Sanders may be just be getting his feet wet in NBA waters against D-League and fellow rookie competition in Vegas, but the amount of positives seen so far give Bucks’ fans hope that these are early signs of GM John Hammond’s second straight first round home run.
By Jake McCormick
Similarly to Spring Training and the NFL preseason, the Summer League can’t be used as a barometer to measure whether or not a rookie or young player will have success once they make it to Showtime.
But like its MLB and NFL counter parts, the Summer League has had some hits and misses when it comes to statistical leaders, and Sanders’ early display of raw length, speed, defensive awareness, an inconsistent but surprising shooting touch, and energy around the basket shouldn’t be written off as just success against average players.
In 2008, Eric Gordon, OJ Mayo, Kevin Love, Aaron Brooks, and Anthony Randolph were among the Vegas statistical leaders. A year later, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Randolph, Gordon, Jonny Flynn, and Taj Gibson were standout performers.
Of course, the other side of the coin has been occupied by the likes of Adam Morrison, Alando Tucker, Quincy Douby, Jodie Meeks, Joey Dorsey, and Marcus Williams.
The main difference between those two groups lies mainly in the talent ceiling and draft expectations, and there’s a strong argument for Sanders belonging in the first group given his place as the No. 15 overall pick and .
Unlike the latter category of Summer League stat sheet wonders, Sanders isn’t playing to make a team and inspires cautious optimism that he may be able to compete for more minutes than expected on a nightly basis.
Because Sanders was the Bucks’ top pick, and that of the reigning NBA Executive of the Year no less, he is expected to show some signs of what fans can expect from the lengthy power forward a year or two down the road.
Using “athleticism” when describing a Bucks’ draft pick brings the taste of battery acid to Bucks fans’ mouths thanks to Joe Alexander, but Sanders is a whole different level of the word. If you didn’t know who was who in a Summer League game, it would be very easy to replace “pure athleticism” with “raw talent.”
In three games, Sanders has averaged 13 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, and 2 steals while shooting at an expected clip of 42.5% with a small sample of unexpected three point range displayed in the team’s 67-64 Tuesday night loss against the Memphis Grizzlies. It should also be noted that Sanders performed admirably on both ends of the floor against the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, Hasheem Thabeet.
Less than two hours after drafting the power forward out of VCU, Hammond said he was sold on Sanders’ mental toughness, endline-to-endline speed, NBA-ready defensive abilities, and still developing offensive game.
Based on the stat line above, Hammond has yet to be wrong in his evaluation of a player that patterns his game after Kevin Garnett. So far, Sanders has lived up to any reasonable expectations of a player with a lot of room to grow, and that should be enough to get fans excited for his official NBA debut.
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For a game-by-game account of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Summer League, click here.Follow paulmbanks