The Milwaukee Bucks struggled from the very start Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Bucks lost to the Grizzlies 108-90, a startling result, considering the recent high level of play the team had exhibited against Boston and Cleveland.
Slowly but surely, a rotation is unfolding. Well…kind of. Larry Sanders and Mike Dunleavy appear to be the two men off of the bench that will see the most minutes. Ekpe Udoh and John Henson, who made his NBA debut last night, will continue to duke it out for minutes and Doron Lamb will provide the occasional scoring punch at the two-guard, although he did play some point guard tonight in Beno Udrih’s absence. Joel Pryzbilla is the third center and manning the end of the bench and Drew Gooden is just waiting for the team to get healthy so he can bust out his new suit collection that he hopefully upgraded after signing that 5-year, 40-million dollar deal with us.
After tonight, there are three players who can no longer be ignored. Even after such a short of time, I think it’s important that we go under the microscope and examine what they did tonight and how their play this season will affect the team going forward.
The Colonel has been the brightest surprise so far. It’s not just the stat-line that is impressing fans (13.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 4 bpg) but his overall energy and hustle on the court, gives the team the kick in the pants that they need mid-quarter.
While watching Sanders this season, his game is hardly recognizable. Last season and the year before, his attempt at scoring would be a feeble jump shot. Surprisingly, it would fall sometimes, his mid-range game really isn’t that bad. But his post game was non-existent, his hands were horrible and he seemed out of position on both sides of the floor often.
This season, he’s active everywhere, at least attempting dunks (I’ll pretend he didn’t get swatted by Tony Allen tonight) and being a key contributor off the bench. So far this season, Sanders is the best post player we have and vastly outplaying Samuel Dalembert. Despite his excellent play, don’t expect Sanders to start. His slight frame makes him an easier insert off of the bench and because his game is based off of energy and athleticism, he could be instrumental in contributing to runs when the starters are sitting on the pine.
If this team wants to be a playoff contender, Ersan’s going to have to get things going. I think he will. Last season, he didn’t hit his stride until mid-way through the year. He’s incredibly valuable because of his toughness, ability to stretch the floor and great rebounding skill.
Skiles hasn’t been playing him (or Samuel Dalembert) as much because of the success of Sanders so far this year. These two starters need to kick it into gear. Sanders, Henson and Udoh can’t be expected to carry the brunt of the load in the post.
When the Bucks traded Andrew Bogut to Golden State, it didn’t seem the right deal to me. Monta Ellis? Forget undersized, he needs the ball in his hands to score, he has never won and won’t function in a Scott Skiles system. The more I watch Ellis, the more I realize he’s actually a point guard. People think he can play shooting guard because he can score, but actually he’s just a scoring point guard. There is a crucial difference to me. Because Ellis isn’t a shooting guard, he struggles when passed the ball and expected to hit an open shot. It’s just not the rhythm he’s used to.
Ellis again had a horrible shooting night. Starting the game off 1 for 10, FSN Wisconsin broadcaster Jim Paschke tried to defend Ellis by saying that the Grizzlies defense was playing well. Actually, Ellis had several open shots where he chucked the ball at the rim with 18 or more seconds still on the shot clock several times. The surprising part was that he kept shooting. It appears Ellis still doesn’t get how to function as a shooting guard in a team-oriented offense. He doesn’t know how to be a team player on a team that actually wants to win. This is a problem. It means that we probably got less overall value (remember he can declare for free agency this summer) than we could have for our most valuable trade asset. And unfortunately for Bucks fans, it means we have another Michael Redd-esque black hole on the team
Hopefully I’m wrong.