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Gratuitous Joe Alexander pic. (Photo:

A House Divided -- Drafting the Milwaukee Bucks in Two

Confession: I don’t play fantasy football.  Plus, with a blog keeping me more than busy during the hoops season,  I don’t do fantasy basketball, either.

Among middle-to-upper class sports-crazed fans aged 18-45, that fact probably leaves me in the minority — and I don’t like being left out.  Waaaah. So I’ve recruited new BtBP writer Alex Skov to ease my pain.  We’ve devised an entirely artificial way to simulate a fantasy draft using nothing but the Bucks.  Don’t worry.  Even if we split the team in half, each of us will still have 3+ power forwards each.

The format is pretty simple: we will each pick 7 players, using the snake draft format, albeit with a very short snake.  The goal is to put together the best team possible, one that is fit for NBA competition.

Me:  Thanks, Alex, for allowing me to use writing therapy fill the void in my soul left unfulfilled by a lack of a fantasy team. I think it will help.

Alex:  You’re welcome.  It’s a pleasure to be here.  Also, you told me I had to do it or else I’d get assigned a season-full of Joe Alexander essays. No pressure there, right? Who drafts first?

Me:  We’ll do a coin flip.  Call it in the air.  *flips coin*

Alex:  Tails.

Me:  It came up heads.  I’ll pick first.

Alex:  Now how do I know you didn’t che-<redacted by editor>?

Me: John Hammond usually recites the Bucks’ philosophy as ‘draft for talent, trade for need.’  But this team will be made entirely through the draft and I have major needs. Some commodities on Milwaukee’s roster are so much rarer than others, and that tempts me to go against my better intuition with the first pick.  But my eighth-grade English teacher told me never to do that, so my first pick in the All-Bucks draft is Brandon Jennings.

Jennings often tosses around the ‘face of the franchise’ phrase.  If Brandon is truly to be the face of the Bucks, then his play this season had better make me proud of making him the first overall pick.  Speaking of franchise faces, Joe Alexander really had a dreamy face to be one.  Too bad his bag of tricks only consisted of that and a kangaroo’s vertical leap.

Alex: Being a sucker for Joe Alexander’s West Virginia days, any mention of his NBA career makes me frown. I invested in collegiate talent that didn’t translate, and I don’t plan on making the same mistake with my first pick in the All-Bucks draft. It’s not really a worry, though, since Monta Ellis never played collegiate ball.

Second only to Jennings in points per game last year, I’m expecting Ellis to keep up his scoring pace. That shouldn’t be problem since Monta has extensive experience getting his numbers while playing in crowded backcourts — or groups not including mopeds, at least.

With the No. 3 pick, Ersan Ilyasova is the first forward off the draft board. Ilyasova’s young, durable and, oh yeah, Milwaukee’s resident rebound machine. His performance on the glass coupled with an ability to score earned Ersan the Bucks’ best mark of win shares per 48 minutes of basketball last season.

Me: Ouch.  Those are good picks.  I’m particularly jealous of you having Ersan — as in psycho, Fatal Attraction, jilted ex-lover level of jealous.  You may want to start that Joe Alexander research soon.

Without my precious Ersan, I need someone, anyone, who can hit a three-point shot to help space the floor for the rest of my team. The Bucks are not flush with shooters, so the choice is pretty simple: I am taking Mike Dunleavy, Jr. with the number-four overall pick.

Beyond the threes, Dunleavy was second on the team in win shares per 48 minutes (and third in overall win shares).  I don’t think he gets enough credit as a passer, either.  The Bucks averaged more assists per minute with him on the court than off, and despite a sizable amount of the offense running through him, his turnover percentage was a minuscule 9.7%.

Just stay healthy, Mike.  Pretty please, Mike.

With the fifth pick, I am plucking Tobias Harris off the board.  Of course, there are some obvious concerns with Tobias: defense, turnovers, and inexperience.  But inexperience dances hand-in-hand with the promise of youth.  He has a combination of size, skill, and athleticism not seen elsewhere on the roster.  Tobias already finishes better in the paint than any other Buck, and he is still getting better at it.

To put it another way: I want players who are flat out better than the opponents against whom they are pitted.  Call them the ‘no doubters’, if you will. Much to my chagrin, the Bucks may not have any players of that caliber this season.  But if I had to wager on them having a ‘no doubter’ in 2013-14, it would be Tobias Harris.

Alex: Harris is a gamble, but his upside is undeniable.

The draft pool is getting shallow and while putting points on the board never gets old, there’s an overused mantra about defense that I tend to believe…

With the sixth overall pick, I am selecting the do-it-all defender, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. He guards multiple positions and regularly hinders would-be scorers. Mbah a Moute may not show up much in the box score, but he overachieves on the defensive end in ways that affect shot statistics for opposing teams. Assuming a surgery for knee tendonitis was successful, as was reported by several sources, there is no reason Mbah a Moute won’t return to form.

