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Bucks Weekly Report Card: December 16

What grades do we send the Bucks home with this weekend?

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Bucks were terrible. That’s about all that needs to be said, but I’ll say a little bit more about it anyway below. Two craptacular efforts this week, one coming against a cellar-dweller, say less to me about the Bucks’ postseason chances than they do about their athleticism. However, I think the Memphis loss boils down more to effort because Milwaukee defenders just were not getting back in transition. Lest we forget that Milwaukee also blew out the defending champs this week, which is worth celebrating no matter how horrendous Golden State fares on the road. That contest looked a lot more like a playoff one to me: less transition emphasis on both ends, heavier importance on shotmaking from everywhere on the court, more physicality (maybe a little too much), and a bit slower action in general. Dealing with very young and quick teams is a tough matchup for the current Bucks, a team that relies more on strength than speed, but the good news is that none of their East rivals present the same issues that the Grizzlies or Rockets do.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: C+ (last week: A+)

4 GP, 31.8 MPG, .408/.250/.609, 23.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, 3.8 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG

No matter how you slice it, he was uncharacteristically inefficient this week. While I don’t think he’d be taking so many jumpers that Stan Van Gundy counts them in a closer game and was likely just trying to find a rhythm, Giannis wasn’t himself in the restricted area either. It’s one thing to struggle with Steven Adams, but it’s another thing to struggle with the young Rockets bigs. No matter how long they are, Giannis should have had that edge.

Khris Middleton: C (last week: B+)

4 GP, 22.2 MPG, .295/.240/.909, 10.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.0 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG

If it weren’t for a quietly excellent night against the Dubs, this would be a lost week for Middleton, who can’t establish any offensive flow. As always, you appreciate him taking shots and staying involved in every possession, but let’s be honest: he’s not all the way back yet. A mild ankle sprain on Sunday didn’t help, and after just six full games I’m certainly willing to give him more time, but any injury doesn’t seem to be the primary culprit here. He’s obviously frustrated; I doubt he’d have indefensibly taken down Dillon Brooks if his shot had been falling more regularly in recent contests.

Jrue Holiday: A (last week: A+)

2 GP, 36.0 MPG, .455/.500/1.000, 21.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 7.0 APG, 3.5 TPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG

I don’t know how much they missed Holiday taking on Golden State or how much he’d have helped defensively in Memphis, but these last two outings proved more—to me at least—about how critical he is within the offense. He’s shooting really well of late from all spots on the floor, so lacking one of their most reliable scorers is the bigger deal than any connecting work he puts in. Here’s hoping he overcomes whatever this recent bug is.

Brook Lopez: C+ (last week: A)

4 GP, 27.0 MPG, .304/.182/1.000, 5.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.8 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 2.0 BPG

I’ll bump his letter grade up slightly for winning the Mavs game, but I’m not totally sure why he’s increasingly vanishing from the offensive pecking order lately. It could be Middleton’s return or matchups (Dallas wasn’t a particularly good one for Lopez, despite the game-winner), but through much of the season, he’s carried the team through otherwise low-scoring first halves. Lately, he’s not looking for his own shot at all, and plays are being run for Middleton (not going well) or Allen (going rather well!) with varying success. I didn’t see him as any defensive liability until last night, when Adams roundly outplayed him down low.

Grayson Allen: B (last week: A)

4 GP, 27.9 MPG, .424/.278/1.000, 10.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG

Allen’s variation from game to game was something to behold this week. A solid all-around effort in Dallas and a perfect night versus Golden State, then two stinkers from the field. Like nearly every Buck, he couldn’t hit anything from behind the arc, but he’s increasingly comfortable going to the rim (8/13 in the restricted area this week) and finishing impressively around longer defenders. His rising offensive versatility is an under-discussed positive in this season’s early goings.

Bobby Portis: A- (last week: B+)

4 GP, 24.8 MPG, .564/.267/.833, 17.8 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.8 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG

The only Buck who truly showed up in each game this week and put himself squarely in the Sixth Man of the Year discussion (some national voices are even calling him an early favorite for the award), Portis was nearly automatic inside the three-point line. Nearly everything in that 7–18 foot range fell in the last three matchups. Every hook, floater, or jumper he puts up lately, I’m expecting to go in. It’s automatic, and his shot looks like butter.

