So who is exactly Larry Sanders? Most Bucks fans are probably still trying to sort out the answer to that, having seen next to nothing of the VCU big man's college career. And even if you did somehow see plenty of Colonial league games over the past three seasons, there's still the tricky matter of projecting a raw but talented big man who only began playing organized basketball six years ago.
All we know for sure is that it will take some time before the Bucks know exactly what they have. This isn't the first time that John Hammond and company have taken a player relatively new to the game, and they learned from selecting Joe Alexander and Luc Mbah a Moute in 2008 that not all late bloomers are created equal. But unlike those two, Sanders has had the added challenge of growing into an enormous frame (6'10.5" in shoes, 7'5.75" wingspan, some of the biggest hands measured in Chicago), which means he should have more room to grow than Mbah a Moute (who's improved fairly little since getting lottery buzz as a frosh at UCLA) and Alexander.
The good news is that we won't have to wait long to get our first glimpse of Sanders in a Bucks (practice) jersey. He's expected to join fellow rookies Darington Hobson and Tiny Gallon on the Bucks' summer league squad in Vegas starting July 12. Until then, we've compiled your summer reading and viewing list to get to know Sanders a bit better.
JS: Sanders not a project
A major question about Sanders is his NBA readiness, an attribute that the Bucks put a higher premium on than most other teams. Needless to say, the Bucks didn't draft Sanders for the purpose of sending him to the D-League for two years.
"It all comes down to opportunity," Hammond said in his remarks after the Bucks made four picks in the draft. "And if a guy gets an opportunity and performs, people don't call him a project. They say he can play.
"I hate saying, 'This guy is going to be a project; we're going to have to wait on him. Especially when you're talking about the 15th pick in the draft. You hope a guy can get on the floor. Once again, a guy has to deserve the right to play. No gifts."
Skiles echoed that sentiment:
"Because he didn't have a huge high school career and is a late-blooming type player, guys like that get better because they are conscientious and have worked hard.
"Just as a small thing, his free throw percentage has improved every year. Coupled with the size and athleticism, you come in here and start working with the other players we have in here, you're going to get better. We're pretty confident he's going to fit right in."
TCPalm.com: Sanders' emotional night
Watching with friends and family at the VCU gym, Sanders cried with his mother when the pick was officially announced. Don't worry, they were tears of joy.
Sanders received a call from the Bucks moments before the official announcement, but kept it to himself until NBA Commissioner David Stern declared Milwaukee's selection on ESPN.
"It was really emotional for me," Sanders said. "I've never wanted something so much in my life and for it to happen, it's just amazing. I'm really speechless."
DraftExpress Situational Stats
Sanders' raw stats aren't eye-popping, particularly for a junior in a mid-major conference:
|2009 - Larry Sanders
However, don't let Sanders' modest minutes mask his encouraging productivity level. He ranked 10th in the nation in rebounds per minute and 13th in PER, and (for what it's worth) also fared better in John Hollinger's "draft rater" projection than Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis, Ekpe Udoh and Hassan Whiteside. Dave Berri also found Sanders to be one of the better first round prospects using his position-adjusted win score metric. Beyond the regular box score, DX also took a closer look at the PF prospects' situational effectiveness, providing a bit more insight into each player's style:
Larry Sanders stacks up pretty well with Ed Davis at 1.03 PPP on 13 possessions per-game. He’s come a long way from his freshman year, and it shows in his situational statistics. His 55.3% shooting from the post (4th) is incredible considering how raw he was with his back to the basket when he got to VCU. He still has a ways to go, as his 0.421 PPP in jump shooting situations indicates his lack polish from the midrange, but couple his length and athleticism with his 1.421 PPP in finishing situations (3rd) and Sanders seems like a nice long-term option for a team with the time develop him.
Courtside Analyst: Bucks draft choices vs. toughest competition
Ty went through the hassle of analyzing the Bucks' draft picks' play against their top competition last year and found a "mixed bag" of results. Be sure to read the whole thing, but here's a sample of what he found for Sanders.
Sanders most encouraging sign was that he was an excellent rebounder, which is the case with all three of the Bucks picks. He is also a good shot blocker. The most discouraging sign in the evaluation was his one awful performance against Old Dominion. OD was one of the taller teams in the country according to KenPom’s "Effective Height", and it was the best defense Sanders faced all year. He didn’t rise to the occasion. He was demolished. But he came back and had a very good game against Old Dominion the second time around. One other note, he is also a bad free throw shooter, as are all of the Bucks picks.
WSSP: Sparky talks to Sanders on draft night
Sanders spoke to Sparky and the gang at WSSP shortly after the selection was announced, talking a bit about his developing offensive game and goals for getting up to around 235-240 pounds. Like any big man, Sanders' ability to consistently hit open 15-footers would really add another dimension to his game (cough Andrew Bogut cough). So far he's not there, shooting just 35.5% on two point jumpers a year ago. But below you can watch some footage of him shooting long twos at the Chicago combine, and you can see he has developed a bit of touch from 20-22 feet. I'm not sure he's ever going to be a guy you want shooting 20-footers, but from the small sample below he at least gives hints of having the kind of mechanics and touch to keep defenses honest.
FanHouse: Sanders Lands on Right Foot After Starting on Wrong One
Tim Povtak has a nice profile of Sanders' introduction to the game, including a story from his very awkward debut for his 10th grade JV team.
"I never, ever expected to be in this position,'' Sanders said. "I started so late. Growing up, I didn't like playground basketball like other kids. I couldn't cross over, couldn't dunk, couldn't shoot a 3, so it just wasn't much fun for me. But once I got in organized ball, learned about defense, got on a real team and learned team basketball, I fell in love with it.''