By Jim Owczarski Sports Editor Published May 18, 2012 at 11:00 AM Photography: David Bernacchi

Scott Skiles sees it every time there is a jump ball, when eight NBA players circle around the two standing side-by-side, readying to leap for possession.

The 6-foot, 1-inch former NBA point guard knows you can win with a varied roster height-wise, but it has appeared to Skiles that the Bucks are literally on the short end of the stick.

"Almost every team is way bigger than us," Skiles said. "The players know that. At all positions, if we could get a little bit bigger ... but that's not easy to do."

Skiles then offered a qualifier.

"You can't just say 'We're going to get bigger' and get bigger (just) to get bigger – we've got to get quality," he said.

And therein lies the issue for general manager John Hammond. How do you add quality size? And how do you define it?

The Bucks had it in 7-foot center Andrew Bogut. But, in many ways, they didn't.

Bogut missed 24 percent (126 of 534) of Bucks games in his career. While effective, his line of 12.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game wasn't exactly overwhelming.

"The problem with us was we were playing more without a big guy having him on the roster," Hammond said. "He just wasn't healthy, couldn't keep him healthy."

Hammond agreed with Skiles that the team as a whole could get bigger, yet finding a true back-to-the-basket center that can actually play is a tough task.

"There are some undersized teams that are effective in the NBA," Hammond said. "There aren't many centers in this league. We think 'Oh my gosh we gotta stop this big guy.' That's not a night in, night out issue. It can be an issue at times. It's a great point – the bigger the better. We always talk about bigs.

"You say 'Why does Greg Oden get picked No. 1?' Size. Why does Andrew Bogut get picked No. 1? Because of size. You always want size in this league, but if you don't have it, a lot of teams don't have it, you can find ways to survive. You just have to be a little better, a little more committed and we're going to try to add some size along the way, too."

In the Eastern Conference, only the New York Knicks (7-1 Tyson Chandler), Indiana Pacers (7-2 Roy Hibbert) and Orlando Magic (6-11 Dwight Howard) have what could be classified as true centers.

Detroit's 6-11 Greg Monroe and New Jersey's 7-foot Book Lopez will mix it up inside at times, but the majority of teams in the East rely more on athletic, 6-10 or 6-11 forward-center hybrids like Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Nene Hilario.

It's the type of player the Bucks already have in 6-11 Larry Sanders and 6-10 forwards Drew Gooden, Ekpe Udoh and Jon Leuer.

"You can play the game many different ways," Bucks owner Sen. Herb Kohl allowed. "Who plays center for the Miami Heat? I'm just making the point that it's not as though if you don't have a dominant big man, there's no way you can be good. There are different ways to play the game in the NBA."

That said, Kohl felt a true post threat might put the Bucks over the top.

"When you look at our team today, if you imagine this team coming back next year with a dominant inside player, you'd feel really good about where we are. I would," Kohl said.

"If you looked at this team with Bogut coming back, or mention any others that you might think about, you'd say all the other pieces are pretty well in place to be not just a playoff team but maybe a very good team. That's the way I feel about it. The one, two, three and four positions are pretty well covered. And we have a good bench. Some of you may disagree with that. I look at our team pretty critically because that's my responsibility.

"When we look to where we want to improve next year we want a real quality big man."

But what is that, exactly?

Is it another 6-10, 6-11 forward/center type, but one who has a bigger build and a refined offensive repertoire? Is it a legit 7-footer, regardless of skill set?

The Bucks aren't really sure.

Skiles noted how the offensive bogged down with the combination of Bogut and Gooden in the post, how there was little flow or pace to the team, but acknowledged Bogut's absence affected team rebounding and defense.

"We believe in getting stops, which we couldn't get; getting the ball off the board and being a good rebounding team, which we weren't; and pushing the ball up the floor and playing at a fast tempo," Skiles said.

"Some of that is just the guys you have on the floor. We were kind of forced to play smaller. Monta's quickness and then getting Ekpe back gave us another rim protector. We were able to, just because of that situation, be able to play a little quicker pace. We'd like to get the ball up the floor and try to score before the defense gets set. We haven't always been able to do that."

There is even disagreement between the players as to what type of big is needed, if any at all.

"I definitely think we need a center," Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "That's a big issue we had all season. Not having 'Bogs' with the injury and then him being traded I think we suffered a lot from not having somebody down there who could hold it down."

Conversely, Udoh believes he and Sanders will be enough. Including Udoh's time in Golden State, the two combined for 178 blocks on the year. Extrapolated out to 48-minute averages, Udoh would have averaged near a double-double with 3.8 blocks while Sanders would post 5.7 blocks per game along with a double-double.

"It's going to be interesting to see with me and Larry (defensively), if we can get our chance to play together on the court with our length," Udoh said. "That's going to happen next year, so we have to be ready and keep getting better."

So how do the Bucks address it?

Does Hammond feel the 6-10 Ersan Ilyasova took the next step in his development and can provide interior defense and rebounding while continuing to be an effective scorer from all over the half court?

Do they address it in the draft, which is what several mock drafts have them doing?

There is time to figure out what exactly the team wants, and needs, as the NBA Draft is just under seven weeks out with free agency beginning shortly thereafter. The time will need to be well spent.

"We're still kind of in the same mode as we have been the last year or two, in that we want to become more athletic," Hammond said. "We still love to play above the rim more than we do. So, that's an issue for us. Of course the size factor is another issue for us. And then the theory of having guys who know how to play and understand the game. You put all those together and we, like a lot of teams, have multiple needs. Hopefully we can address some of those in the offseason."

Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.

A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.

To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.

Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining

In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.

Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.