In the midst of a hectic trade deadline and a late road tip out west yesterday evening, excuse the tardiness of this week’s grades! Even after a Phoenix loss that was hardly close for over half the game, I’d call this week a massive success, even if the opponent quality wasn’t that good. No matter how bad the Blazers are, Portland’s Moda Center is a tough place to play in and of itself. Blowing out three clearly inferior teams (even if one includes a
trio couple of legit stars) is exactly what a title contender should be doing. Individual Bucks made good on their recent deficiencies too: Portis with his outside shot, more creation from Middleton, and even Bud’s big man strategy. It’s also time to close the book on three now-former Bucks, who I’ll assign an end-of-season grade.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: A (last week: A)
4 GP, 30.1 MPG, 29.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.5 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 1.5 BPG, .607/.533/.685
His struggles in Phoenix—and the end of his 25-point streak—took the shine off what was a sensational week in all facets of the game. From draining 8 of his 12 three-point attempts before the Suns game, stonewalling Anthony Davis left and right on Tuesday, to stuffing an MVP-worthy 44 on the Lakers at the other basket, it’s clear that Giannis saw this West Coast trip with some national exposure as a way to assert his dominance over the sport. With Kevin Durant out, the only player who has any claim to the NBA’s best player title is Joel Embiid, and he’s not knocking Giannis off that perch right now.
Khris Middleton: A- (last week: C)
4 GP, 30.6 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 2.0 TPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .483/.286/.875
Milwaukee enjoyed a white-hot week from deep despite Middleton’s general ineffectiveness from there, but it was not for a lack of trying. After some invisible games last week, the three-time All-Star returned to a more appropriate shooting volume and aggressively sought buckets from all areas of the floor. He was highly effective inside the arc, capped off by an 8/9 performance last night, routinely getting shots up on tough looks and sinking them with defenders in his grill.
Jrue Holiday: A (last week: A)
4 GP, 33.3 MPG, 18.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 8.5 APG, 2.5 TPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .636/.538/.900
Saturday night was about the easiest night at the office Holiday could have asked for (9 points on 3/4 shooting with 7 assists), but the rest of his stat lines pop off the box score because of some sizzling percentages. His stepback was particularly lethal from the outside, creating separation between even the peskiest defenders and his release point in order to bury some back-breaking treys. The Bucks had a very difficult time distributing last night and racked up too few dimes due to weak shooting, but Holiday had double-digit assist totals in the previous two games when his teammates were torching the nets.
Bobby Portis: A (last week: B)
4 GP, 28.4 MPG, 22.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 TPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, .600/.593/.875
Last week, I mentioned that Portis had to work out of his recent three-point slump, and did he ever! Take out his 1/5 performance in Phoenix last night and he was 15/22 (68.2%) from downtown over the prior three games. I also mentioned rebounding: while his individual numbers don’t back it up, the team was a bit better on the defensive boards last week with a 76.0% DREB% (3.7 points above their 6th-best 73.7% DREB% on the season), third-best in the league by one percentage point behind the Suns. He boxed out well, corraled errant shots a lot more authoritatively, and batted misses around much less.
Grayson Allen: A- (last week: A)
3 GP, 25.6 MPG, 9.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.0 TPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .478/.417/.500
Early in Tuesday’s Lakers matchup, Allen found Giannis inside twice with some crafty passes, illuminating an underappreciated aspect of his game. He doesn’t drop too many dimes because he’s a primary catch-and-shoot option but with the Bucks’ thin backcourt depth right now, it might be good to let him take some more bites at the initiator apple. While we don’t think of him usually as more than an average defender, he had a few good possessions on Devin Booker last night and used his strength well inside, which is another underrated element of his skillset.
Pat Connaughton: B+ (last week: B)
4 GP, 21.5 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.0 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .407/.400/.000
Looking at his rough 0/6 start from three last night, you may have thought the fractured fourth metacarpal in Connaughton’s shooting hand occurred earlier in the evening. That doesn’t take away from a banner week for the sharpshooter, highlighted by an insane 6/9 performance from downtown against the Clippers. While we await a determination on whether or not he needs surgery, let’s acknowledge how important his scoring has been this year, given how underwhelming the bench has been with Portis becoming a starter.
Donte DiVincenzo: C (last week: B)
3 GP, 20.2 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.3 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .417/.313/.500
DiVincenzo’s up-and-down Milwaukee tenure ended with a whimper in three non-descript outings that didn’t remind anyone of the player who excited plenty of Bucks fans in years gone by. Yes, the last 8 or 9 months were dampened by his ankle woes, but the DiVincenzo who peaked in late 2020 may not resurface on the Kings. The bench sparkplug from late 2019 may not either. It’s a pity the Bucks weren’t allowed to trade him when his value was highest, but Serge Ibaka and two second-round picks are definitely worth more than his current on-court contributions, ones which we weren’t likely going to see in the playoffs.
