Flying Under the Radar: Charlie Villanueva

When Charlie Villanueva was drafted by the Toronto Raptors with the 7th overall pick in 2005, many analysts were shocked that he was selected that high. Villanueva proved many of those doubters wrong, averaging over 13 points and 6 rebounds in his rookie campaign.

As a rookie, Villanueva fit in well with the up-tempo offense installed by the Raptors and he even had a 48-point game. Just as it seemed that he was ready to become a full time starter and an eventual star in the league, Villanueva was traded before his second season to the Milwaukee Bucks and hasn't really fit in with the organization. However, the power forward has consistently put up solid numbers as a backup and has proven to be one of the game's best sixth-men.

On offense, Villanueva causes headaches for opponents because of the versatility he brings to the table. At 6'11'', 240-pounds, Villanueva has the size to post up most backup big men, but what sets him apart is his ability to play on the perimeter. Averaging just over 10 points per game, Villanueva possesses a quick first step and boasts a fairly effective jump shot as well. This allows him to take opponents off the dribble or to pull up for mid-range jumpers. He isn't shooting very well from behind the arc this season (a career low, 26%) but he can normally make an open trey as well.

Villanueva displays solid athleticism and good ball handling skills, making him a tough matchup for most players. He prefers to play outside, but he can also mix it up down low and he's improved his low post arsenal over the years, with a nice turnaround jumper being his go-to move. Charlie also has been known to finish the ball with authority and has his share of rim-rattling moments. Along with his impressive collection of scoring moves, Villanueva also is regarded as a solid passer for his size. Sometimes he can stray from the fundamentals and get lacksidasical with his passes, but he still possesses a lot of passing skill for a big man.

According to most critics, Villanueva's main deficiency is on the defensive end. He has some strong points, but he also has his flaws, namely man to man defense. Villanueva isn't a poor on ball defender, but he lacks the lateral quickness to stay in front of more skilled opponents and can get posted up by stronger players as well. Villanueva also has the tendency to get lost at times, but he usually makes up for it with his above average athleticism. He doesn't have too many blocks (just 30 on the season) but he has the ability to make some astounding swats when he has the desire to.

In regards to desire, Villanueva also has been criticized for his lack of desire in the rebounding department. He is averaging 6 per game for his career, which isn't bad, but with his combination of size and explosiveness, he should be a more dominant force on the boards and that is a large reason why he doesn't start more often.

Last year, Villanueva missed a majority of the season due to injury and while he has been healthy for most of this season, he has broken the starting lineup just 21 times. However, Villanueva has been inconsistent for the Bucks this year but had started to turn things around as of late. Earlier in February, Villanueva had a five game span in which he averaged 24.6 points, but an ankle injury has slowed him down as of late.

On Friday, Villanueva and the Bucks will take on the Orlando Magic, which doesn't necessarily bode well for Villanueva, as he has averaged just one point against the Magic in two games this season. He will likely see Rashard Lewis and Brian Cook, which is favorable for him because neither has tremendous low-post skills. Villanueva will need a good game to propel the Bucks over Orlando, and if his ankle is feeling better, he should be able to create points and provide some much needed energy for Milwaukee.