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Roster Recap: Getting Reacquainted with the Milwaukee Bucks

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It’s been awhile...let’s brush up on the Bucks heading to Orlando and how they’ve performed this year

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the doom and gloom storylines that have plagued several teams shutting down their practice facilities, including the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA is trudging ahead with their scheduled Orlando bubble. With Milwaukee set to trek down to Florida on Thursday, it seems like as good a time as any to reacquaint ourselves with the Bud’s merry men hoping to realize the team’s championship aspirations. I’ve broke down the team into several subjective tiers, alongside one key stat and basic counting stats for each player this year.

The Starters

Eric Bledsoe

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Eric Bledsoe 56 27.2 15.4 4.6 5.4 0.9 0.4 48.20% 34.80% 81.30% 53.50%

Key stat: 67% shooting at the rim

Bledsoe has neutered any fears that his advancing age may have cost him his elite finishing at the tin. He’s at 67% on 240 attempts this year, 89th percentile among point guards, and right in line with his past few years in Milwaukee. Why does that matter? Well, even if opponents sagged off him in the Playoffs last year, he still mustered a 68% percentage at the rim on 62 attempts. I would expect similar defensive tactics this year, and Bled will have to maintain the same level of confidence in his finishing that he has all season. It remains his most elite offensive skill.

Wes Matthews

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Wesley Matthews 62 24.7 7.5 2.6 1.5 0.6 0.1 39.70% 36.50% 76.20% 52.20%

Key stat: 12.7% usage rate

This is the flipside of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s mammoth usage rate below. In the offseason, Milwaukee gambled that by letting Malcolm Brogdon go, they could re-allocate his production between backups like George Hill, Donte DiVincenzo, and by putting the ball more in their stars’ hands. Wesley Matthews has essentially played the Tony Snell role this year, dipping his usage rate to career-low levels (previous low was 16.5 his rookie year). In the absence of his needs as a playmaker, he has the third-highest 3-point attempt rate on the team, but Milwaukee relies on his defensive tenacity more than anything else. He gets the LeBron James and Kawhi Leonards of the world, freeing up Khris Middleton and Giannis to shoulder their greater offensive burden. Matthews has done everything Bud asked of him this season. Still, I can’t help but wonder if Milwaukee may eventually need a little more versatility from their starting 2-spot.

Khris Middleton

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Khris Middleton 55 30.1 21.1 6.2 4.1 0.9 0.1 49.90% 41.80% 90.80% 57.70%

Key stat: 57.8% effective field goal percentage

Middleton is in the midst of his finest shooting year ever, coupling a 42% 3-point percentage with a scintillating 52% from the midrange, the latter of which is in the 99th percentile among all forwards. Most years, it has taken Khris Middleton a bit of time to get his shooting stroke back into exquisite shape, so we’ll have to see how the layoff affects his career-best percentages following a stretch of 2-3 months of apparently never touching a basketball...

Giannis Antetokounmpo

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Giannis Antetokounmpo 57 30.9 29.6 13.7 5.8 1 1 54.70% 30.60% 63.30% 58.30%

Key stat: 37.4% Usage Rate

We all know about Giannis’s superlative performance this season, putting up MVP-level stats in less time than it takes most of us to prep dinner. Usage rate is part and parcel with that level of production, and his ball dominance has never been higher than it has this season. Last year, his 32.3% usage ranked fifth in the league; this year, he’s leading all players and is up near Harden-Westbrook (Westbrook’s MVP season featured a 41.7% usage) levels of taking over Milwaukee’s offensive end of the court.

While many of us focused on the diminished minutes load Bud employed all year for the Bucks superduperstar, a season-long tactic made moot by the COVID-19 pandemic, there didn’t seem to be nearly as much discussion about his bump in terms of pure usage on the court. Bud expected Giannis to go all out in his minutes, and he did so to a higher degree offensively than ever before. His usage rate in the Playoffs last year was almost identical to his regular season usage. I’ll be curious to see if he can sustain this heavy load, and more importantly his efficiency, come Playoff time when one hopes his minutes will tick up.

