Milwaukee Bucks' Front Line of the Future Is Already on the Roster
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The Milwaukee Bucks face the realistic possibility of losing their entire backcourt this summer, and some might consider that a nightmarish thought. But with Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson, the team's future front line is firmly in place.
With all eyes on the trio of Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick heading into the offseason, it's easy to lose sight of what the team has elsewhere.
Sanders is coming off of a breakout year that saw him emerge as one of the league's best shot-blockers, averaging 2.8 per game. In addition to his stellar defense, Sanders averaged a very respectable 9.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
But from an offensive standpoint, he's still very raw.
Perhaps that proves what kind of player he could become if he puts in the work, though. While he'll probably never turn into a big man that averages 20 points and 10 rebounds, he can still be of value offensively.
Sanders scores most of his points in the restricted area, and a lot of that is due to his ability to control the offensive glass. At 3.2 offensive rebounds per game, Sanders led the Bucks in that category and ranked 16th out of the entire league.
If he wants to improve, though, he'll need to develop some post moves and resist the urge to shoot mid-range jump shots unless he can knock them down on a more consistent basis.
As the above shot chart (courtesy of NBA.com/Stats) shows, he does most of his work inside.
But due to his rawness on the block, he often falls in love with his jump shot, and that isn't an efficient way for him to score at this point.
He's well on his way, but working with someone like Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason might do wonders for his game.
While Sanders works on his offensive game, Ilyasova is well on his way to becoming an elite scorer.
This season, Ilyasova averaged a career-best 13.2 points on 11 shots per game. On a team where Jennings and Ellis demand the ball and get their high volume of shots in, that's not too bad.
With the backcourt in a state of flux, more offensive opportunities could open up for Ilyasova next season if neither guard is back.
At 6'10", Ilyasova possesses the typical European skill set for a big man. He can shoot threes extremely well—his 44.4 percent was fourth in the league—and his ability to attack the rim off the dribble is adequate.
In fact, Ilyasova has a similar game—though not nearly as good—to that of Dirk Nowitzki.
He could stand to improve his back-to-the-basket game, though.
If Henson continues to emerge as a legitimate power forward, the Bucks could move him to the small forward position. If that happens, he must learn how to take advantage of his size in the post against smaller defenders.
Averaging 7.1 rebounds per game this season, and 6.2 for his career, he's also a great asset to have on the boards, which only adds to his value.
With one of Milwaukee's two leading scorers from this season likely on the way out, an increased role for Ilyasova next season is almost a guarantee.
And that, by all means, is a good thing.
Henson averaged six points and 4.7 rebounds per game during his rookie season.
That might not seem like anything on the surface, but given the fact that he played just 13.1 minutes per game, it's solid production off the bench.
Sporadic playing time limited Henson's success and ability to grow, but when he did play, he usually looked good. In the 13 games in which he played more than 20 minutes, Henson averaged 13.4 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
Clearly, if given playing time, he can provide the Bucks with a lot of value both on offense and defense. In fact, his 25-rebound performance against the Orlando Magic on April 10 was the fifth-highest rebound total in a game this season.
How would you rate Henson's performance during the 2012-13 season?
His total rebound percentage of 19.3 also ranked him right up there amongst the best.
Pretty impressive for a rookie that didn't see the floor a ton.
The examples of Henson's potential are countless, and it's a bit baffling as to why he didn't see the floor more throughout the season than he did. Nonetheless, the future is very bright for the young power forward.
He's patient with the ball, is smooth in the post, doesn't foul and avoids making many careless mistakes. Adding some strength, furthering the development of his mid-range jump shot and refining his post moves will be key areas to focus on during the offseason.
But anyone who watched Henson play during his rookie year has to be happy with the ability he showed.
Most importantly, though, he's the third piece to Milwaukee's future frontcourt trio.
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