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Was Charlie Villanueva cursed by his 48-point game as a rookie?

Josh Hilgendorf of TrueHoop Network affiliate Bucksketball has been counting down the top 20 Milwaukee Bucks since 1991 and today he has some interesting thoughts on Charlie Villanueva. Now, the streakiness and porous defense that has plagued Villanueva in Detroit was also an issue in Milwaukee, but Hilgendorf also points out that Villanueva’s propensity to occasionally (and sometimes effortlessly) score the ball has a tendency to inflate expectations for him:

As a Buck, he was a cloud. Drifting on the offensive end, occasionally striking, and completely dissipating when it came time to play defense. To his credit, when Villanueva wanted to score, it seemed like he could.

And here is where the curse of the 48 point game comes into play. When you show that much ability as a rookie, fans, coaches and front office folk are going to expect a lot. They want to see steady improvement. They want to see consistency. They want to see a player realize the potential displayed while still green to the NBA. There is a pressure to perform. And under this pressure, Villanueva crumbled.

Villanueva has always seemed like a guy who badly wants to please everyone. He doesn’t seem like a malcontent or bad teammate. Adding to the expectations, he signed a large contract in Detroit, so not only did he have the handful of explosive scoring performances that have tantalized his teams and their fans, but he had has now been paid like a starting caliber player for two seasons.

I think most realize Villanueva’s rebounding and defense make him too much of a liability to be a starter for most teams, but something else to consider in his career: Villanueva has never been part of a good team. I would still be interested to see how he performed on a team with the accompanying talent to play him with players who make up for his defensive deficiencies when his offense is working but also the depth to not depend on him on a nightly basis in case his shot is not falling. Villanueva will probably never satisfy critics of his game by playing a prominent role on a bad team, but he has the personality and skillset to be a specialist on most good teams.

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