Bucks’ Larry Sanders Ready To Take Lead
VIDEO OF THE DAY - Larry Sanders
HOOPSWORLD talks to Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders at the 2013 NBA Summer League.Watch More Video Here
Larry Sanders couldn’t be more excited about the new-look roster, the future of the Milwaukee Bucks and his own personal development. Sanders looks to be in great shape, and sounds very eager to return to action with his new teammates and under new head coach Larry Drew. Although Sanders isn’t participating, he felt it was important to be there in support of his potential teammates and the organization, a move that not only denotes solidarity, but a continued development of leadership skills.
It only makes sense that Sanders is now speaking in terms of being a “leader” on this young Bucks team, as the three-year veteran has seen his role, responsibilities, and most importantly his productivity increase over the first few years of his career. When specifically asked about taking on a leadership role in 2013-14, Sanders emphatically responded, “Yeah, definitely. I felt like I made strides in that direction last year, and I’m going to continue to so, definitely.”
Sanders also describes how finding “inner peace” and “centering himself” led to his breakout season in 2012-13. Not only was he second in the league in blocks, he managed to make significant improvements in nearly every statistical category last season. Sanders went on to discuss how developing “pro habits” also led to his progression.
Not only pleased by his personal success, Sanders was very excited about the roster additions the organization has made. The Bucks drafted versatile swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, traded for the rights to point guard Nate Wolters (38th overall pick), reached a verbal agreement with Zaza Pachulia on a three-year deal, and signed free agent O.J. Mayo to a three-year deal.
Often criticized for his lack of a complete offensive skill set, Sanders is reportedly a willing student of the game, which is obviously a trait that bodes well for his continued development. Equally as important, if Sanders truly wants to continue taking the next step, he will also improve upon his position defense. Many of his blocks came as a weakside defender, but for the Bucks to improve upon their 20th ranked 2012 defense, they’ll need Sanders to be able to provide a consistent post presence.
Sanders even went on to discuss how the Bucks want to not only start a “tradition” of qualifying for the playoffs, but want to build upon the success of last season. The Bucks have qualified for the postseason only five of the past 12 seasons, and haven’t advanced beyond the first round since their 2001 Eastern Conference Finals loss at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. The prospects of them developing that aforementioned “tradition” haven’t looked brighter in decades.
With teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards also on the rise, the Bucks will certainly need the continued improvement of Sanders, as well as the continued development of some of their young assets. Power forward John Henson, heading into his second year, is expected to also have an increased role with the team this upcoming season. Henson appears to have bulked up a bit, and was very impressive in posting a 19-point, 13-rebound, three-block night in his first Summer League game vs. the Denver Nuggets.
While a projected starting frontline of Ersan Ilyasova and Henson with Sanders anchoring the middle may be a bit undersized from a bulk perspective, it would provide Milwaukee with one of the more athletic and versatile young post cores in the league. Pachulia would not only add some bulk and post-toughness off the bench, but also provide veteran leadership for each of the young bigs.
The status of Brandon Jennings, a restricted free agent, remains a question for the organization. The free agent market seems to have dried up for those seeking $12-13 million contracts, so Jennings is in quite the predicament. With the Atlanta Hawks matching the offer sheet worth an average of $8 million per year for Jeff Teague, the Bucks have now expressed a desire to retain Jennings. No word on what their offer would be, but Jennings is likely going to have to accept a smaller deal from another team or work out the differences with the Bucks.
Whether Jennings re-signs or not, this is a team on the rise, and with plenty of potential for the future. If Jennings does decide to return, he and O.J. Mayo have a very promising interior core to play alongside.