are both tweeners with respectable mid-range skills that make them suitable for both the three and four. Rookie expectations should always be tempered, and Skiles has built up enough respect as a talent cultivator to deserve trust in his process.
The prospect of a hastened training camp and shortened season will play a major role in Harris and Leuer’s comprehension of the NBA game pace and Skiles’ system. However, if one or both players show they can handle more than a limited 5-10 minute workload, Skiles will almost certainly reward their comprehension with a more regular spot in the rotation.