Final grade: D+
Wesley Matthews: C (last week: C+)
4 GP, 14.9 MPG, 1.5 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .250/.286/.000
It’s been a rough several weeks on the offensive end for Matthews, whose second tenure in Milwaukee started off very promisingly. We’ll have to cross our fingers for the shooting to return and prove his first month of rejuvenation was no fluke. What is still no fluke, however, is his defense. The 35-year-old Madison native is as strong as ever: just ask his former Lakers teammates, especially Davis, who just could not back Matthews down on the block. As long as he’s still the stalwart we all know him to be, he merits minutes, even when the guard corps is fully healthy.
Greg Monroe: B (last week: free agent)
4 GP, 14.6 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .500/.000/.571
Speaking of second Milwaukee tenures, Monroe was a pleasant surprise across the transaction wire last Saturday and quickly put a smile on many fans’ faces with nice work on the back-to-back in Portland and LA. While it looked like at first he would struggle inside after missing some early shots on Jusuf Nurkic, he sank his first three on Sunday and had some nice defensive possessions too. He’s not a good option in some matchups, though, struggling with AD on Tuesday. Coach Mike Budenholzer wisely held him out of most of the Suns tilt, an opponent hellbent on pummeling the Bucks inside. Moose managed to rack up some buckets and boards in garbage time, though, and largely stayed out of foul trouble. Even with Ibaka’s pending arrival, I’d think it likely he signs a second 10-day this week.
Jordan Nwora: D (last week: B)
3 GP, 13.1 MPG, 3.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.7 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .263/.111/.000
In George Hill’s absence, Nwora was pressed into action and didn’t have much to show for it. With Connaughton’s absence ahead, he’s going to see more court time until/unless Milwaukee can fill their open roster spots with better options. If he’s not able to find efficiency with the volume of shots he’s permitted, his minutes could be ugly.
Lindell Wigginton: C+ (last week: INC)
4 GP, 7.7 MPG, 2.5 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.8 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .571/.667/.000
Nothing really to report here outside of a couple of triples, one of which was actually consequential in non-garbage time on Thursday. He had nothing to counter Chris Paul with, but he gets some plaudits for delivering decent minutes when the Bucks’ backcourt was at its thinnest last night.
Rodney Hood: (last week: INC)
2 GP, 11.0 MPG, 2.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.0 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .286/.000/.000
You’d be forgiven if you didn’t notice Hood’s presence at any point this week, which is something that also can be said of his time in Milwaukee this season. Never able to find a shooting groove or provide much else aside from some spurts of average defense, it looks like this might be the swan-song for his career, as barring some unlikely comeback in LA, he’s not going to see any minimum contract offers this offseason. It was worth a shot!
Final grade: D
Thanasis Antetokounmpo: B (last week: INC)
3 GP, 4.7 MPG, 2.0 PPG, 0.3 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.7 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .750/.000/.000
Mitchell dubbed Thanasis the “Garbage Time MVP” for his efforts last night once Bud waived the white flag, so that’s worthy of a token B in the report card if I’ve ever seen one.
Sandro Mamukelashvili: B (last week: INC)
3 GP, 4.6 MPG, 1.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .667/1.000/.000
Mamu played just as much as Thanasis this week and while he might not have made as much noise, he’ll get the same treatment for similar numbers.
Mike Budenholzer: A- (last week: C+)
3-1 W-L, 112.5 ORtg (6th), 109.0 DRtg (11th), -3.6 NetRtg (8th)
I’m giving Bud a pass for the Suns game given how depleted his rotation was. Otherwise, his team ran circles around inferior squads all week with lethal shooting from a potent offense that made good on every play call. My main concern last week was his gameplan on Nikola Jokic, and though Davis is not a great comparison to the reigning MVP, he contained the Laker big man really well despite a thin frontcourt. Putting Giannis on dynamic scoring forwards like AD often works well and is something Bud has called for in the postseason: remember how well Giannis shut down Jimmy Butler last May? My confidence in his defensive scheming is restored after that lapse against Denver.
Incomplete: Semi Ojeleye (1 GP, 8 MIN), George Hill (injured), Brook Lopez (injured)
Semi Ojeleye final grade: F
He was on a minimum like Hood, but Ojeleye somehow provided even less. A training camp injury robbed him of some key acclimation time to the team, but I can’t muster a passing grade for what we saw after. Good luck to him in the G League or abroad next season!
A 3-1 Western Conference road trip did wonders (for me at least) towards reestablishing the Bucks as one of the league’s premier teams, taking care of business against middling (or worse) teams by annihilating them, exactly what they ought to be doing. Where do they need to improve as the All-Star break approaches? While the offense took a big leap recently and third quarters weren’t a bugaboo (outside of last night in Phoenix), it will be even more if Middleton—who has shot just 28.6% from beyond the arc so far this month—joins the three-point party. He’ll need to drain more of the many outside looks the Bucks generate during Connaughton’s upcoming absence, as will Matthews and Nwora, whose playing time won’t decrease. Giannis experienced a bit of a drop at the line these past two outings in LA and Phoenix which he needs to correct. The big thing we’ll be looking at this week is Ibaka’s fit on the team, which looks seamless on paper. He’ll likely assume Monroe’s minutes in the near term, and the main thing he’ll need to provide the Bucks with is interior presence, with effective floor-spacing a worthy secondary goal.
How would you grade the Bucks’ performance this past week?
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