Larry Sanders, the surprise of Summer League?

PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 19:  Alfred Aboya #12 of the UCLA Bruins shoots against Larry Sanders #1 of the VCU Rams during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Wachovia Center on March 19, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Maybe the term ‘surprise’ shouldn’t be applied to the 15th pick in the NBA Draft, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Bucks’ first rounder, who was most often described as ‘raw’ by the draft punditry.

A little background: Sanders is 21 and left VCU after his junior season. He averaged 14-9 with 2.7 blocks per game last season. He’s 6-10.5 in shoes and has a monstrous 7-5.75 wingspan, giving him a standing reach of 9-4, which in his draft class trails only DeMarcus Cousins, Solomon Alabi and Jerome Jordan, who all have a standing reach of 9-5. His athletic tests (vertical 28″, lane agility 12.49) were not good, though he can really run the floor for a guy his size.

He also had a good Summer League…here are a few comments from around the internets:

Matt Moore, CBS Sports: The Bucks are going to have a fleet of capable, talented power forwards this season. Sanders was one of the most impressive rookies in Vegas, playing solid defense, showing off a well-balanced frame, and looking very much like a versatile offensive option. Sanders’ mid-range game was considerably better than expected. He showed nice tough with the ball and again, is a mountain in terms of size. He needs to work on his spacing and defensive awareness, but it was a very impressive showing.

TrueHoop: How will Larry Sanders’ game fit in with Milwaukee’s existing parts? His sound face-up 18-footer will help a Bucks offense that was choked for open space in the half court. He also gives Brandon Jennings another dependable partner on the pick-and-roll and wins almost every race to the rim in transition. A Sanders-Andrew Bogut tandem could eventually constitute the best defensive frontcourt in the league. Milwaukee is unlikely to reach the highest echelon in the East with its firepower, but by blanketing the paint with two capable pick-and-roll defenders who can block shots and clean the glass, the Bucks have the makings of a team that could post a stingy defensive efficiency rating in the high 90s.

Jarrod Gillis, Examiner: In four games of summer league action Sanders is averaging 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 3.2 blocks per game (leads Bucks summer league team in points, rebounds, and blocks). He is the type of player that guys love to play with strictly based on the fact that he cleans up everything around the basket and has everyone’s back on the defensive end. His game very closely mirrors that of one, Marcus Camby. Another long, wiry 6’11” guy that has made quite a career out of using his length, athleticism and excellent timing to wreak havoc on the defensive end of the court. Not a bad comparison, as Camby, when healthy, is one of the most dynamic players we have in our league today from a defensive standpoint. Sanders is not a fluent offensive player at this point in his early career. And from watching him courtside it is telling that his slight frame is a major issue when attempting to establish position on the block.

Frank Madden, BrewHoop: He again looked very comfortable catching and shooting from 15-18 feet, and by the end of the game he was really feeling good when he buried those two threes. He also splashed in a turnaround from the post for the second straight game, and all told it’s hard to deny that Sanders has more touch than he was given credit for before the draft. I don’t see him pumping in too many triples come the regular season, but his compact, well-balanced stroke looks like it should be a weapon from mid-range. Sanders also finished inside on a handful of occasions, throwing down a nice one-handed dunk and a couple short glassers off of broken plays. It looks like he has room to improve his finishing strength, but his opportunities have also been somewhat limited given the guards he’s playing with in Vegas. Lastly, Sanders had a couple nice passes to find Gallon open for layups, and he also had a very nice bounce pass out of the post to a cutting guard. I wrote last night that he’s definitely not just an athlete, and tonight we saw it even more.

Jon Krolik, ProBasketballTalk: Larry Sanders can flat-out play. He has so much skill for a guy with his size, length, and athleticism, and he’s one of the best defenders in Summer League. I’m genuinely excited to see a defensive frontline of Mbah a Moute/Sanders/Bogut in some situations next season.

Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: The best descriptor for Larry Sanders? Grown-up. Sanders knows his way around a basketball court. He’s a vocal, standout team defender who knows where and, more important, when his help is needed. Offensively, he sets up low on the block — primed for the deep catch — and wins every race to the rim in transition. When he steps out to 17 feet, Sanders launches a face-up jumper with an air-tight rotation on the ball. Sanders may never be a Top 5 power forward in the league, but his fundamentals suggest he’s going to be a pretty effective player for a very long time.

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