The Bucks were one starter-less, SEGABABA (second game of a back-to-back, for the uninitiated) Friday game versus Charlotte from a perfect week. Though they made no real headway toward a top-two seed, there’s still time for that yet as the East playoff picture shifts on either side of them. Easily the best news lately was the return of P.J. Tucker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, setting the stage for a four-game homestand where the Bucks may finally have every player available. After a grueling stretch of 9 road games in 18 days that spanned from Portland to Orlando, the Bucks play 10 of their remaining 17 games at home.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: B+ (last week: A)
The Freak returned on Thursday night and looked physically capable of what we’re used to. Bud said after the game that he was on a minutes restriction at 25, and in those minutes he attacked the rim with his trademark power and athleticism as if he hadn’t missed multiple games with a lower-body injury. Good signs.
Jrue Holiday: A- (last week: A-)
His games against the also-rans in Minneapolis and Orlando weren’t banner nights, but he turned in a signature Holiday performance in Atlanta by putting up 23 and playing stifling defense on Hawks star Trae Young. It’s easy to dream about him putting the clamps on Kyrie Irving or James Harden in the playoffs, willing the Bucks to wins (speaking it into existence!)
Khris Middleton: B (last week: C)
It looked like Middleton was getting off the schneid before Thursday with efficient 20+ point efforts (the Magic and Wolves are always good slump busters), but he struggled in Atlanta to 10 points on 14 shots. He smartly backed off his volume since Holiday and Lopez were having big nights, likely with the 6/27 night in Dallas one week ago still fresh in his mind.
Brook Lopez: A (last week: A-)
Lopez feasted on defenses both inside and out this week (6/13 on threes) and is shooting a Splash Mountain-like 43% from deep this month. Surprisingly, his most muted performance came in Orlando, where he usually gets a boost from Mickey. His presence in the paint on Thursday also forced the Hawks into quite a few misses within 10 feet, mostly on floaters.
Donte DiVincenzo: C+ (last week: B-)
A quiet week for the Bucks’ fifth starter, who unfortunately couldn’t hit enough shots to really move up the pecking order while Giannis sat. He did grab 13 rebounds and was pretty error-free, but it’s disappointing that he wasn’t scoring with authority against bad teams.
Bobby Portis: A- (last week: A-)
Crazy Eyes scored double digits in all four games this week and had double-doubles in two of them. While he had a rough night versus the Hornets, he shook it off two days later in Orlando and kept the solid play up against the contending Hawks. This is Portis’ most productive stretch of the year in scoring and rebounding, averaging 13.7 and 10 this month.
P.J. Tucker: B+ (last week: INC)
From a mental perspective, Tucker didn’t look completely ready in his first game back on Wednesday, but he really showed what he could do in Atlanta. It’s no coincidence that the Hawks were routinely being shut down with him on the floor. You could see and sometimes hear how vocal he was in directing those bench groups that strung together several stops. He even switched onto Trae Young briefly. I hope to see him more with Giannis soon.
Jeff Teague: A- (last week: A)
You can look past unimpressive outings in Orlando and Minnesota once you see how well he played against actual playoff teams. He proved very capable in a spot start last Friday with 19 points on 11 shots and also received heavy minutes in Atlanta, spelling DiVincenzo. Teague has quickly ingratiated himself as a valuable member of the rotation who can get to the rim, draw fouls, make great passes, and hit a three every so often.
Pat Connaughton: B+ (last week: B-)
Connaughton broke out of his shooting slump this week, hitting 12 of his 25 three-point attempts. After a poor performance against the Hornets where he was a team-low -20, He’s scored double digits in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. He was great as usual on the boards and even scored a bit inside with some good-looking drives.
Bryn Forbes: A (last week: B)
This was a really productive week for Forbes, but not in the way you might expect. His outside shot was typically great until the Hawks game (when he looked like a somewhat willing passer) but he was an impressive 13/16 inside the arc on a variety of floaters, pullups, and stepbacks. He also had 5 assists, which doesn't sound like anything... until you see he hadn’t made one since March 27th. Nearly three weeks without an assist, sheesh!
Thanasis Antetokounmpo: C (last week: B+)
I know Friday was a throwaway game, but Thanasis is the type of player who shouldn’t be taking 15 shots unless he’s really on one. Then in Minnesota, he looked really out of control. He attempted a lot of ill-advised shots and made several head-scratching decisions with the ball. We’ll see how many minutes he gets with the frontcourt rotation now at full strength.
Rodions Kurucs: B (last week: INC)
In his first action as a Buck, Kurucs hit a few shots in garbage time against two of the league’s worst teams. Meh. It’s likely that the front office knows they don’t have much in him and due to his troubling past, he probably won’t have his salary guaranteed next season.
Jordan Nwora: A (last week: B)
Nwora the Scora (h/t oldresorter) was outstanding against Charlotte, particularly in the fourth quarter. He played all 12 minutes and the team scored 38. The youngest Buck shot solidly in reduced minutes the next two before returning to the end of the bench. Though he hasn’t shown much outside of scoring ability, he’s earned the right to rotation minutes when one of Giannis or Tucker sits to preserve their legs.
Sam Merrill: B (last week: INC)
He wasn’t efficient in the Hornets game, but few Bucks were in that slop fest. Great to see Merrill get 27 minutes in that one, though, facing actual quality NBA rotation players. I think that’s the last we’ll see of him in non-garbage time for a while.
Mamadi Diakite: B (last week: INC)
In a solid performance off the bench, Diakite scored 10 points to go with 5 boards in 23 minutes against the Hornets. It was very encouraging to see him get to the line (his first free throws as a Buck) for six attempts as few Bucks outside of Giannis are likely to draw shooting or blocking fouls. He didn’t do much in garbage time the next two contests.
Axel Toupane: A (last week: INC)
Milwaukee’s other two-way player got 18 minutes off the bench versus Charlotte and put together a nice stat line of 9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He even hit a three and shot 4/5 at the line. Maybe there is an NBA player in there...
Mike Budenholzer: B (last week: C+)
Last week, I wrote about Bud’s half-court offense in the closing minutes of tight games. Though this isn’t a clutch situation, on Thursday the Hawks cut the deficit to as close as 8 points in the final three minutes as the Bucks’ offense stalled. With a disclaimer that Giannis’ night was done at this point, Milwaukee had a fair bit of trouble scoring. Five consecutive missed treys were thankfully mitigated by offensive rebounds on three of them, but those shots weren’t wide open or the result of great ball movement. As they should, the Bucks milked the clock on these possessions—unlike in last week’s Sacramento and Golden State matchups—and weren’t running Holiday or Middleton ISOs, but they just couldn’t create good scoring opportunities. There’s a real lack of movement in Bud’s late-game half-court sets too: a lot of standing around. While this didn’t harm the Bucks at all on Thursday, it’s reminiscent of playoff series the past two seasons where Milwaukee let fourth quarter leads slip away in large part because they couldn’t score.
Incomplete: N/A, every player received significant minutes in at least one game this week.
After the Grizzlies on Saturday, the Bucks will welcome some serious contenders this week as the Suns and Sixers make their first and only visits to Fiserv Forum. 3 wins is a tall order, but more importantly, this team is getting healthy with a month-long ramp into the playoffs ahead to sand the edges. What are your grades? Let us know in the comments below.