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Malcolm Brogdon’s Bench Slump

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The Eric Bledsoe trade hasn’t been perfect for everyone on the team.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at San Antonio Spurs Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Each month, we will go through a statistical trend involving the Milwaukee Bucks. All stats are from nba.com. For November & December, we will take a look at Malcolm Brogdon and how his role off the bench has done more harm than good for his play.

His season caught everybody off guard, Bucks’ fans included. Nobody quite knew what we should expect from Malcolm Brogdon this season. After surprisingly winning Rookie of the Year, some feared he may go through a sophomore slump. As of today, he is averaging 13.0 points per game, 3.4 assist and shooting 39.8% from three. On the surface that doesn’t seem too bad with an increased PPG and competent 3-point shooting. However when you start investigating, there are cracks that begin to show since Eric Bledsoe joined the squad.

Strong Start to the Season

While the national news was Giannis Antetokounmpo blistering MVP start to the season, Brogdon had quietly been very, very good. Through the first 11 games, Brogdon was averaging 15.5 points per game, 4.5 assists and shooting a blistering 48.8% from three. While the Bucks’ weakened guard situation had always made Brogdon look better relative to his teammates, Brogdon was playing like the Milwaukee Bucks’ second best player for a stretch. While Khris Middleton was struggling to find any consistency, Brogdon was helping Giannis as much as possible. The biggest help was not only his ability to hit threes, but also how he shot them. While Milwaukee has some above average shooters on their roster like Tony Snell, Middleton, and Mirza Teletovic, none of them besides maybe Middleton have shown the ability to shoot the three off the dribble. Brogdon had the same limitations, or so we thought. Just in the season opener against the Boston Celtics, Brogdon was hitting threes off the dribble with ease.

Bench Struggles

When the Eric Bledsoe trade happened, it was positive news for all parties involved. For Brogdon though, he would presumably be the most affected by the trade. With Bledsoe immediately starting upon arrival, someone’s spot had to go. Unfortunately, it was Brogdon who would end up coming off the bench. In the fourteen games since the Bledsoe trade, Brogdon has come off the bench in all but one of them, which was Phoenix on the road due to Giannis sitting out with a knee injury. Brogdon’s stats have dropped to 11.7 points per game, 2.8 assists per game and his three point shooting has dipped to 33.8%.

Bad Matchups or Lineup Factors?

Coming off of the bench, Brogdon will often play alongside guys like DeAndre Liggins, Rashad Vaughn and Thon Maker. That isn’t the most talented bunch of players to surround yourself with and unless it’s closer to crunch time, you will likely need one of the Middleton/Giannis/Bledsoe trio surrounding him for his game to be effective. There is also the possibility of some lost confidence with Kidd eschewing him from the starting lineup in favor of the now-departed Gary Payton II. That is impossible to quantify, but one hopes his age and generally calming demeanor wouldn’t let that slight get to his head.

What’s Been Affected?

We have already mentioned the shooting going down, but what else has been impacted by Brogdon coming off the bench? The first issue is Brogdon’s offensive rating. Brogdon has had 7 games with an offensive rating over 100 and 8 games below 100. When he was a starter, Brogdon only had two games below 100 offensive rating. One of those games was the season opener while the other was the dreadful game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Brogdon’s net rating has taken a significant hit as well. Only four of his games has he finished in the positive, compared to a starter when he had six. Part of that net rating assuredly had to do with decreased time with the world-beating starting lineup for Milwaukee, where Brogdon’s time with the preferred starting five is ranked 11th in terms of net rating among 5-man lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together.

Solutions

It seems unless the roster is very depleted, Brogdon will be looking at the 6th man role the remainder of the season. While it’s not ideal, there are still ways he can be a net positive player. The first will be pairing Brogdon in lineups with Giannis, Middleton and occasionally Bledsoe. That should take the pressure off of him to create and allow him to spot-up (hopefully upping that recently deflated 3-point percentage in the process) and pick his spots to attack the rack. Brogdon has been included in the clutch lineups that have been very successful this season and that should help his ratings too. The biggest thing is for our ROY to take his role and run with it like Greg Monroe had done last season. Hopefully we don’t have to have another article like this about Brogdon’s great start giving way to an extended roadbump.