When Milwaukee Bucks power forward Larry Sanders was drafted by GM John Hammond in June, Hammond and coach Scott Skiles knew he was raw offensively, but felt he could be an immediate defensive contributor thanks to his pterodactyl-like wing span and natural instincts.
By Jake McCormick
If John Hammond and Scott Skiles were speaking in stat lines about Larry Sanders’ expected production as a rookie coming off the bench, it would probably look something like this:
32 minutes, 5-17 fg, 12 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks
Coincidentally, those are the numbers Larry Sanders put up in last night’s 115-110 preseason overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons, and according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, one of those five blocks was an electric game-saver.
I’ll take that type of statistical production from a first year player coming off the bench, but while head coach Scott Skiles was happy to see Sanders’ ups, he made it very clear that Larry Sanders is mostly getting by on his instincts and has a lot of room to grow into the Milwaukee Bucks’ scheme.
If Larry Sanders can put up a double-double with multiple blocks (albeit with a low shooting percentage thanks to a developing offensive game and inconsistent shot selection) due to his natural ability, imagine what could happen with a little experience and development under Scott Skiles, and with a healthy Andrew Bogut patrolling the paint on both ends of the court.
That may seem extremely optimistic after just two preseason games, but just talking to Larry Sanders gives off the impression that he plays without an ego and just wants to learn as much as possible to get better. Sanders said his philosophy is to take in “everything from everybody.”
“Theres a lot of guys I can learn from, just from talking to Drew Gooden, Andrew Bogut,” Sanders said. “They want to teach, I just want to learn the best I can and use that to be the best I can.”
Brandon Jennings has been one of those “everything from everybody” teammates to Sanders, sharing his own experiences going through similar questions about being drafted too high and being categorized as somewhat of a “project” as well as the hard work it takes to succeed as an NBA rookie.
It also doesn’t hurt to have fellow post players Jon Brockman, Ersan Ilyasova, Bogut, Gooden, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute going against him in practice, and Sanders just sees that as an opportunity for personal and team-wide improvement.
“I see us as a puzzle that has a lot of pieces, my piece of the puzzle is just my energy,” Sanders said. “I’m trying to push my teammates, trying to push myself.”
If pushing himself and his teammates nets 12 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, and quality inside defense, then it’s a safe bet that Larry Sanders is already on the right track towards NBA success.