Bucks Diary

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Who will play power forward in Milwaukee?


The Bucks just dealt former starting power forward Yi Jianlian to the New Jersey Nets. Now they are pushing as hard as they can to get backup Charlie Villanueva out of town as fast as they can. Both moves make sense; neither player really fits new coach Scott Skiles' demanding style of play (especially not the sleepy Villanueva).

The problem is, who is going to play the position now? The first person that comes to mind is new Buck Joe Alexander. But I've heard mixed opinions on whether he will mainly be used at small forward or at power forward. Most say small forward because of his size, but its also been pointed out that Skiles has played small forwards like Andres Nocioni extensively at the 4. That's true, but I really don't think that's the answer. First of all, I don't know if Alexander has the same psychotic toughness and guile that Nocioni brought to the task, and besides, I am generally opposed to playing small lineups anyway. They tend to underproduce their larger opposition, especially on the boards.

Indeed, Nocioni had mixed success manning the power forward position. In 2005-06, he was given his first dose of extensive minutes at the 4 (he played 57.4% of his minutes there). By Win Score measure, he was successful. According to 82games.com, he outproduced his counterpart opponents in Win Score per 48 minutes by a count of 11.0 to 10.0. That's pretty good success.

However, that came undone the next season. In 2006-07, Nocioni was asked to play power forward 79.4% of the time he was on the court. According to 82games.com, he was outplayed badly by his counterpart opponents on a Win Score per 48 minute basis, 10.2 to 12.4. That's a butt whipping. And in both seasons, Nocioni was outrebounded by his fellow power forwards. That means lost possessions.

That said, I'm sure Joe Alexander will spend some time at both positions no matter what. Doing my statistical breakdowns of NBA teams, I've learned that almost every NBA player who is not a center or a pure point guard plays multiple positions. A bigger small forward like Alexander would likely split time between the 3 and the 4.

But can Alexander... a rookie, after all... produce power forward numbers over any lengthy stretch of time? I doubt it. He's shown no inclination that he can do so.

So who are we left with? That's what I can't figure out.

The Bucks must have a couple of deals and/or free agent targets in the works. Stay tuned.

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