Friday, January 9, 2009

Big Bro Joe

Sibling rivalry is a powerful thing in a man’s life. The younger brother always wants to show he can hang with the older brother. If the older brother does 10 push ups, the younger one wants to do 15. The younger brother can end up spending his whole life attempting to escape the shadow of a successful older brother. Or sometimes things can get mixed up. The older brother can not turn out as expected and little brother can take hold of the role of family favorite. Don’t look now, but younger brother has stole older brothers spotlight thus far for this season’s Milwaukee Bucks.

Joe Alexander was anointed older brother status when he was drafted with the 8th pick in the draft this year. Younger brother’s name was called 29 picks later, when the Bucks took Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Please do not misinterpret me here though; I realize that the African Prince Mbah a Moute and Chinese native Alexander are not blood relatives. In fact I’d be willing to bet that the two had never even met before this season, but that is all beside the point. Alexander and Mbah are brothers of the 2008 Bucks draft class and that is what is important for the time being. Almost from the start the rivalry favored Mbah.

As soon as the two were drafted fans were rejoicing with the steal of a productive, experienced college player in round 2. Mbah had been on multiple final four teams at UCLA and staked his reputation as a tough defensive player. On the other hand, Alexander only had one truly productive year at West Virginia, and was seen as more of a project. Looking like an athlete first and basketball player second, Alexander struggled in summer league play. David Thorpe from gave a rather blunt critique:

"Simply put, the worst performance of a first-round pick I've seen thus far in Vegas. He rushed his movements and his shots, and looked totally lost most of the time."

Mbah a Moute continued to draw praise throughout the summer and exhibition seasons as Alexander struggled. It seemed then and seems now Alexander’s biggest flaw appears to be his head. Alexander is a smart basketball player, but by no means is he controlled When Alexander gets into games, he has what I call "Little Brother Syndrome". Alexander plays every game like he is trying to justify his selection. He comes into each game trying to dunk from everywhere, rain threes, and send opposing players shots into the upper deck. It’s great to be an energy guy, and if done right can be quite lucrative, just ask Dan Gadzuric, but it has to be done with smarts. Even Gadzuric, as out of control as he can be, usually lets the game come to him. He does not force the action and do things outside of his skill set too often. (Although this season he has shot more jumpshots than at any point in his whole career, but that’s a story for another day.)
What makes Mbah a Moute so special is he has a complete veteran presence. It’s not an easy thing to explain, but when someone has been at their job for a long time there is a certain comfort they develop. Mbah a Moute has blown away a typical rookie adjustment period and immediately developed into a productive defensive clog in the Bucks attack. Guarding everyone from Chris Bosh to Manu Ginobili, Mbah a Moute has done great work. On the offensive end Mbah a Moute takes all the shots he should and none of the shots he shouldn’t.

Add this all up and it has the makings of a first round bust of massive proportions. But it is too early to close the book on the Chinaman. He does have the athletic ability of a star and relatively little experience. As he continues to play and develop he should round his game out to match his incredible talents and turn out to be quite the player. He just needs to ignore his little brother and focus on himself.


  1. I agree with most of what is said here, but I do disagree with one of the last things you said about LRMAM: You said that he "takes all the shots he should and none of the shots he shouldn't.

    I disagree, I've seen two glaring problems on the offensive end...

    1) He seems to like shooting his suspect 20 foot jumper (especially from the wings). The most troublesome thing about this is when he is starting, every other Buck on the floor is better offensively. He needs to work on that shot in the off-season and stop putting it up so often now.

    2) He drives to the lane but has a hard time finishing. Often, this is because he has a power forward, who is bigger and stronger on him. He also doesn't have the experience around the hoop yet to make the plays I'd like to see out of someone who is cutting to the hoop.

    Both of these things, in my opinion, will come. They just aren't there yet and until they are he should be out there strictly for defensive purposes. He is a really fun player to watch an I am so happy he is a Buck, he's exceeded all expectations...

    Still, he needs to keep working on his offensive game and shoot less.

  2. I think his 14-18 foot jump shot is adequate, but he does struggle further out he gets. He doesn't shoot more than 1 or 2 of those a game though, and that is something I like about him.

    I don't mind him shooting, because to me this season is about development.

    Hopefully in time he will develop into a standout defender who can shoot the three too, ala Bruce Bowen.