It’s nearly the regular season folks, which means it’s time to start contrived “countdown to tipoff” pieces. Our series will be called the Calculated Countdown, where we take a particular statistic from last season that corresponds to the number of days left till tipoff and analyze it in the context of this upcoming year. Today, we’re looking at how to fill the Beas’s minutes off the bench and whether “Thon” and “defensive rebound” will be more than casual acquaintances this year.
16 Days to Tipoff: 16.7 minutes per game for Michael Beasley
Everyone mourned the loss of our social media lord and savior, Michael Beasley, from our Bucks-driven lives this summer. His penchant for the ridiculous and ridiculous penchant for getting buckets were both welcome additions to this franchise last year. Despite our trepidation after the trade was made, Beasley was quite a useful bench piece for Milwaukee. His instant offense provided life to bench units that, at times, resembled deer in headlights. Beasley averaged 16.7 minutes per game for Milwaukee last season, a hole that will have to be filled and the main statistic for today’s countdown.
While Beasley was inactive or didn’t dress for 22 games last year, he received DNP-Coach Decision’s in just four games last year. Those 16.7 minutes may not seem like much, but his amazingly efficient game (55.4 eFG% was the best of his career) and willingness to stick his nose into the paint against lesser defenders (probably everyone in Beas’ mind) meant Milwaukee had another reliable option for gettin’ buckets besides Greg Monroe and Jabari on second units.
Mirza Teletovic is the obvious choice to flip into those units. His spacing is much-needed, and provides a far different element than Beas, a reticent outside shooter knowing he could get to the rim at will. While Beas was inactive towards the end of the season, Telly started to receive a bit more consistent minutes along the lines of what he got for the first 30 games of the season or so before he fell out of Kidd’s favor for a time. Mirza wound up averaging nearly identical minutes to Beas (16.2) over the course of the season, so this wasn’t necessarily an either/or proposition.
I’d expect Mirza’s minutes to tick up slightly as he gives Giannis or Khris a breather. Not that he’ll necessarily take their position, but he’ll *hopefully* be sharing the floor with one or the other all the time. If Gerald Green or Brandon Rush make the roster, I could see the generous floor time general Jason Kidd sometimes tossing them into lineups with Mirza. Beasley and Mirza shared the floor for just 195 minutes last year, so those would be minuscule, but they’d still soak up some time. The obvious other answer lies in Milwaukee’s first round pick this year, D.J. Wilson.
Wilson projects as a clear four, with his gangly height probably preventing him from matching up against nimbler threes in this league. He flashed a few quick ball skills in summer league, but ideally his role will be as a pick and pop threat who can space the floor and shows a willingness to launch shots from the perimeter. His underdeveloped frame means there’s little chance he could survive finishing at the rim, let alone get there in the first place. However, Kidd is always willing to give guys a chance and I think it’s likely we’ll see him soak up some of those minutes, particularly if Telly is stuck in an extended shooting slump for a time.
Bonus Stat! 16.7% defensive rebounding percentage for Thon
We all know rebounding will be an issue for Thon Maker, potentially for his entire career. His expanded bulk might help a bit, but he probably won’t see appreciable improvement until he works on building his lower body strength. He lacks flat-footed lift and can easily get bullied by bigger defenders, so until then, his 16.7% defensive rebounding percentage will be a trade-off Milwaukee’s willing to make to utilize his unique offensive and defensive talents.
Among the 101 players who NBA.com qualified as centers last year, Thon’s mark ranks 83rd, just three spots above a decidedly not-center, Johnny O’Bryant. More relevant peers beneath him include Jahlil Okafor, Tyler Zeller, Robin Lopez and Steven Adams. The latter two’s minuscule marks don’t reflect their usefulness though, as both of them wily at boxing out their opponent. Adams in particular sacrificed boards to help Westbrook accomplish his triple-double feat. Maker doesn’t necessarily have the weight to provide that tactic either, not to mention he’s handcuffed by the Bucks’ jitterbug scheme leaving him frantically searching for a body to box out when the ball hits the bucket.
Milwaukee will and has gladly made the trade off to sacrifice defensive rebounding within their scheme, meaning Thon’s deficiency isn’t necessarily a glaring issue. I don’t see it climbing much above 17%, if it reaches there, but if he’s able to make a more concerted effort to clear balls from the glass alongside the burgeoning strength of Giannis in that department, it could help Milwaukee immensely to climb from the fifth worst defensive rebounding mark in the league.