The seventh pick is trickier, but using similar logic leads me to choose Samuel Dalembert. After a rough 2010-11 season in Sacramento, he put together a good 65-game run with the Rockets, posting nearly two blocks per game while notching respectable offensive and defensive ratings. He’s one of the Bucks’ elder statesmen, but he’s also a reliable center, and those are increasingly rare on the NBA stage.

Me: It just dawned on me that despite the fact that I had the three of the first five picks, you nabbed four of the Bucks’ probable Opening Day starters.  Oops. Maybe I’m not ready to be an NBA GM just yet.

For what it’s worth, Luc had successful surgery, and I’m sure that he has done the things he needed to do to rehab it properly, but at the same time, he did not get to spend his summer working on his conditioning or his jump shot.  He simply didn’t have that option.  I like Harris partly because he will be able to hit the ground running, both figuratively and literally, when training camp opens October 2nd.

Oddly, I am more jealous of your 3rd and 7th picks than your 2nd and 6th picks.  Missing out on Dalembert hurts more than a little.  The Bucks tried the center-less route last year, and it did not end well.

Alex: I was wary of choosing a center with a certain forward still available, but Dalembert certainly fits a need. He’s far and away the best the Bucks have at the position, but ranked outside of the top 30  centers who played meaningful minutes last season.

As for Harris, I am actually of the opinion that he has the upperhand in the argument at small forward. A healthy offseason and his athleticism theoretically allow Harris to stride past Luc, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he made an appearance in the starting line-up sooner rather than later.

Me:  Alright, it’s time for me to start picking from the Bucks’ vast menu of power forwards.  I will take Ekpe Udoh with the 8th pick and John Henson with the 9th pick.

A quick glance at the roster on the Bucks’ website has Udoh listed as a center only?  Is that new?  I definitely don’t recall that from last year, but yes, he’s my center.  It’s like the team doctored the roster so that it would have fewer F’s than my 11th-grade report card.  They added a “C” to Gooden’s position decription, too — he’s now a center-forward. That one may be a new label, too, though it accurately reflects his role last season.

I love Udoh’s game.  He plays smartly, and he brings excellent help defense when the occasion calls for it.  Ekpe also flashed a nascent post game in April.  The moves were deliberate and planned, but they included a few counters, too — just enough to keep a defense honest.  And as an added bonus, he did it without a flurry of turnovers.

Speaking of turnovers, those and fouls were the reasons that John Henson got the nod over Larry Sanders here.  I love Larry’s contributions on defense, and he is probably stronger bodying up a defender than Ekpe or John, but I have a hunch that choosing Henson and Udoh will give my offense a much better flow.

And I’m giving both a key to the weight room, a stack of take-out menus, and the team credit card.

Alex: Udoh and Henson were both excellent college players, but neither is physically ready for big time minutes with a pro team. With proper instruction, though, both could grow their games. Ekpe is already well on track, as you mentioned.

Picks are less clear as we reach the bottom of the roster. Even with that in mind, I’m not convinced that taking Doron Lamb tenth is the right move. But that’s exactly what I’m doing and if it doesn’t work out, I’ll rationalize it as quickly as possible.

Lamb is the second guard on Team Two (a.k.a. the Junior Bridgeman All-Stars, sponsored by Wendy’s), and although he’s a rookie, Doron should shoot at a much better clip from three-point range than Beno Udrih. That’s hoping he adapts his shot to the longer NBA triple. He’s also more dependable from the free throw line than Udrih, sinking nearly 12 percent more of his attempts than his veteran counterpart. There will certainly be growing pains, but John Calipari-coached guards (read: Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Knight, and John Wall if he can catch up to his potential) have a good track record in recent years.

On the other hand, Lamb is a shooting guard who slipped into the second round of June’s real draft, leaving J.B.A.S. with no point and a semi-terrified GM. Thank you for still being available, Beno Udrih, because you are the point guard.

Me: But you took all the guards!

On a side note apart from our draft, if Mike Dunleavy is the small forward that I think he is, then playing the season with only four guards is a risky proposition. As I’ve mentioned before, the ’83 Bucks swept the Celtics in part because Boston only had four options in the backcourt.  There is no margin for error when a team goes that route.  Once Tiny Archibald got old in a hurry, not even a Bird-Maxwell-Parish-McHale front line rotation could save them.  Milwaukee crushed them.

Of course, the Bucks then acquired Archibald for themselves and ran into the exact same problem.  A year later, they were scrambling with an odd, new position called a ‘point forward’.

Sadly, I may need to do the same thing for my team.  But at least I’ll have the excuse of only having seven players on my roster.

