Don't pencil Luc Mbah a Moute in for the starting small forward job quite yet.
While many of us have guessed that the fifth year forward would end up starting on opening night, the odds of that happening took a major blow with today's news that Mbah a Moute would miss training camp while continuing to rehab his surgically repaired knee. It's the second straight season that Mbah a Moute's camp has been derailed by the injury, though the upside is that the surgery he had in May should make it less likely that he misses time once he's back. Still, it's hardly encouraging that he's still recovering five months later--afterall, this isn't a major reconstruction we're talking about.
All that raises obvious questions about how Mbah a Moute will be worked back into the rotation once he is ready to go, especially considering that his prospective starting role was based as much on Scott Skiles' preference for using Mike Dunleavy off the bench as Mbah a Moute's own game-changing defensive abilities.
With Mbah a Moute being brought back slowly, the door would appear to be open for Tobias Harris to make a serious run at either the starting spot or at a minimum the primary backup role to Dunleavy. That should come as a nice silver lining for Bucks fans pining to see more of Harris after a promising rookie season and dominating performance in Vegas. And while I'm fully on board with wanting to see what Harris can do in more extended minutes, I'd still give the starting nod to Dunleavy simply because a) he's the better, more proven player at this point and b) I'm not sure Harris fits in with the starters as well as Dunleavy.
As a rookie Harris was at his best getting regular touches with the second unit, especially in the post. But he looked lost playing off the ball during a seven-game stretch as a starter in March, and it stands to reason that the best way to complement the ball-dominating styles of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis is by playing them with a floor-stretching three such as Dunleavy. Oh, and shielding Harris from the responsibility of guarding guys like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony from the opening tap? Yeah, that might not be a bad thing either.
It doesn't mean Harris won't eventually claim the starting small forward position; in the long term that's exactly what most Bucks fans are hoping will happen. But easing him into a regular rotation spot off the bench just seems like the safer option at this point, both in terms of lineup compatibility and managing Harris' own development.