Coming off a great college career with UConn, where he won a National Championship, Villanueva was drafted 7th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft. It was between Villanueva, Andrew Bogut, and Marvin Williams as to who was the best big man prospect in the draft. On June 30th, 2006, the Milwaukee Bucks traded point guard T.J. Ford to the Raptors for Villanueva. Once he joined the Bucks, Villanueva, along with Andrew Bogut, was expected to become one of the best front court duos in the league.
In his first season in Milwaukee, Villanueva’s season was derailed by injuries causing him to play in only 39 games. Although, he was promising in those 39 games averaging 11.8 points per game on 47% shooting from the field and 33.7% from three. His next season with the Bucks, Villanueva played in 76 games and split time as a starter with Yi Jianlian. In those 76 games, Charlie V averaged 11.7 points per game but saw his efficiency decrease which caused unease in Bucks fans. Villanueva returned to the 2008-09 season as a new and improved player. That season, he averaged a career high 16.2 points per game while shooting 44.7% from the field and 34.5% from three. He also averaged 6.7 rebounds per game to go along with his increase in assist averages. The 2008-09 season showcased exactly why Milwaukee was excited to acquire Villanueva in the T.J. Ford trade.
After his breakout season, it was time for Villanueva to get paid but it wasn’t the Bucks who paid the price. Villanueva went on to sign with the Detroit Pistons where he went on to play another five seasons before finishing his career with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016.
What is interesting about Charlie Villanueva is the fact that he played in the wrong era. He was a finesse big man who could stretch the floor and shoot at a remarkably high level considering his size. He was not the bruiser on the low block that was popular in the mid 2000s which is what caused him to be a “tweener” throughout his career. If he played in today’s NBA, there is no doubt that he could have sustained success. In fact, when the Bucks traded for Marvin Williams during this year’s trade deadline, that’s a spot prime Charlie V could have filled. He deserved better than what he got in Milwaukee.
Villanueva was always a very competent and successful player for the Bucks from 2006 through 2009. Milwaukee’s team record from his seasons as a key player was a very underwhelming 88-158. Considering he was one of the best players on a very bad team, Villanueva usually does not get the respect he deserves looking back on the mid 2000s Bucks. He was an instrumental piece to the “bad” Bucks teams but he was hardly the reason for that.