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Roundtable: Reviewing the Bucks Role Players

So much attention has been given to Giannis and Jabari, the Brew Hoop staff steps in to shed some light on their supporting cast.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Welcome back to the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t the pugs from the table, thanks. Today, the staff sits down and discusses all the Bucks not named Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, or Khris Middleton (get well soon, Khris!)

Greg Monroe: just how good has he been?

Eric B: Let’s consider some stats (as of 12/29). Monroe is setting career bests in the following categories: Offensive Rating (112.1), Defensive Rating (101.7), Net Rating (10.3), Assist Ratio, Defensive Rebound Percentage, and True Shooting Percentage (tie), all with his third-lowest usage percentage of his career. In addition to the stats, he’s dropped a noticeable amount of weight which I imagine has helped every area of his game, including dunking!

This is to say he’s been a surprise and consistently good in his role, so much so that the potential of him opting in this summer doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all. Off the bench, he has provided good enough defense while establishing some good chemistry with Malcolm Brogdon and destroying Jason Smith opposing bigs that can’t match his production and skill. It’s been a fun turn around from the sentiment of last season for sure.

Mitchell: Greg Monroe was asked to accept a lesser role and come off the bench, both of which were unexpected developments in his career. I fully expected for Moose to decide that the request was beneath him and turn into a malcontent, but not only did he buy into the idea, he’s thriving in the role! As Eric noted above, this is the best ball Monroe has played, full stop. He may be expensive for a 6th man, but his effectiveness is well worth it. And because nothing is ever easy as a Bucks fan, his turnaround further clouds his future in Milwaukee beyond this season.

Adam: It’s tough to quibble with his performance this year. Eric laid out his statistical improvements this season quite well, but the two that stick out most to me are his assist and steal numbers. He’s got the best steal percentage of his career (3.1), and is matching his assist total from last year (2.3) on about 10 minutes less per game. Even if Moose’s shortcomings on the defensive end are obvious, if he’s able to force steals more often for the young guns to scoop up, that makes up for some of those shortcomings. Sure, he still sometimes gets tunnel vision when he finds himself in a comfortable post position, but big men gotta eat sometimes.

Brett: Very, and not just in the context of the bench role he’s settled into. He’s become much more active and mobile on the defensive end in ways I never thought possible after what we saw last season — couple that with what I’ve always thought was underrated positional savvy, and it’s tough to argue that this is just about as actualized as he’ll become on that end. He’s the only Bucks big man that can finish drop-off passes under the hoop. Oh, and he’s been a key part of stabilizing a bench mob that was almost sure to flounder without Middleton.

Corey: Being asked to do less has allowed him to do more, as it turned out. He’s become the post-facilitator on offense that the team wanted him to be when they signed him last year, and he has turned into a somewhat sustainable presence defensively. I don’t know if the weight of a big deal weighed on him last year, Kidd didn’t quite know how to work him in, or both. But he’s been a pleasant surprise.

Matthew Dellavedova: is he who you thought he was?

Eric B: Pretty much, although I thought he’d be a bit more reliable from three. He’s definitely better than the old regime, but I wouldn’t hesitate to draft a guard, either. It’s fine for now. I’m not really too worried about him or whether he should or shouldn’t start.

Mitchell: Honestly, I thought that he’d be a little bit better than he is. Part of that may be from his history playing on good teams in Cleveland, but more than anything I was unaware of how unathletic he is (compared to his NBA counterparts). He has loads of basketball skills but seems to have so little natural talent behind it, which really is a testament to how hard he’s worked to get to this point. I am A-OK with what Delly has offered so far, but would fully expect the team to look at adding talent to the point guard position this summer.

Adam: He’s been fine. Scrappy enough on defense to retain his grit moniker, but all of his statistical measures seemed to indicate he’d be a knockdown shooter. That hasn’t been the case so far. There aren’t a lot of reasons for him to be shooting worse either, his percentage on wide open threes this year is at 32.7%, compared to 45% last year and 46% the year prior despite relatively similar attempts. Hopefully that means he’s due for some pretty clear progression.

I knew he didn’t have much ability to break down a defense, but his limitations when he gets into the thick of the defense remain frustrating, as he tends to resort to low-efficiency runners. He’s a suitable guy for Milwaukee’s needs at the moment, but it seems clear the team’s due for an upgrade at some point.

Brett: Yes. Though it’s been easy to see at times his limitations as the floor general that he didn’t typically see as the primary playmaker in Cavs’ bench units of past years. I will say that if his poor three-point shooting numbers keep up, it will be pretty shocking the drop off he’s suffered in that category, especially as someone who continues to stoutly refute the “Dellavedova is only a good player next to LeBron James” truthers.

