The Milwaukee Bucks‘ 15th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, junior VCU power forward Larry Sanders, has only been playing organized basketball for five years, so he’s still got a ways to go before reaching his full potential. But Bucks GM John Hammond won’t label him a project, and sees his lack of development as an advantage.
By Jake McCormick
Sanders has been on the Bucks radar for as long as any of the 60+ prospects they evaluated over the last money. He was also the only player rumored to be linked to Milwaukee at No. 15 after word got out that the Bucks allegedly made a verbal commitment to Sanders and coach Scott Skiles supposedly raved about the lengthy forward after taking him out to dinner.
Whether those rumors were true or not, the fact remains that Sanders, who models his face-up post game after Kevin Garnett, will provide Milwaukee with a unique combination of size, athleticism, and speed that was not present on the 2009-10 squad. His defense and shot blocking ability alone are good enough to get him on the floor consistently as a rookie, but Hammond was happy to call his continually developing offensive game “imaginative.”
“(Larry Sanders) is a guy you can put on the floor immediately just because of what he can do on the defensive end and how he can rebound the ball,” Hammond said. “He’s a little raw offensively but we liked his imagination and the fact that he feels like he can be a good offensive player; we were really excited about the opportunity to get him.”
Part of the appeal of Sanders’ “raw” talent simply comes from his physical traits. Consider the following measurables for Rookie X and Rookie Y:
Height (with shoes): 6’10.5″, weight: 222, body fat: 4.6%, hand size (width by length): 11 x 9.8, wingspan: 7’6″, standing reach: 9’4″, max vertical: 28″, 3/4 court sprint: 3.27
Height (with shoes): 6’10.75″, weight: 292, body fat: 16.4%, hand size (width by length): 10 x 9.3, wingspan: 7’6″, standing reach: 9’5″, max vertical: 27.5″, 3/4 court sprint: 3.55
Rookie X is Larry Sanders, and Rookie Y is DeMarcus Cousins, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft. Other than a weight discrepancy of 50 pounds and body fat percentage difference of , there is very little that separates the two first rounders when it comes to unteachable gift of size. Sanders and Cousins have very different styles of play, but if Sanders puts on 20-25 pounds of muscle he would be a lot closer to playing like Kevin Garnett than Hakim Warrick.
“We classify him as something different than what we have on our team right now,” Hammond said. “He’s probably the fastest big in the draft, maybe one of the fastest players flat out in the draft. The guy’s speed from end line to end line is absolutely amazing for a guy his size.”
Hammond has said throughout the draft process that the team would not settle for a player unable to contribute in some capacity right away, and it’s fair to assume Sanders will tally around 15-20 minutes a night utilizing his transition speed and defending alongside Andrew Bogut as they fortify an interior with length fit for Stretch Armstrong. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but having two bigs with wingspans as long as Yao Ming is tall brings on some level of intimidation.
“I’ll be working in a setting in Milwaukee where I can only get stronger and be able to guard all positions,” Sanders said. “The sky’s the limit as far as my defense goes.”
It may be a year or two before Sanders fully grows into his body, consistently hits his 10-15 foot jump shots, and learns the nuances of NBA-level interior defense, but he is already a fan of the city and its team, and said all the right things in his first of many interviews with the Wisconsin basketball media.
“My dedication to working hard and my energy allows me to catch onto plays,” Sanders said. “In a situation like (Milwaukee’s) I can learn more than ever, and it should only raise my game up higher.”