Jevon Carter: A- (last week: B)

4 GP, 22.6 MPG, .563/.600/.000, 6.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Tons of credit for his stellar work on Steph Curry earlier this week—the Warrior star took only one shot during Carter’s first shift—but he struggled a bit with the lightning-quick Jalen Green two days prior. I don’t think he distinguished himself that much on Ja Morant either. He’s at least hitting the open shots he sees, though; more than can be said for most Bucks.

Pat Connaughton: D+ (last week: C+)

4 GP, 20.9 MPG, .321/.238/1.000, 6.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.5 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG

I’ve been more lenient with Middleton thus far since it’s been just two weeks, but Connaughton has been back nearly a month now, and let’s be frank: it’s not going well. While I appreciate that he contributes on the boards just as well as in previous years and also drives with decent results, he’s on this team to make threes, and he isn’t. It might be time to give him a night or two off.

George Hill: B (last week: C+)

4 GP, 18.5 MPG, .455/.400/1.000, 4.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.3 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG

While Hill had more success from deep lately, his grade here is reflective of his pretty solid distribution and rebounding in limited minutes. Any threes he hits are certainly a boon, as is a 67.3% true shooting, but he was only exceeded by Holiday in assist percentage in a week where ball movement was quite down relative to weeks prior. The pass to Lopez for Friday’s game-winner wasn’t perfect, but as we saw on Sunday, few Bucks can convert entry passes so close to the hoop.

Wesley Matthews: B+ (last week: incomplete)

2 GP, 9.5 MPG, 1.000/1.000/.000, 2.5 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG

That’s right, he hit two triples and put in some great shifts on Curry when Carter got some blow, all after coming off a bout with COVID. Good enough.

Jordan Nwora: C+ (last week: B)

2 GP, 7.9 MPG, .333/.200/1.000, 3.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.7 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG

Only garbage time for Nwora, and at least he made a little something of it last night.

MarJon Beauchamp: B (last week: incomplete)

2 GP, 13.4 MPG, .385/.286/.600, 7.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG

Reports are that Beauchamp was hit pretty hard by the illness currently afflicting Holiday, losing some weight and keeping him out an extra game or two. Now healthy, Bud answered the desires of many fans to throw him in for first-half minutes on nights when it was clear the regular rotation didn’t have it, with underwhelming results as the game got out of hand. Credit for a good effort against Memphis’ scrubs, though.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo: C (last week: C-)

2 GP, 9.2 MPG, 1.000/.000/.500, 2.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Speaking of garbage time, Thanasis was by far the eldest and most experienced man on the floor as the Memphis disaster wrapped up, and it showed!

A.J. Green: A (last week: A)

2 GP, 8.5 MPG, .625/.400/.000, 6.0 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG

You have to give Green his due. When Bud calls his number, he delivers. Remember the Christian Woodlands? Well, consider me the mayor of A.J. Green Acres. Plenty of lots available for development, call your broker now!

Mike Budenholzer: B (last week: B+)

2-2 W-L, 105.4 ORtg (29th), 112.1 DRtg (9th), -6.6 NetRtg (25th)

As the grades above reflect, a lot of what happened this week is on the players, specifically the starting lineup. With the exception of Thursday, the role players all had their share of success (all of them simultaneously on Tuesday, in fact). I actually thought Bud drew up a lot of winning plays this week, especially after timeouts, as is his wont. 52.5% of their three-point attempts were open or wide open (the closest defender at least 4 feet away) per—36.6 attempts per night, fourth-most in the NBA over the past week—but the Bucks sank just 31.1% of them.

Incomplete: Serge Ibaka (DNP), Sandro Mamukelashvili (DNP)

It appears likely we’ll get our first taste of Joe Ingles this week, which could put the team at its maximum depth should Holiday’s illness abate in the coming days. While I’d wager he won’t play more than 15 minutes for a game or two, several shifts where he takes ballhandling/initiation duties away from Middleton et al probably would benefit the team right now. Otherwise, it seems like another week of waiting for Middleton and Connaughton to find any degree of success within the offense, especially some rhythm with their shot. Perhaps the biggest progression any Buck could make, though, would come from Giannis and his efficiency. 58% true shooting on 16.6 attempts per night isn’t going to cut it from a star whose jump shot is as bad as it's been since his rookie year.


How would you grade the Bucks’ performance this past week?

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