Corey: For the most part. Not too surprised at him taking a dip in production because his workload increased from his time in Cleveland. He hasn’t necessarily been that annoying Yorkshire terrier that he was in the postseason, but I don’t think that’s had an impact on his production overall.

Tony Snell: did we really get him for MCW, straight up?

Eric B: Yes, that did happen. He’s been a capable enough body filling in, but it will be a lot better when Snell can back up Khris Middleton.

Mitchell: Perhaps the question should have been whether or not Snell is the ideal recipe for a backup shooting guard. Which...I think he is, but I also am interested to see what Brogdon would provide at the 2. Snell’s a perfect fit for what the team needs this season, but whether he’s that perfect fit for next season and beyond is somewhat less clear.

Adam: I think he’s done a fine job in the role asked for him, but I think he’s essentially been Dellavedova so far in the shooting guard role. Shooting a little below average, playing good enough defense, and spacing the floor for Giannis and Jabari. He’s basically a player masquerading as an automatic three-point shooting machine. Almost every one of his three-pointers have come off zero dribbles, a few off one, and practically none off more than that. 64% of his shots are three-pointers where he touches the ball for less than two seconds, and he’s shooting 35% on those.

That’s perfectly passable, but he’s received plenty of good will for arriving in exchange for a player that couldn’t shoot and having literally zero expectations thrust upon him. If we re-sign him at a price similar to Delly, I’d be curious to see whether opinions shift.

Brett: By sheer virtue of him being an astronomically better fit than Bucks guards of the past, it’s hard not to be pleased with what he’s been able to provide (especially with him being a seamless stop gap in the wake of Khris Middleton’s injury). He’s frustratingly average defensively for someone who fits right in on #TeamAllLength and at least appears to care on that end. That being said, when he’s inevitably regulated to the bench role he probably belongs in, I think it’ll be much easier to appreciate what he brings and envision a spot for him with this squad going forward (provided the contract is reasonable).

Corey: *glances through archives* Yes, it appears they did. This is by no means the same level of thievery that the Bucks pulled on the Bulls with John Salmons, but Snell has done a touch more than I thought he would. He fits so much better than MCW ever did, so this strikes me as more of a situation where a player just works better with what the team is.

Malcolm Brogdon: can he be a part of the future when he runs for office in 2020?

Eric B: Well he can’t run until 2028, so we won’t have to worry. He certainly can be part of the future, though. I’m hesitant to anoint him as the point guard of the future because I think he is perfect in the role that he’s in, but he’s definitely someone I think you want playing consistent minutes (kind of like a Corey Joseph or Shaun Livingston). Role aside, he’s a second-round steal and hopefully he’ll read this blog when he does take office.

Mitchell: I would write my representative to urge them to change the Constitution if it meant we could be one nation under Brogs. But anyway, back to basketball...

Brogdon’s chemistry with Moose on the second-unit is one of the most important supporting factors of the Bucks’ surprising success. The savvy rookie knows how to make smart plays, get the ball to the right spots, and has been lights-out from deep after a slow start. He’s going to be a Buck for as long as he wants to be, as far as I’m concerned. But (as stated earlier), I’m also curious to see what he offers off the ball, rather than at point guard.

Adam: Brogdon’s shooting is coming around, but I’m more impressed by his passing ability. He had a bounce pass between two defenders at halfcourt last game that I think went to Giannis in the frontcourt for a dunk. He’s adept at probing around the court in just the right way to find a bounce pass for an open teammate, particularly with Monroe. His on-ball defense is also better than I thought, he’s flashed quicker feet than I would’ve presumed, and his low center-of-gravity helps him body up guys while extending his 6’11” wingspan to deter shots and close passing lanes. He’s here to stay.

Brett: If he keeps this shooting and #savvy up, it’s hard not to see him fit with this squad. If the team finds itself in relative contention in the next few years, his value with relation to his contract will be crucial. One lurking concern I have is a lack of quickness at the PG position going forward, especially with Dellavedova seemingly locked into a long-term role with the team going forward.

Corey: Brogdan/Giannis 2020. Constitution be damned.

He’s picked up so many intricacies of the NBA game in such a short time. I do think the Virginia system is better than most in college basketball in terms of getting guards ready for the next level, but to see him just ease into place like this has been pretty remarkable.

Mirza Teletovic: boy, he sure does shoot a ton, doesn’t he?

Eric B: He does and I love it. Never let anyone change you, Mirza.