Brook Lopez

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Brook Lopez 61 26.6 11 4.5 1.6 0.7 2.4 42.70% 29.60% 81.00% 50.10%

Key stat: Opponents are shooting 46.9% at the rim

That’s good, like, historically good, in case you were wondering. In fact, if you look at NBA tracking data on defensive impact, it’s the single-best mark for any player who faced at least five field goal attempts per game since Roy Hibbert’s 44.9% (!) mark back in 2013-14. Brook is facing 6.5 field goal attempts at the rim this year.

Key Backups

George Hill

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
George Hill 52 21.2 9.6 3 2.9 0.8 0.1 53.00% 48.00% 83.10% 63.80%

Key stat: 48% 3-point percentage

Sometimes, it’s as simple as the fact George Hill is leading the league this year in terms of 3-point percentage. Whether it will continue is anyone’s guess, and a central part of his value come postseason play.

Donte DiVincenzo

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Donte DiVincenzo 59 23.1 9.4 4.9 2.3 1.4 0.3 46.20% 34.40% 76.90% 54.60%

Key stat: 63% shooting at the rim

As one of the few remaining unknown quantities on this aged Milwaukee roster, Donte DiVincenzo seems to be garnering a solid bit of coverage from writers interested in why the advanced stats love him so. What interests me most about Donte is his impressive finishing ability at the rim. Even with his athleticism, I didn’t expect him to be the kind of player who could land in the 80th percentile among combo guards (per Cleaning The Glass) for his shooting at the hoop. It’s not necessarily a fluke of small samples either, as he’s taken 164 attempts (42% of his overall shots) from that location. If he can replicate that success in the postseason, Milwaukee will gladly take someone who can provide an easy bucket if the 3-point hose gets a kink.

Robin Lopez

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Robin Lopez 60 14.4 5.5 2.4 0.7 0.2 0.7 50.20% 34.40% 53.50% 56.20%

Key stat: 35% 3-point percentage

Another simple stat, but Robin Lopez’s emergence as a decent 3-point threat has made him more than merely viable offensively. A third of his shots have been 3-pointers (previous high was 5%) and he’s hitting 35% of them, including 41% from the corners, where he’s been most likely to snipe from. Given his ability to continue Milwaukee’s stellar defense at the rim, that type of minimal offensive versatility makes it easier to squeak out minutes with him on the court in minutes that matter.

Marvin Williams

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Marvin Williams 11 18.5 4 3.5 1.4 0.8 0.4 41.00% 29.60% 100.00% 51.30%

Key stat: 8.9% usage rate

After bolting Charlotte as a buyout, from the jump in the 414 Bud leaned on Marvin Williams in his ceremonial old man power forward slot (apologies to Ersan Ilyasova). With Williams defensive know-how covering up some of his increasingly creaky athleticism, he fit right in with Milwaukee’s scheme as a backup power forward and capable four in Giannis-at-center lineups without sacrificing the team’s defensive integrity. And so while his usage rate should be minimal, 8.9% would be the lowest of his career if it held up (his previous low was 13.3%).

He was doing all the right things to fit in, including a career-high 3-point attempt rate despite nailing just 29.6% of them, but I would have trepidations about a new arrival being that gun shy when Playoff defenses start collapsing more coverages around Giannis and Khris. Ditto for the fact he has little experience playing in meaningful games for the past decade or so. He remains one of the larger question marks on the team given how little time he had to acclimate. If his 3-point slump somehow continues in Orlando, how long will Bud trust him in the postseason before he might revert back to Ersan Ilyasova?

Bench Pieces

Kyle Korver

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Kyle Korver 50 16.7 6.7 2.1 1.2 0.4 0.2 42.90% 41.50% 82.40% 59.50%

Key stat: 16.7 minutes per game

As a gentle reminder, Kyle Korver had just returned from a back injury for three games before the pandemic ceased basketball across the league. Like Pat Connaughton, my main question for Korver comes down to a simple question of his minutes per game. Last year for the Jazz, he averaged 20 minutes per game for Quin Snyder’s squad, only to play merely 30 minutes across Utah’s 5-game series loss against Houston. Korver can hit treys in bunches, but his defensive liabilities may be too glaring for Bud to chance him in the rotation. How he fits in, particularly after a lengthy layoff, remains an intriguing subplot.

