During Wednesday night’s Bucks – Grizzlies game I saw a tweet by Frank Madden of Brewhoop, which describes Larry Sanders perfectly -
Larry Sanders is a tornado of arms and teeth and fingernails.
— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) November 8, 2012
That observation came after Sanders hit teammate John Henson in the eye with his offhand while attempting his version of a sky-hook, opening up a cut that required Henson to get medical attention. So far this year the Larry Sanders tornado has been more fun than ever before, as it focuses more and more on causing destruction and havoc in the paint.
The biggest surprise of the early season for the Bucks the emergence of Sanders; a player it seemed was the odd-man-out after the signings of Sam Dalembert and Joel Przybilla. Sanders had flashed potential ever since the Bucks drafted him out of VCU in 2010, mostly due to his athleticism and freakish 7 foot 5 ¾ inch wingspan. But it never seemed to translate to the court, where Sanders struggled to be much help at all on the offensive end for two main reasons.
The first was shot selection and execution. Last season Sanders shot 46.0% from the field despite taking 65.8% of his shots inside the restricted area, where he made just 57.0% of those shots. That 57.0% was a sad drop from the 64.0% mark he posted at the rim during his rookie season where he gave hope that he could be a useful offensive player. But even with the drop in his finishing abilities there was hope due to the small improvement in Sanders’ shot selection.
Last season Sanders only attempted 43 midrange jumpers, which he made at a 28.0% clip, as opposed to 131 his rookie season where he shot an equally abysmal 31.0%. This season that focus has continued. Sanders pledged in the offseason to take more shots inside the paint and through three games it has been the case. So far for the year Sanders has attempted 75.0% of his shots from inside the paint and it seems on most of the shots he has made a point of trying to dunk the ball and finish strong, even if it sometimes means being blocked by Tony Allen.
Sanders other problem has always been harnessing his endless energy. When Sanders comes on the court he flies around and contests everything he can, jumpshots, layups, dunks, anything; but plenty of times it has led to fouls and being out of position for rebounds. So far this season Sanders still runs around like a headless deer on occasion, but for the most part he has stayed under control and that has led to a jump in his rebounding rate – up to 18.2% this season from rates of 11.8% his rookie season and 13.3% last year.
As Sanders fixes those parts of his game it just makes it easier for the Bucks to play him and milk his potential as a big time difference maker on the defensive end of the floor. Last season the Bucks were 11.6 points per 48 minutes better defensively, held opponents to an efficient field goal percentage 9.6 points worse, and blocked 5.0% more of their opponents shots while Sanders was on the floor.
Sanders still fouls too often, he has 15 in three games and has fouled out once already, but with more time that should drop. Between that and the other improvements, the Bucks should be thrilled with his production, after all every team needs a high energy defender off the bench. With the run-and-gun, create-chaos style the Bucks seem wedded to, a tornado can do nothing but help.