Skiles has seen the light: Ilyasova gets the start at power forward in season opener, Gooden to the bench

This just in, Drew Gooden.  Take a note GM John Hammond.   The Bucks have entrusted the forever jinxed power forward position to the two guys who helped them get to the playoffs in 2010 — Luc Mbah a Moute and Ersan Ilyasova.

Ersan gets the starting nod in tonight’s opener against the Bobcats in Charlotte due to  some tendonitis in Moute’s right knee.

Moute started the Bucks second exhibition against the Timberwolves with Ersan and Gooden backing up Andrew Bogut and leading the second rotation, the group that helped push the Bucks to a ten-point lead.

Gooden is now officially, according to Scott Skiles, the “primary” backup for Bogut.  This is an acknowledgement of many, many rather obvious things starting with at least these three:

1) Jon Brockman, the Brockness Monster, is no backup center at 6’7″; and,

2) Gooden and Bogut have not been compatible on the court.  Going with the catch-all for last season’s failure:   “Bad chemistry.”

3) There are too many power forwards that Gooden cannot guard.  Let’s start with Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson in Chicago, and David West now with the Pacers.  Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass in Boston?  Forget it.  Ilyasova’s done a decent job on most of these guys, and has had some strong games against Garnett, Boozer and Bass.  Preseason, Ersan was the Buck able to slow down Kevin Love, who had been lighting up Gooden and Bogut (really, Skiles opted to put Bogut on K-Love).

The examples are many, and, yes, there are a few matchups at PF that are good for Gooden (the Wizards’ Blache comes to mind).  But the evidence is in:  The power forward position has, for the most part, passed Gooden by.

The importance of continuity:  The wings and the backcourt are ever in flux in Milwaukee, so the stability has to come from the core of Bogut, Ersan and Moute.  They, along with Skiles, were largely responsible for the Bucks becoming a Top 5 defense and rebounding team these last two seasons.

Moute, one the world’s premier defenders, has continued to improve, bit by bit.  Ersan has become bigger and stronger, a better defender with the ability to go toe to toe with most power forwards in the NBA, and is one of the leading charge-takers in the league.

There is “The strange case of Bucks coach Scott Skiles and the jumpshot of Ersan Ilyasova.   Starting Ersan in the opener seems a good sign that Skiles wants to get off on the right foot with his power forward this season.

Andrew Bogut All-Star?  With Bogut looking to return to his All-Pro form of 2010, it’s essential that Bucks coach Scott Skiles stick to his guns and play Bogues with the guys (Moute and Ilyasova) who were on the court with him when he was hand-down the second best center in the NBA behind Dwight Howard.

A free throw here, a free throw there, an extra touch in the post here, a ten-foot jumper there — and Bogut’s back up in the 16-17 points per game range and, hopefully, making his first All-Star team.   As a defensive center, Bogut’s got the paint covered and is second only to Dwight, a case that was very easy to make last season.  But defense so very rarely gets a player to the All-Star game, unless his name is Rodman or Mutombo.

On the Bogut All-Star frontJoakim Noah was generally terrible in the Bulls home opener against the Lakers (5 fouls, six points, failing to get to rebounds) in a game in which Andrew Bynum didn’t play due to his suspension for hitting JJ Barea in last season’s playoffs.   Here’s hoping that this season, somebody other than me notices that Noah’s game isn’t living up to the hype (Sorry, Charles Barkley).

In fact, Noah wasn’t the best center on his team in the playoffs.  That honor goes to Omer Asik.  I digress, but then, that’s how things go around here.

Back to the opening linuep:  Skiles said he probably would have started Moute were it not for his sore knee, a continuation of the Ersan-Gooden second unit rotation from preseason  Also in the mix is rookie Jon Leuer, who’s shown he’s got some game (22 points against the T-Wolves in two exhibitions) but has a lot of work to do on the defensive end.

Starting at guard with Brandon Jennings will be Stephen Jackson, with automatic offense Mike Dunleavy, Jr. on the wing.  Or is it the other way around with Jackson and Dunleavy?  With the Bucks those parts are interchangable.  Watch Jackson’s shot selection.  He’s a chucker, a sub-43% shooter just like his point guard Jennings.   Here’s hoping they don’t drive us nuts this season.

The Brandon Jennings watch:   Can Young Buck improve?  Can he manage the needs of all of his new teammates?   Can he shoot 43 percent?  BJ has played with about 400 guards since he came into the league, and he’s never looked as good as he was playing with Luke Ridnour and Charlie Bell from Day One of his rookie season.

We shall see.  The Brandon Jennings watch will be an ongoing source of debate in Bucksland, as it should be.

I still believe, however, that if the core frontcourt players (Bogut, Ilyasova, Moute) stay healthy and get their minutes, what happens on the wings for the Bucks will change from night to night.  The core is in the frontcourt.

Off the bench:  Carlos “i’m open for three” Delfino is nursing a sprained wrist, which should make Moute and Gooden the first guys off the bench.   Backing up Jennings is the less-than-impressive-so-far Beno Udrih, and Shaun “of the dead” Livingston, who may be steal of the offseason for GM Hammond.

Hubie Brown’s “team to watch in the East.”  After the top four of Miami, Chicago, Boston and New York, ESPN analyst Hubie Brown was asked during yesterday’s Bulls-Lakers game who else fans should keep an eye on in the East.   The Pacers, Brown said, because they have a lot of talent.  And?

“Another team is the Milwaukee Bucks … If Bogut stays healthy, watch out for Milwaukee.”

There you have it, no first names required, no other excuses necessary.   A healthy Bogut and the 2011-12 Bucks should be a playoff team.

One hour to tip-off.


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