There are three players left in the draft pool and I have to get to pick two of them: Larry Sanders, Drew Gooden, and Joel Przybilla. Shame on me for using my gut instincts for drafting starters, then resorting to advanced stats to pick my scrubs, but I’m having a hard time sorting through all the talent that you’ve left me.

1 Drew Gooden 56 1469 18.8 .512 9.5 18.0 13.6 16.5 1.6 1.7 12.7 25.7 105 104 3.6 .116
2 Joel Przybilla 27 449 6.0 .492 7.4 28.9 17.9 1.9 0.5 2.8 28.2 7.9 89 104 0.3 .034
3 Larry Sanders 52 643 13.3 .463 10.3 17.3 13.7 7.8 2.5 8.9 17.6 16.7 92 97 1.0 .072
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/7/2012.

As much as I would like to have a true 7-footer to play center at times, I am picking Larry Sanders and then Drew Gooden.

Sanders can play defense.  The defensive rating and adjusted +/- numbers he put up last year were astounding.  He may lead the league in techs this season, but that’s okay.  And if you think I’m not throwing a Henson-Udoh-Sanders front line at you, then you’re crazy.  Yes, John Henson may be overmatched at small forward, but he won’t have trouble guarding Luc.  In fact, I expect the end result of my crazy combo to look something like this.

Przybilla has a role on the 2012-13 Bucks, but on a roster of only seven players, he can’t do enough to help.  I do hope you enjoy his Joel and his 28.2% turnover rate.  How he managed to top Sanders in that category by over 10% scares me more than a little.  Plus, Drew had a game with 13 assists last year.  Przybilla had a season with six assists.

I expect Gooden to hit a nice percentage of his 19-footers on the pick-and-pop action, make good passes, space the court, and give my offense a nice flow.  He will not be my center.  He’s fourth on the depth chart there behind Udoh, Sanders, and Henson.

He’s also my go-to-guy for passes to himself off the backboard.

Wait a sec, how did I draft a team of seven players and end up with four power forwards?  I don’t know whether to empathize with Hammond for doing exactly the same things that he did or to chastise him for presenting me this assortment players from which to choose.

Alex: Don’t worry. Epke’s a pure center now, remember? That means that less than half of your squad consists of power forwards. If that’s not cause to celebrate, something has gone wrong.

As for winning the Joel Przybilla sweepstakes, his abysmal turnover percentage from last season is almost offset by the fact that he only used 7.9 percent of available plays when on the floor through 27 games. There’s comfort in knowing that Monta will run the offense and Joel is the last option can focus on playing defense, rebounding and blocking shots, even if his success is entirely due to his height. And that is the absolute comfort: that Przybilla cannot stop being a very tall man. Unless his knee gives out, again. *furiously knocking on wood*

So thanks for that, K L.

Me: You are most welcome.

I guess we’re just about done here…but wait a sec. You have a team name and I don’t. My team still needs a name, doesn’t it?

It’s not as catchy as ‘The Junior Bridgeman All-Stars’, but I’m going with ‘Sidney’s Cortège’.  Since you invoked the name of The Wendy’s One, I was reminded of the early-80s Bucks and of Don Nelson, who goes into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.

By association, you also reminded me that Ralph Sampson is going into the Hall this weekend and Sidney Moncrief isn’t.  That is a travesty.  In a way, the careers of Sampson and Moncrief are alike.  They both went to unheralded college programs, made them significantly better, and took them to a Final Four.  They were both NCAA All-Americans (Ralph made it three times to Sidney’s one) whose NBA careers were limited by knee injuries.  But Moncrief’s pro career was light-years ahead of Sampson’s.

So why ‘Sidney’s Cortège’, you say? Because if Sidney Moncrief were 7’4″, his commutes to the BMOHBC would be done bareback on elephants with an assembly of attendants fanning him to comfort, feeding him grapes and cheese, and holding a sunshade to protect him from harmful UV rays.  If Sidney Moncrief were as tall as Sampson, he would have scored more points than Kareem, blocked more shots than Russell, and grabbed more rebounds than Wilt.  There would be a Hall of Fame named after him.

Ralph Sampson got a lot of attention in college because he was 7’4″.  His length made for great magazine cover photos, great press hype, and for almost-great basketball.  Defenses, unmoved by the threat of a college three-point shot that didn’t yet exist, packed in around Sampson, and scouts and analysts were left to speculate on just how fantastic his pro career would be once he had the space to operate.

Except that it wasn’t.

To make a long rant short, I’m naming my team after Sidney, who should be getting hailed in Springfield this weekend, and I’m making him my head coach.  He may need to play shooting guard since I didn’t really draft one.

I just hope he knows how to coach power forwards.

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