When Andrew Bogut was injured in late January, Drew Gooden was permanently inserted into the starting lineup at center with low expectations.
Gooden is the complete opposite of Bogut as a basketball player.
Bogut is a great man-to-man defender and an absolutely fantastic help defender, whether he was sliding over to take a charge or being one of the NBA’s best shotblockers. Bogut is also a very good rebounder, with a rate of 18.3% last season, which ranked him eighth in the NBA. Finally, Bogut makes relatively few mental mistakes, especially in comparison to Gooden.
In the second season of a five-year, $32 million contract, Gooden’s deal appeared undoubtedly burdensome for the Bucks.
While he will never be the defender nor rebounder Bogut was for the Bucks, Gooden brings other important skills to the table that make him a much better fit with the current roster makeup and might make him even more indispensable in playing beside Monta Ellis.
The Bucks attempted to utilize Bogut’s passing skills by playing him at the high post, which would open up the lane for quick cuts and guard penetration. The experiment would eventually fail due to Bogut’s inability to draw out interior defense by hitting midrange jumpers when left open.
Gooden, on the other hand, is an excellent shooter from the elbow and, much like Bogut, is a very capable and willing passer. He is also a superior athlete who can throw a quick pump fake and get to the rim and to the free throw line where he is hitting 85.4% of his attempts this year.
On offense, the Bucks will no longer have to deal with Bogut plugging up the lane. Ellis and Brandon Jennings will have space to get to the bucket on dribble penetration. Ersan Ilyasova, Carlos Delfino and Mike Dunleavy can cut to the basket for easy layups or spot-up on the perimeter for three-pointers that they are currently shooting at 42%, 36% and 38% clips respectively.
On defense, while admittedly below average, Gooden has already shown the willingness to make quick fast-break starting outlet passes, that for whatever reasons Bogut never did.
The starting lineup of Jennings, Ellis, Delfino, Ilyasova and Gooden will finally allow Scott Skiles to implement a consistent and successful offensive style of play. The team should also be buoyed by a nice defensive change of pace that the Ekpe Udoh, Luc Mbah a Moute and Larry Sanders frontcourt rotation will bring off the bench. Along with Beno Udrih and Dunleavy, the Bucks reserve unit should continue to be one of the strongest in the league.
John Hammond has possibly assembled the most talented Bucks roster since the days of the Big 3 of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell. The only question now is how all that talent will mesh together with just one basketball to go around all these scorers.