Trying something new this week which I think you’ll like: the erstwhile writers of this column’s forerunner at Bucksketball (RIP) included relevant statistics with their grades, which were given for each game. While I do mine weekly, much like our old friends I’ll be including standard numbers for each Buck. I’ll start with games played, minutes per game, the six main statistical categories, and shooting splits. If there are any other stats you’d be interested in seeing, let me know in the commments.
Last week, I hoped to see improved outside shooting leading to improved bench production, mainly from Pat Connaughton. While the reserves had their issues at first (just 15 points on Saturday), Connaughton’s rediscovered outside touch trended that group slightly upward. Among the other guards returning in recent games from injury or COVID protocols, Grayson Allen showed the best semblance of consistency. While Jrue Holiday played only 22 minutes on Wednesday, he still isn’t making the same mark when relegated lower on the offensive totem pole. Unfortunately, none of the backcourt corps could meaningfully stop both dynamic point guards the Bucks faced this week, though perhaps a full-strength Holiday could have kept Ja Morant more honest. As predicted Giannis and Khris Middleton did indeed feast at times, but turnovers remain an issue when facing heavy defensive pressure, and not just from the handsy Raptors.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: A (last week: A)
3 GP, 34.6 MPG, 30.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 4.7 TPG, .419/.400/.872
A rare poor week from the field for Giannis, who uncharacteristically struggled to get past Onyeka Okongwu and characteristically struggled with the usual gaggle of long Raptors defenders that Nick Nurse sends at him. Unable to use force to get to the rim in either matchup, he settled for jumpers that were too often bricked, but he corrected both problems corrected against Memphis. His saving grace? An excellent week at the line (34/39), raising his season FT% to an almost-respectable 71.6%.
Khris Middleton: A (last week: A)
3 GP, 36.0 MPG, 25.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 4.0 TPG, .462/.333/.957
Like they were with Giannis, turnovers remained a thorn in Middleton’s side when faced with defensive pressure befitting of a primary ballhandler. He struggled with Toronto’s interior defensive presence too (3/12 from the field), but made up for it with some excellent shotmaking in Atlanta. His defense on Ja Morant was solid enough when switched onto or tasked with guarding him. Middleton also drew fouls at a great clip and knocked all but one free throw down; he’s currently at a career-best 4.7 FTA/game 5.3 FTA/36 and a .317 FT rate. A similar week for these two in all but one very unexpected way: three-point conversion.
Jrue Holiday: B- (last week: injured)
1 GP, 22 MP, 9 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 0 BLK, 3 TOV, .250/.333/1.000
On a minutes restriction, there’s not much to report from Holiday’s Wednesday return on offense outside of hitting a useful triple. Defensively, he didn’t spend much time on Ja Morant as one might expect, perhaps by design. Without Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks to contend with as well, this was a decent way to reacclimate him after two weeks off.
Bobby Portis: B (last week: A-)
3 GP, 32.7 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.7 BPG, 1.0 TPG, .516/.364/.667
While this is a respectable week for almost any NBA big man, Portis didn’t establish himself as a major scoring threat in any contest, which doesn’t usually happen. One reason was his difficulty getting inside (just 7 shots in the restricted area all week), and his jumper wasn’t falling quite enough to counteract the lack of production down low. The Bucks were vastly outscored in the paint this week and he shares some blame for that, though he looked alright dealing with high pick and roll action, preventing opponents from getting downhill.
Grayson Allen: B (last week: A)
3 GP, 27.4 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 0.3 TPG, .480/.385/.875
Arguably the only Buck to show up to face the Raptors, Allen’s other two performances were pretty middling as he lacked the kind of volume marksmanship he’s capable of. Nevertheless, Toronto would have won that game far earlier had it not been for his 18 points on 6/11 shooting, and Milwaukee’s 33.8% mark from the field (plus their 30.8% rate from three) would have been even more abysmal without him.
George Hill: B+ (last week: C)
3 GP, 29.4 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 0.3 TPG, .500/.417/1.000
I was ready to drag Hill a bit for some pretty invisible minutes in the Hawks and Raptors tilts, games where his usually sterling plus-minus didn’t even save him. All too often this year he’s avoided driving, cut passively, and turned down good looks in deference to teammates. We excuse this often because generally speaking, good things are happening with him on the court, just not visibly involving him. Against the Grizzlies, he more firmly established himself as a valuable rotation player with a 14/6/6 line and a team-high +16. It was heartening to see him deliberately take the shots presented to him and pleasantly surprising to see him capably slice through Memphis’ interior to the rim for two layups.
