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Ranking the Roster: Wings Results

A typical name tops the rankings

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Our positional roster ranking rolls on, this time with the results of our wing voting. Here’s the full breakdown of how folks voted, from most to least important:

  1. Khris Middleton
  2. Torrey Craig
  3. Bryn Forbes
  4. Jordan Nwora
  5. Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Overall, I’m not too surprised with how things shook out, I’d probably have ranked them in around the same order, especially given we haven’t gotten a chance to see Jordan Nwora play yet. There seems to be a pretty clear tier 1 with Khris Middleton and Torrey Craig as players most folks envision being part of our playoff rotation. From there, it gets a bit more dicey. Bryn Forbes had votes across the middle of the board from 2-4th most important, and that seems like a reasonable summation of how his season could play out. He’s a swing player, if his shooting is electric enough that it compensates for his defensive deficiencies, then he’ll probably carve out a niche role for the team come Playoff time.

Let’s run through each player in a little more detail.

Khris Middleton

Middleton had a scorching hot year last season, tearing through nets with the best eFG% of his career at 57.5%. Cleaning The Glass has him at 52% on midrange shots last season, ranked in the 97th percentile among forwards. If you look at the top midrange gunners in the league, Middleton shot significantly better than any of them even at similar volume. Kawhi, for example, shot 42.9% on 5.7 attempts per game; Khris was at 52.7% on 4.8 attempts. He topped it off with a 41.5% year from deep.

The big question heading into this year is whether he’ll have to shoulder more defensive burden with Wes Matthews gone. The thinking last year was that Matthews could guard the opponent’s best wing, freeing up Middleton for an easier assignment so he could expend extra energy offensively. We’ll have to see how that calculation plays out this season and whether Middleton’s efficiency will dip.

Torrey Craig

Beyond Jrue Holiday, Craig seems like the most heralded offseason arrival, partially due to the value he offers on a minimum deal. A defensive stalwart for the Denver Nuggets, Craig was known as a wing stopper, and will clearly offer that same value to the Bucks come playoff time. From our friends at Denver Stiffs:

He’ll never be the guy teams look to for the final shot in a close game, but he will be the guy they put on the opposition’s best player for the final shot in a close game. Craig’s defense kept him on the court throughout the 2020 playoffs where he often drew the likes of Donovan Mitchell, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James as his defensive assignment.

There is also a clear reason why Denver didn’t pony up to keep him though, and he slipped through free agency cracks to only warrant a minimum deal: his shooting just isn’t up to snuff. He’s a career 32% shooter from deep, and I wouldn’t expect that to miraculously tick up while he’s in Milwaukee. If he could get to 35% or so, that would be cause for celebration. Given he’s got a little more size than Matthews too, I’m curious to see if Bud will employ him more as the four in Giannis-at-center lineups.

Bryn Forbes

Forbes is going to play the Kyle Korver role as a pure gunner off the bench...and a suspect defensive player. That’s the rub on him, but it’s possible Bud could supercharge his 3-point output in Milwaukee enough to counteract and issues he brings on the defensive end. He’s also bolstered by some of the best clean-up artists at the rim in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez if he makes mistakes on the perimeter. Patty Mills and Forbes were by far the most prolific 3-point shooters in San Antonio, and with Forbes a career 40% shooter, I can’t imagine his volume won’t tick up more. Even Korver, someone who made their bones on long-range shooting, had his 3-point attempt rate hit a career high of 80.9% last year. That defensive reputation though...

Jordan Nwora

On paper, Nwora seems like the prototypical shooting wing NBA teams want. He’s 6’8” with a 6’10.5” wingspan, is a career 40% shooter from deep and nearly 80% from the line. He’s pegged as a “smart team defender” in this prospect breakdown, and we won’t have to wait very long to find out whether that assertion holds true in the NBA. If Nwora can display a knack for picking up Bud’s system, and his shot holds, the Bucks could have another capable shooting wing to slot into the rotation. We should learn more about Nwora’s game as the preseason gets going.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Thanasis played well enough in his garbage time last year that it didn’t seem like he was entirely out of place on the very end of an NBA roster. He would never have a meaningful on-court role for this team in important moments, but he serves his role as a chemistry dude who probably helps keep Giannis’s spirits up.

That’s it for the wings, so just one more position group left to run through and rank from most to least important: the bigs. I have a hunch who might go first here...

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