Ersan Ilyasova

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Ersan İlyasova 56 16 6.8 4.9 0.8 0.4 0.3 47.20% 37.10% 82.70% 55.20%

Key stat: +9.7 on/off differential for defensive points per 100 possessions

Per Cleaning The Glass, Milwaukee’s defensive points per 100 possessions increases by 9.7 points when Ersan is on vs. off the court, the highest on the team. That effectively means Milwaukee’s defense has been at its worst thus far when Ersan is on the court. Individual stats in relation to a team concept like defense can be tricky, and part of it is due to the superlative nature of the starting five’s stingy D, but Ersan continues to be a shaky wheel in Bud’s scheme. Opponents are shooting the highest 3-point percentage while Ersan is on the floor (37.8%), an unlucky stat, but it’s not much worse than Khris Middleton (36.6%) and his defensive numbers are far more sterling.

Pat Connaughton

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Pat Connaughton 61 18.3 5.1 4.2 1.6 0.3 0.5 45.60% 32.10% 75.00% 54.00%

Key stat: 32.3% 3-point shooting

Last year, Pat Connaughton shot 33% for the Bucks in the regular season from deep on 3.3 attempts per game. This year, that number is down and so are his attempts, at just 2.2. In the Playoffs last year, he hit 35.7% of his 42 total 3-point attempts. Connaughton is as up-and-down of a 3-point shooter as anyone on the roster. He offers more well-rounded attributes than Kyle Korver when it comes to backup guard minutes, but he needs to find himself on a hotter streak in Orlando to ensure consistent minutes from Bud.

Sterling Brown

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Sterling Brown 45 14.8 5 3.7 1 0.5 0.2 36.70% 31.60% 77.10% 45.00%

Key stat: 12.5% turnover rate

For a player who is asked to do little more than shoot threes and play lockdown defense, Brown ranks in just the 38th percentile among wings for his turnover rate. That’s not horrific, but it does underscore his plateauing game a bit this season. Despite glimpses of some creative off-the-dribble skills in last year’s first round Playoff matchup against the Pistons, Brown turned into a pumpkin against stiffer competition. He’s mostly fallen out of Bud’s rotation this year, and Wesley Matthews offers them enough size at the wing that I don’t expect Brown to play much in the restart.

D.J. Wilson

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
D.J. Wilson 31 9 3.2 2.2 0.7 0.1 0.2 39.60% 25.50% 66.70% 46.50%

Key stat: 280 minutes total this season

After getting some midseason run under Bud last season, Nikola Mirotic and Ersan Ilyasova supplanted his meager minutes and Wilson appears to have run out of rope with the second-year Bucks head coach after playing 882 minutes last year. He’s played 153 minutes in the G-league already, and with his fourth-year option already picked up, I’m sure the front office is wishing they had that extra bit of salary to play with in what could shape up as one of the most salary cap-strapped offseasons in recent memory. Barring severe injury to this team, or them running roughshod over a first round opponent, I wouldn’t expect Wilson to make any meaningful appearances in the seeding games or postseason.

Human Victory Cigars

Frank Mason

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Frank Mason 6 8.8 2.3 1.3 1.8 0.3 0 26.30% 20.00% 50.00% 31.60%

Key stat: Just won G-League MVP with 26.4 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds

He played brilliantly for the Wisconsin Herd, but appeared for only 53 minutes with the Bucks this season. Kudos to him, but he’s nothing more than a break in case of emergency point guard.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo

19-20 Per Game Stats

Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Player Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3P% FT% eFG%
Thanasis Antetokounmpo 18 5.2 2.5 1.1 0.5 0.3 0.1 52.80% 0.00% 46.70% 52.80%

Key stat: He’s Giannis’s older brother

No offense to Thanasis, he just has no business playing any meaningful playoff minutes. Gotta love his enthusiasm on the bench though and he seems like a trusty teammate.