Pat Connaughton: A (last week: C-)
3 GP, 24.2 MPG, 10.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 0.3 TPG, .611/.615/1.000
Resuming his typical minute load in the past two contests, Connaughton found his groove again from behind the arc. A week off in the protocols likely did him some good, because he’d been in a pretty significant slump in the nine games prior, a stretch where he shot only 36.7% from the field and hit just 27.3% of his threes. Getting him right again needed to happen for the bench to improve as reserve-heavy units were quite a reliability in recent weeks. It’s hard to ignore his -21 in 27 minutes against Atlanta despite the 14 point and 6 board effort, but while his defense can be problematic, Giannis was -17 himself.
Wesley Matthews: C+ (last week: A)
3 GP, 23.2 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 0.3 TPG, .286/.214/.000
Yes, his shooting and overall scoring output took hit against Atlanta and Toronto, but Matthews gets a boost for great defense on Buck tormentor Fred VanVleet, who was held to an uncharacteristic (by the standards of his All-Star caliber season and his history with Milwaukee) 6/17 shooting for 17 points and only 3/8 from downtown. He fouled out in just 21 minutes on Monday and only two of those were drawn by Trae Young. Off the bench again versus Memphis, his playing time was pretty high-quality, with a couple of great drives.
Donte DiVincenzo: C- (last week: D+)
3 GP, 19.0 MPG, 4.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 1.3 TPG, .200/.286/.000
Acknowledging his recent return from six months off due to ankle surgery plus a setback, it’s fair to ask: how long is DiVincenzo’s leash? I saw a few flashes of the player he used to be in the Hawks game and he made some nice passes on Wednesday night, but he’s worse than ever at the rim and is doing too much guesswork on defense. He certainly is not a starting-caliber player based on his eight games this season and while the Bucks can afford to be patient with him, he likely wouldn’t be seeing rotation minutes if the playoffs began today. The only positive I can glean is that his rebounding prowess remains intact, but as I alluded to last week, he isn't on this team only to be a great rebounding guard. With how little else he’s providing, his value as the Bucks’ only best trade asset keeps dropping.
Jordan Nwora: F (last week: B)
2 GP, 5.5 MPG, 0.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 0.5 TPG, .000/.000/.000
Why am I including Nwora in these grades instead of giving him an incomplete? Unfortunately, he was that bad in the few minutes he played, which were actual rotation minutes in close games. Against Toronto, he was quickly yanked off the court after VanVleet and OG Anunoby roasted him a few too many times. His -13 in just 5 minutes attests to that. Coach Mike Budenholzer opted to shrink his rotation to 8 players for the remainder of the Hawks game rather than play him again after subbing out in the second quarter. With the rotation finally healthy again, the Bucks assigned him to the Wisconsin Herd.
Mike Budenholzer: B (last week: A)
1 W, 2 L, 110.2 ORtg, 110.5 DRtg, -0.3 NetRtg
Though the team’s offensive production this week is only a point below its season number, the defense was nearly three points worse, mainly due to an average of 48.0 opposing paint points per game, 5.2 PPG worse than their season average.
Incomplete: Rodney Hood (8 minutes), Semi Ojeleye (DNP), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (DNP), Sandro Mamukelashvili (DNP), Lindell Wigginton (DNP), Brook Lopez (injured)
Here’s what I’ll be looking for from these Bucks in the week ahead. Now that Holiday is back with the team and should build-up to his normal playing time this upcoming week, a lot of the playmaking pressure thankfully gets lifted off of Giannis’ and Middleton’s shoulders. Still, they need to keep their turnover numbers down; even with Holiday on the court this season, they occasionally are too lax with the ball. Hill took on a more prominent distributor role by starting the last two games, and more play like we saw from him on Wednesday will benefit Giannis and Middleton further, plus will address the scoring issues among the reserves when he rejoins them. Matthews and DiVincenzo simply need to make more shots. Those two and Hill are the primary drivers of bench improvement. When the starting lineup is fully reassembled (sans Lopez, of course), Allen still has to prove he can be effective alongside a healthy big three.
Here’s another element I’ll introduce for you all: a teamwide grade. I’ll sit this one out, preferring to let the readership make the call, because why should I have all the fun? I know we have a fair bit of international readership that may have no experience with the American public school grading system (A is best, F is worst), but it’s pretty simple and if you didn’t know it, you’ll probably pick it up just by reading this article. Much like my high school, there will be no pluses or minuses (can you believe that? I feel like that doesn’t happen barely a decade later and I’m still bitter) unless enough people want them.
How would you grade the Bucks’ performance this past week?
This poll is closed
What are your individual grades? Let me know in the comments below.