Welcome back to Brew Hoop’s 2018-19 Milwaukee Bucks season player evaluations. This preview is laid out in an identical fashion to last year and covers three topics: What the player does to help (Boon), what they do that hurts (Bane), and whether they ought to be on this team (Belonging).
Pat Connaughton was nearly an afterthought heading into the beginning of the Milwaukee Bucks 2018-19 season. It was unclear exactly where he fit on the roster behind other wings such as Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, Sterling Brown and possibly even Donte DiVincenzo.
In what turned out to be true Mike Budenholzer fashion, Connaughton was given a shot along with every other wing over the first couple months of the season. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to capitalize on the opportunity and found himself riding the pine for most of December, January and February. He had his lack of an outside shot to blame during his slow months.
Budenholzer eventually wrapped back around to the Notre Dame alum and gave him a second chance at the end of February. Connaughton didn’t let this moment slip away and cemented himself in the rotation throughout the rest of the season. There were even a couple of Pat Connaughton games in the postseason against the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics.
Connaughton’s Boon: Cutting To The Hoop
Connaughton is an athletic marvel who never stops moving. He has an amazing vertical leap that was measured at 44 inches at the NBA combine four years ago and he loves to show it off any chance he gets. Whether it’s close outs on the three-point line, soaring in for a rebound from the elbow or jumping off two feet to slam one home it’s omnipresent.
His active leaping ability is most effective when he’s cutting to the hoop. He can play off the five-out spacing in the Bucks’ offense and take advantage of clear lanes to the rim. Partially because of Budenholzer’s offense, Connaughton was a selective cutter last season, opting to do so on only 14 percent of his possessions. However, when he did jet to the basket, he was extremely effective. His 1.48 points per possession on cuts ranked in the 87th percentile among all players.
As Connaughton is filling the corner in semi-transition, his man completely loses track of him following the double drag screen at the top of the key. He recognizes this, never stops moving and cuts backdoor along the baseline. Malcolm Brogdon finds him with a last-second bounce-pass and Connaughton does the rest with the two-handed slam.
He should look to do this more often next season. It’s a risky proposition, as the Bucks don’t want the lanes clogged too often. However, Connaughton ranked in the 82 percentile when it came to finishing shots around the rim according to Cleaning the Glass. Milwaukee needs more of that.
Connaughton’s Bane: Three-Point Shooting
It’s quite simple: When Connaughton is hitting threes there’s a spot for him on the floor. When he’s not, his rightful place is on the bench. That was the story all season long for the first-year Buck. He began the year in a slump and made only 28.5 percent of his threes from October to February. He did catch fire in March and April and connected on a scorching 40.3 percent.
The consistency of Connaughton’s playing time in 2019-20 will depend on the consistency of his outside shot. If he can keep the momentum going he established in the spring, he has a clear spot on the floor.
Does Connaughton Belong?
The wing situation will likely be crowded once again in Milwaukee and Connaughton will have to fight just to get on the floor. Middleton is clearly the bell cow ahead of him, but with the departures of Brogdon and Tony Snell, there is opportunity for Planet Pat. Sterling Brown is likely up there as well, as is newcomer Wesley Matthews, and DiVincenzo will get his opportunity heading into his second season.
Connaughton obviously belongs on the roster and is on a team-friendly deal considering he’s only owed $1.72 million next season. The real question is whether he belongs in the rotation. A question that will be answered by his three-point shooting.