This coming Monday, November 8, marks the Wisconsin Herd’s first game in exactly 18 months after the then-fledgling (and still present) COVID-19 pandemic truncated the 2019-20 season and the team opted out of the 2020-21 season. They might not be the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Herd still matters a great deal. Here’s a quick look at where they’re at.
Frank Mason’s not walking through that door
And neither is Thanasis Antetokounmpo, last spotted averaging a career-high in minutes played per game to bolster the Bucks’ injury-thinned rotation.
If you haven’t been sated by Georgios Kalaitzakis’ limited run through the Bucks’ first seven games, though, or if you’re itching for more Mamu minutes, you’re in luck because both rookies are joining the Herd for the the beginning of the G League season. Justin Robinson is also expected to float back and forth between the two teams’ line-ups as the Bucks’ two-way contract player not named Sandro Mamukelashvili.
Also entering the the frontcourt rotation for the Herd this season is Wenyen Gabriel. A 2019 draft pick by the Sacramento Kings, Gabriel has already had regular season stops with two other franchises (the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans) and spent training camp time with another (Oklahoma City) before latching on in Oshkosh. A potential rotation player at either forward position—or, alternatively, as a small ball center—at 6’9”, Gabriel’s notched over 40 percent three-point shooting throughout his NBA tenure if we remove his 11 games with Sacramento. (Given the past two decades of Kings basketball, we can do that for a noted good guy like Wenyen.) Of course, as with most G League players, that number comes with an asterisk: the 40-plus percent figure comes on only 44 shot attempts. Still, Gabriel is young and likely has untapped potential. If the team is to serve as a truly developmental system for the Bucks, Gabriel and the Herd could find mutual value in one another.
Returning to the Menominee Nation Arena lights is Rayjon Tucker, the second-leading scorer from the Herd’s 2019-2020 squad. Through 16 games with the Herd, Tucker ran up 23.8 points per game while adding 4.6 rebounds. With two freshly drafted rookies logging minutes alongside him, it’s difficult to project what Tucker’s season may look like, but given Mamu’s reputation as a passing savant, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Tucker as a beneficiary.
Other familiar names on the Herd’s opening night roster include Leon Gilmore III and Jemerrio Jones, the latter coming off a stint with the Delaware Bluecoats during the last season’s G League bubble. As friend of the site Dakota Schmidt of Ridiculous Upside has pointed out (and as Riley linked to in the always-excellent Monday Morning Roundup this week), Jones is an extraordinary rebounder, having wrangled 16.1% of available rebounds during his time on the floor in the bubble and 19.1 percent during the Herd’s 2019-20 campaign.
Depending on how many games Georgios is on assignment with the Herd, it could be interesting to track how positional minutes play out as he and Jones share the small forward designation. At 6’5”, Jones has also been known to log time at shooting guard, but the Herd added Jalen Lecque and his highlight-ready athleticism after his time in Bucks training camp. Since entering the G League ranks directly out of high school in 2019, Lecque has bounced from Phoenix to Indiana and now to Wisconsin, and could be on the verge of a breakout season.
Tremont Waters will see time in the Herd’s guard rotation, too, after his own time in training camp resulted in him participating in the Bucks’ open scrimmage last month. Diminutive at 5’10”, Waters has more NBA experience than the rest of the Herd’s guards, albeit primarily in spot minutes spread out over 37 games and two seasons with the Boston Celtics. Waters has bonafides, though, having been named the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year and finishing third in MVP voting after his sole season in the G League. In 9.2 minutes per game last season, Waters shot 39.5 percent from three-point range—a significant improvement from 2019-20 (16.7 percent) and a noticeable step up from his 35.9 long-range percentage with the Maine Red Claws in 2020-21. Perhaps more importantly, Waters proved to be a willing and trustworthy passer, recording a 2.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio with the Celtics last season. The sample size is small, admittedly, but there are worse things than having a 23-year-old who is a willing passer and can serve as a potential deep-shooting threat to call upon if the moment arises. The buyout market for guards will likely not be deep this season and George Hill hasn’t played more than 60 games since 2017-18.
This season’s version of the Herd is also slated to feature guards Jaylen Bland, Sam Cunliffe, T.J. Starks and Lindell Wigginton, while Javin Delaurier and Michael Gilmore round out the frontcourt, with Terry Larrier projected to slide between guard and forward spots.
Out with the Chase, in with the Chaisson
The Herd was peaking with a 33-10 record under the helm of head coach Chase Buford when the (again, still ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic brought the basketball world to a halt. That would prove to be Buford’s one and only season with the club, as he accepted the head coaching role with the Sydney Kings of Australia’s National Basketball League in June.
In September, Chaisson Allen was named as the third head coach in Herd history. Allen’s resume includes five seasons as a professional players in overseas leagues before his transition into coaching led him to two years as a player development coach at the University of Miami prior to assistant coaching jobs with the Capital City Go-Go and Long Island Nets, as well as one season on the bench as an assistant with the Herd during the successful 2019-20 season.
The Herd is scheduled to play an 18-game season with home games set in Oshkosh at Menominee Nation Arena. See the Herd’s full schedule here.