In the 2010-11 NBA season, the Milwaukee Bucks were crushed by injuries. To be specific, Bucks players missed a combined 275 games due to a wide assortment of maladies.
As a result, they lost 47 games — 11 more than they did during their playoff run of the prior season. This year, many prognosticators forecast a better season for Milwaukee; their predictions are based, in part, on the assumption that the Bucks won’t be the most injured team in the league from the second year in a row.
One of the by-products of last season’s injuries was that the Bucks were often forced to use undersized players. Brandon Jennings’ foot injury made Keyon Dooling into a starter, and in turn, 5’5″ Earl Boykins became the backup point.
Injuries to Ersan Ilyasova and Drew Gooden thinned out the Bucks frontcourt. Those ailments, combined with the ups-and-downs of Larry Sanders’ rookie season, forced 6’7″ Jon Brockman to become the backup center — not out of design, of course, but out of necessity. While Brockman never got pushed around, he was zero of a threat as a shotblocker. Starter Andrew Bogut led the league in blocks per game. His substitute, Brockman, only managed 3 blocks.
Not in a game, mind you. For the season.
By contrast, the Bucks could potentially field some oversized lineups in 2012. If Scott Skiles elects to start a quintet of Jennings/Jackson/Delfino/Gooden/Bogut, then the gang that takes over late in the first quarter could potentially look something like this group:
PG: Shaun Livingston (6’7″, 182)
SG: Mike Dunleavy (6’9″, 220)
SF: Luc Mbah a Moute (6’8″, 230)
PF: Ersan Ilyasova (6’9″, 235)
C: Larry Sanders (6’11″, 235)
(Note: If Ilyasova or Mbah a Moute starts, and then Drew Gooden would be the other forward, making this group even bigger.)
This lineup sports two long guards, two forwards who won’t shy away from physical play, and a center with the potential to be an elite shot blocker (if he masters other center skills like defensive rotations and staying out of foul trouble). Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer, the two rookie forwards, stand 6’8″ and 6’10″, respectively. They may get a shot at the rotation, too.
Granted, Dunleavy might have trouble keeping up with quicker shooting guards, but there are factors working in his favor. First, he’ll be matched up mostly with backups, not starters. Second, Mbah a Moute’s crazy versatility allows Dunleavy to guard the wing player who is easier to defend. Also note that if Dunleavy slides over to forward, then 6’7″ swingman Darington Hobson could be the one taking his place (although it could equally likely be the shorter Beno Udrih).
Of course, these tall plans could still go awry just like they did last season: because of injuries. For now, however, with 15 relatively healthy bodies, the Bucks reserves should be able to matchup size-wise with any bench in the league.
It is, after all, a game of basketball. Even non-fans know the simplest of all the hoops maxims. Being tall helps.
6’0″ K L Chouinard is co-editor of We’re Bucked. Despite his affinity for playing basketball, he has never touched a ten-foot rim without the use of a ladder or a chair. Follow him on Twitter here.