Hard not to be let down this week despite two victories, as the Bucks didn’t make any upward movements in the standings, and players didn’t do much to allay some fans’ concerns. Last Friday, I identified turnovers as a key issue for both Giannis and Khris Middleton. Even with Jrue Holiday’s return, ceding their initiating roles back to Milwaukee’s lead guard, both needed to be more careful with the ball. Middleton improved in that regard, but as we saw Wednesday, Giannis is still being too careless at times.
The bench didn’t improve much as a unit: in terms of effectiveness, George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo alternated games while Pat Connaughton had to moonlight in the starting lineup twice. Both did have some great individual efforts, but it’s become rare to see multiple reserves play well in any given game. Since Grayson Allen did not even play a full night in his one appearance before getting run on Friday, nearly all the issues I pointed out last week remain.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: B+ (last week: A)
2 GP, 33.0 MPG, 28.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 5.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .500/.167/.792
Though he put up some impressive box score numbers and was very solid at the line, the reigning Finals MVP is still afflicted by turnoveritis. He coughed the ball up 5 times to the Bulls and 7 times to the Cavs, many of which were unforced. I appreciated how he tried to get the Bucks back into the game by drawing fouls on Wednesday, and to his credit he sank nearly every free throw. It seemed like he had it with the guys he passed to bricking threes.
Khris Middleton: A (last week: A)
3 GP, 34.8 MPG, 23.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .520/.500/.769
Outside of an off night last Friday, this was the most productive week I think I’ve seen from Middleton this year, really only marred by an uncharacteristic 3/6 free throw-shooting game in the aforementioned off night. As mentioned, he cut his turnovers down significantly and he needs to maintain that moving forward. This hasn’t been a good month for Milwaukee, but don’t blame him: his numbers above are nearly identical with his January numbers.
Jrue Holiday: B (last week: B-)
3 GP, 30.2 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.3 TPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .415/.375/1.000
Holiday took it to the Kings on Saturday, but was merely serviceable against the Bulls and had quite the stinker on Wednesday. He didn’t have a very tough defensive assignment outside of spending some time on DeRozan, so it was pretty disappointing he didn’t have a bigger scoring week. The Bucks really needed more buckets during those 20-point quarters, and Holiday passed up a ton of clean looks.
Bobby Portis: B- (last week: B)
3 GP, 30.8 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.3 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .436/.200/.500
That line doesn’t look great, I’ll give Portis credit for one big night facing off with the Cavs’ lengthy interior defense and being one of just three guys who could manufacture points. He was bodied on the boards a lot, though, in a game where the Bucks had a massive size disadvantage at basically all times. Rebounding was a key factor in the Bulls victory, particularly on the offensive glass this week, where he corraled 6 of Milwaukee’s misses.
Grayson Allen: D- (last week: B)
1 GP, 20 MIN, 5 PTS, 3 REB, 0 AST, 1 TOV, 1 STL, 0 BLK, .400/.500/.000
I’m not going to rehash his flagrant-2 from Friday again as we all need to move on, especially the Allen-haters and Bulls fans. Instead, I’m almost flunking him for what we all can agree was a reckless move. He missed Saturday with an injury, so I’ll be lenient.
Pat Connaughton: A- (last week: A)
3 GP, 29.5 MPG, 9.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.3 TPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .409/.400/1.000
Much like he did earlier in the year, Connaughton immediately produced upon entering the starting lineup and shot exceptionally well from deep in the last two games. He couldn’t get anything going from the field against Chicago (0/5) when Milwaukee really needed to build more solid leads. We’ll call that an aberration, as he seems to have rediscovered his stroke from deep (15/30 in the past 5 contests) after missing time in the protocols.
George Hill: B- (last week: B+)
3 GP, 26.2 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.7 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .333/.300/1.000
Saturday’s season-high 17 points on 4/7 shooting (draining 3/6 triple attempts and all 6 free throws) took the sting off Hill's invisible start the evening before, where he naturally still managed a +8. Unfortunately, he laid a serious egg on Wednesday, joining several other Bucks in scoring hell. At least he didn’t turn the ball over once, a number only he and Connaughton could boast, while the Cavs made their teammates pay dearly for their errors.
Wesley Matthews: B (last week: C+)
2 GP, 17.8 MPG, 3.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .400/.333/.500
I certainly feel for Matthews after being forced to play a minute on a pained knee after he went down in a heap. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt for that Kings game. His performance against the Bulls was solid on both ends: I thought he handled DeRozan the best out of any Buck. It’s not hard to imagine that Cleveland wouldn’t have been so white-hot on Wednesday had he played. He’s expected to be available tonight.
Donte DiVincenzo: B (last week: C-)
3 GP, 25.0 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.3 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .462/.357/.875
After a very rough first few weeks, DiVincenzo finally strung a few decent games together, punctuated by a 20-point night against the Kings. Most encouragingly, he was 7/10 inside the restricted area, never shying away from contact and drawing whistles. We’ll have to see if his success at the rim is a fluke or not, but that had to do wonders for his confidence.
Jordan Nwora: C- (last week: F)
2 GP, 18.6 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .333/.250/1.000
The main playing-time beneficiary of the Allen suspension and Matthews injury, Nwora was far too inefficient to warrant minutes once the Bucks’ guard corps returns. He’s been a decent three-point shooter in the past, but at his current volume, he ought to drive a bit more—unless he really starts knocking them down. His athleticism would serve him better as a slasher than as a spot-up shooter since he can zip by bigger players off the dribble, and has the size to bully through smaller defenders.
Mike Budenholzer: B (last week: A)
2-1 W-L, 111.3 ORtg (17th), 113.3 DRtg (17th), -2.0 NetRtg (20th)
Really hard to blame the coach for terrible three-point shooting and lost-ball turnovers, but with the way the offense struggled against Chicago and Cleveland, I’d have liked to seen Bud call for more two-man action. The size and athleticism of the Giannis and Middleton pick-and-roll combo worked well against a Bulls team lacking some of its perimeter stoppers, but I hardly saw it at all in the Cavs game. Was the game plan to avoid the redwood trees down low completely? It sure seemed like it, based on their reliance on threes and short-midrange attempts. What’s odd is that Milwaukee was really good inside the arc at 60.4%, so why not draw up more ATOs and side out plays that create a driving lane instead of a three-point attempt, when no one could hit the broad side of a barn?
Incomplete: Rodney Hood (2 GP, 8.3 MPG), Sandro Mamukelashvili (2 GP, 5.3 MPG), Semi Ojeleye (1 GP, 2 MIN), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (1 GP, 2 MIN), Lindell Wigginton (DNP), Brook Lopez (injured)
Milwaukee’s rotation should return to its usual degree of availability—sans Lopez—this weekend and it shouldn’t take long for playing time to reach stasis, so long as Matthews can play. Minutes that went to Nwora, Hood, and Mamu should be distributed back to where they were. I think DiVincenzo will gain more of them, though, as he seems fully healthy. He needs to build on his recent success within 3 feet of the rim and develop some consistency. In this small-ball basketball ecosystem, it’s incumbent upon Portis to be a better rebounder and box out more effectively for others. Consistency on the boards is what I’d like to see moving forward from Portis. Giannis cannot keep giving the ball away via his own errors. Holiday needs to shoot and create for himself more aggressively. Hill needs to develop consistency night-to-night at even a mild degree of impact, and I’d say the same for DiVincenzo. They needn’t score double figures each night, but have to avoid total ineffectiveness.
How would you grade the Bucks’ performance this past week?
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What are your individual grades? Let me know in the comments below.