Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Will Charlie V. Play D?

Charlie Villanueva was on ESPN’s First and 10 Wednesday. The appearance reiterated a few things we’ve learned about him this year: he’s loquacious, he likes Twitter, and he dresses pretty well. We also found out that Charlie was named the nation’s most beautiful bald celebrity according to a contest sponsored by Eagle snacks.

How I missed that I don’t know, but there is something that we have yet to find out about Charlie V. and likely won’t for a few more years.

Can he be the future power forward on a playoff winning Bucks team?

Power forward is an intriguing and important position.

For years power forwards were looked to for rebounds, defense and blocked shots. Stepping out on the perimeter and jacking up three-pointers was not expected, encouraged or allowed for them. Even the scorers among them – Elvin Hayes, Kevin McHale, Karl Malone – were tough guy physical players. This is the mold of a Tim Duncan.

The seeds of change were planted in the late 80's though. Charles Barkley brought a new brand of play. His athleticism and power were combined with adept perimeter skills. While Barkley was 6'5, this style of play birthed the style that the Kevin Garnetts, Dirk Nowitzkis and Antoine Walker’s laid claim to.

If Barkley knew that one day he would influence an Antoine Walker to walk up and down the court shooting treys and doing that head dance I feel like he would have done some things differently though.

Villanueva clearly resides in category two. He floats around the perimeter a lot and does a good job of it. When he is hot, he is one of the more productive scorers in recent Bucks memory. On the plus side he often crashes into the lane for rebounds, averaging over seven per game since the first of January. At time Villanueva shows the ability to combine the best of the two worlds. At least on the offensive end.

At the defensive end Villanueva is a work in progress. He has the athleticism necessary to be a competent defender, but seems to get lost often. I wouldn’t say that his defense is anything that stands out while watching games though. That may be a product of power forwards often not being a first option though. And it does hurt the Bucks that he is not a capable shot blocker. With Bogut out they offer little challenge on the back-line thanks to the struggles in this area of Villanueva and Elson.

Overall it’s tough to judge how he has progressed considering he is not playing with a capable center. If Bogut were down low he would be erasing some of the mistakes made by Charlie V. (and most Buck defenders) leaving things looking much brighter. At the offensive end he would provide a nice yang on the inside to Villanueva’s ying on the outside.

I just can’t shake the nagging feeling that Villanueva is not the kind of power forward that starts on really good basketball teams. When I look at the power forwards on recent championship teams I see Garnett. I see Duncan. I see Udonis Haslem. I see Rasheed Wallace. I see Big Shot Bob. I’m seeing a lot of guys who are playing a lot of defense. What I don’t see is a sweet shooting gunner who offers little resistance and scrap on the other end.

What is nice about Charlie V is that he’s only 24. He has time to develop into a Horryesque defender. But I’d feel a lot better about the Bucks probable attempts to resign him if I got a glimpse of that before the season ends.

If not, I guess I’ll just continue to watch him Twit.

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