Mitchell: A Telly who doesn’t shoot isn’t a Telly at all. And with a 3PAr of xxx%, Teletovic is exactly what this team needs from the backup forward position. I do wish that his rebounding was more reliable, and that he could be trusted to defend the 4/5 positions in small ball lineups, but if that were the case he’d make more than $10m/year.

Adam: His father was a chucker. His mother was a chucker. Mirza Teletovic was born to fire away from deep. Sure, he doesn’t bring much versatility defensively and his rebounding is suspect, but I like to think that’s just him helping Giannis try to get triple-doubles more often. Savvy teammate stuff.

Brett: I’m okay with most of Mirza’s out-of-nowhere fire-away threes because, well, he hits them at an efficient rate and it mostly comes with the bench unit where I’m not mad that he’s taking away shots from young guys (especially since he’ll tend to stop if the offense is humming without it and/or he’s not hitting). And he’s also a great fit, so thumbs up from me.

Corey: He’s taken eight threes since you started reading this roundtable.

Michael Beasley: what can we expect for the rest of the season?

Eric B: I have no idea. He can be wild more than a little bit of the time, but I really don’t think he’s truly out to get his and for whatever reason I just enjoy having him around. I am a fan of the Beasley Funhouse experience and I don’t care who knows it. There is a bit of a concern with how minutes are going to be distributed between him and Mirza, but Beas has been a more positive experience than people thought, so good on him.

Mitchell: We should expect more of the same; after all, somebody needs to soak up possessions when the stars are on the bench. I do believe that his presence on a fully-healthy Bucks roster is somewhat redundant, and I would think that Beasley knows it. It’ll be interesting to see if he sticks to the team-first approach that has endeared him to us, or if he decides to hunt for buckets to inflate his status in free agency.

Adam: Beas has been my biggest surprise outside of Brogdon so far. After the preseason I presumed we had an inconsiderate chucker on our hands, but his penchant for getting buckets in the midst of a dry spell for the bench has been invaluable at times. When Middleton gets back, his “creation” skills will probably be redundant like Mitchell points out, but I think there’s some merit to having an irrational scorer who smoothly works towards efficient shots near the rim. The debate over the rise of three-pointers potentially creating a higher level of variability in the league from night-to-night is actually an interesting analogue for Beasley v. Teletovic. Beasley shoots threes, but Telly almost exclusively shoots threes, meaning there’s a level of variability potentially from night to night. Beasley’s preternatural ability to find his way to the hoop is a compelling complement to that.

Brett: Beasley, like Snell, was an incredibly timely stopgap for what Middleton left this team without in terms of shot creation. Efficient-enough shot creation and passable-enough defense — hard to ask for more out of him, especially considering the relatively tiny price the team paid for him. It seems like after this year, with Middleton healthy, something’s going to have to give between Beasley and Teletovic. Teletovic seems like a better fit going forward if that’s the case.

Corey: Hopefully more aggressiveness on drives rather than stopping and pulling up from 8-12 feet. If he can work that in to the fold, he’ll become extremely valuable.

John Henson: is he good now?

Eric B: I think he’s found a nice rhythm, but I wouldn’t confuse that with him being undoubtedly good now. He still can’t do anything going right and he has a knack of stopping highlights in their tracks. But he’s earned some minutes, so I guess that’s nice.

Mitchell: I hate that we have to keep asking this question. I don’t know, man, I just don’t know.

He’s rebounding better than he has since his rookie season, he’s still able to provide a little bit of scoring, and even though he’s blocking fewer shots (BLK% of 6.5, a three-year low) than before, he is still Milwaukee’s second-best rim protector. So...I guess?

/throws hands up in frustration

Adam: I don’t think so. He’s fine, but his starting crew’s net rating still pales in comparison to the starting squad with Plumlee. To be clear, I don’t think that has anything to do with Plumlee. I think Henson’s been impacted more than anyone by the narrowing of center minutes that fortified the rotation, but he’s not protecting the rim at the elite rate he did last year.

He can operate in pockets of space around the rim more deftly than Plumlee does, and he actually has a bit of touch, but those were all things we already knew about him. He lacks explosiveness or soft hands to finish alley-oops, but he’s randomly shooting jumpers now! The stretch-5 revolution is here to stay!

Brett: Yes! The guy knows his role, can protect the rim, and just plain gets—the job—done. I guess what I’m saying is that I would want him on my team if I was managing one.

Corey: To, essentially, put all of the responses above me into a nice tidy package... he’s good in the role that has developed for him.

Jason Terry: how much fuel is really left in the JET?

