The funny thing about guys who run fast and jump high? It's surprisingly hard for them to just slow down. Bucks fans saw Joe Alexander struggle for a year with the concept before he washed out entirely, while Dan Gadzuric spent about seven years going 100 miles per hour--and only occasionally in the right direction. So while there were a number of positives to be drawn from Larry Sanders' uneven debut on Monday--energy on defense is generally a good thing--there was something eerily familiar about his hyperactive, inefficient offensive performance.
But the good news is that game two suggested he could be a quick learner. Sanders punctuated a 22-point, nine-rebound, two-block effort by uncharacteristically drilling two threes in the waning minutes, the second tying the game at 64 with less than a second left. Yes, the Bucks then conceded a last-second game winner for the second night in a row, but it's not like anyone should be losing sleep over Sam Young's buzzer-beater. The main thing is keeping tabs on the progress of Sanders and Tiny Gallon, and both guys looked decidedly better than in their debut against the Mavs.
On paper the Bucks looked to be severely overmatched against a Grizz team that featured five five NBA players in the starting lineup, and the Bucks' weak backcourt was again wholly ineffective on the offensive end. Milwaukee guards were just 3/18 from the field, and both teams' hideous assist/turnover ratios (11/26 for the Bucks, 7/17 for the Grizz) underscored the general poor guard play from both teams. Yes, it's still summer league.
Larry Sanders - 33 min, 9/14 fg, 2/3 threes, 2/4 ft, 22 pts, 9 rebs, 2 blk, 2 ast, 1 stl, 3 to, 6 pf
Despite facing off against two former top three picks, Sanders left little doubt who was the best player on the court. Defensively he was again disruptive--far more than the two blocks in the box score would suggest. Both Darrell Arthur and Thabeet seemed to be caught off-guard by Sanders' length, as both saw innocent -looking jumpers hurled back in their face (though the block on Thabeet was inexplicably called a foul). Thabeet got a little bit of revenge when he blocked Sanders at the rim in the first half, though they generally didn't guard each other with Sanders playing mostly at PF.
The biggest difference for Sanders was his patience on offense, as he didn't seem to be racing the clock to get up as many shots as possible. He still rushed a couple jumpers, but even those were in rhythm and he thankfully wasn't afraid to hand the ball back off to a guard when he didn't have a look himself. He again looked very comfortable catching and shooting from 15-18 feet, and by the end of the game he was really feeling good when he buried those two threes. He also splashed in a turnaround from the post for the second straight game, and all told it's hard to deny that Sanders has more touch than he was given credit for before the draft. I don't see him pumping in too many triples come the regular season, but his compact, well-balanced stroke looks like it should be a weapon from mid-range.
Sanders also finished inside on a handful of occasions, throwing down a nice one-handed dunk and a couple short glassers off of broken plays. It looks like he has room to improve his finishing strength, but his opportunities have also been somewhat limited given the guards he's playing with in Vegas. Lastly, Sanders had a couple nice passes to find Gallon open for layups, and he also had a very nice bounce pass out of the post to a cutting guard. I wrote last night that he's definitely not just an athlete, and tonight we saw it even more.
Deron Washington - 33 min, 5/11 fg, 5/7 threes, 6 rebs, 1 ast, 1 st, 3 to, 8 pf
The Bucks got another solid game from from Virginia Tech jumping jack Deron Washington, who has apparently reinvented himself as a spot-up three point shooter (16 pt, 5/7 threes, 0/4 twos). He doesn't have much of any in-between game and his athleticism doesn't often translate in the halfcourt, so it's huge for him to be consistently making threes.
Tiny Gallon - 22 min, 4/6 fg, 0/1 threes, 8 pts, 11 rebs, 6 to, 3 pf
As we hoped, Gallon saw more minutes but again looked uneven on the offensive end. But he also rebounded and held the block well against Thabeet showing that there's some upside to being, um, big-boned. Though he's way behind Sanders in terms of run-and-jump athleticism, Gallon's big body is a major asset when battling for rebounding position--while Sanders tends to get pushed around a bit underneath, Gallon always seems to be the one getting the other guy to move where he wants them to. And in a world where rebounds are mostly collected below the rim, that's an important thing.