Eric B: Playing fuel? Not much more than a three or two a game, I think. Towel-waving, crowd-pumping fuel? Infinity.

Mitchell: I’m amazed that he’s still doing what he’s doing, despite his limited impact. I think his presence is more positive for the team than what we’d see if Rashad Vaughn was getting all of his minutes, but it does deserve a close eye over the second half of the season, when that fuel meter dips below the E.

Adam: His net rating is second on the team! The weird part about the SG position for the Bucks this season is that it’s basically been a contest to see who can be mentioned the absolute least throughout a broadcast. Sure, sometimes Terry will hit a shot, but he’s done a decent job staying invisible thus far. There’s some fuel left, luckily it looks like he’s using it effectively by sticking on cruise control for most stretches.

Brett: He’s been able to do a pretty damn good Uncle Juice (hi Frank) impersonation to this point (with much better shooting) which has been fine by me. But playoffs seem in this team’s immediate future, and I’m not sure I want to subject my eyes to him having to try and play playoff-level defense against some of the quicker guards atop the east.

Corey: To bounce off of Brett’s point, I’m not as concerned about Terry defensively if/when postseason comes because I think the Bucks have done a nice job masking their individual deficiencies on defense. But can he give this team anything positive offensively? Ehhh...

Thon Maker: what will it take to earn more than just garbage time minutes?

Eric B: Time and (roster) space. There’s a lot of guys in front of Thon at the moment, and I think that the game might be a little fast for him from a physical standpoint. I’m really not worried about Thon in year one, to be honest.

Mitchell: Eric’s right, the game is absolutely too fast for Thon right now, but I wonder if January and February might see him get some second-unit burn, like a sort of temperature check on his internal development. Jason Kidd did say that they thought Maker could be a rotation player this year, so why not give that hypothesis another go?

Adam: Lots of injuries. He looks entirely overmatched on the boards, but the jumble of big men who still aren’t getting much run remain a cinder block in the road to more minutes. Maybe they experiment with him in brief stints at the four were Mirza or Beas to get hurt, but I think he finishes the year just trying to get swole.

Corey: A plague.

Rashad Vaughn: is he done?

Eric B: I don’t think so. He’s only 20, and not everyone that age is going to take leaps like Giannis and Jabari have. I can’t say whether he’ll be good or anything yet, but I think it’s too early to say he’s done.

Mitchell: I have been one of Vaughn’s most stalwart defenders for the past year or so...but even I have to fight the urge to declare that he’s done. I take comfort in assuming that Practice Vaughn must have shown the team enough signs that tilt the scales in his favor, despite the enormous body of subpar NBA work that we’ve seen from Gameday Vaughn. And Eric is right, he’s still so young, it would be shortsighted to not give him as long a leash as possible.

Adam: Nah, youth and reputation are still on his side. He still seems to engender some respect from defenders on the perimeter, likely because that’s the only place he really shoots from, but that’s still a starting point. It’s frustrating to feel like we’ve gotten so few answers from Vaughn after the swath of minutes he received last year, but it feels like this season is going to be more of a “push” for him unless Terry gets hurt.

Brett: Probably still unfair at this point, but everything in my gut says “uh, are you kidding me? of course he is.”

Corey: He’s got plenty of time to develop. It just may not be here.

Miles Plumlee: what about him?

I have nothing else to say.

Mitchell: I’m going to paraphrase something I wrote in the comments section last week: Plumlee’s contract looks bad now, but I wonder how we’ll feel if Greg Monroe opts out this summer, leaving the center rotation comprised of Henson, Plumlee, and Thon. It wouldn’t make the extension any better, but the outlook of the team may be (slightly) brighter because Plumlee fits so well (in theory) with what the team wants to do. Just like with the reviled Greivis Vasquez trade, sometimes paying a premium for insurance is a net-positive...unless it all goes horribly wrong (like the results of the Vasquez trade did). But we won’t be able to know for at least another year or two.

Adam: His contract is one of the worst in the league. There’s no real reason we’ll see him anytime soon either. The Bucks made a mistake, we’ll see how they try to rectify it.

Brett: Methinks a mixup of the center rotation is bound to happen within the next month. The sad thing is, I’m not even sure if that means more Plumlee minutes. Let’s hope so.

Corey: Sorry, Mitchell. There is no amount of sugar on the planet to coat this one.

Steve Novak: lol j/k

Eric B: He has some great celebrations.

Mitchell: This photo is low key meme-worthy:

Adam: He’s worn decent suits.

Brett: This is where I complain about Patrick McCaw, right?

Corey: Did you know he went to Brown Deer? I heard he grew up in Brown Deer.