By the skin of their teeth, the Bucks have a winning week and with it, returned to their familiar place as the second seed (though tied with Brooklyn). Turnovers remain a thorn in Milwaukee’s side, though you understand even a staggering 28 two nights ago, between the perfect storm of a near-total lack of ballhandlers and the league’s best defense at generating them. A 2-2 record since Christmas feels disappointing with the “strength” of that schedule, but given the Bucks’ issues with illness and injury, they’re lucky to be where they are.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: A (last week: B)
3 GP, 38.0 MPG, .554/.286/.759, 42.7 (!!!) PPG, 17.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, 7.3 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Wednesday night was one of the more remarkable triple-doubles you’ll ever see with the 10:12 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s had at least five turnovers in six of the last seven, but being pressed into primary ballhandling duty on a SEGABABA without anyone to help shoulder the playmaking load, we’ll give Giannis a break. He makes up for it with a pretty excellent—by his standards, anyway—week at the line. Oh, and the career-high 55 points.
Jrue Holiday: C (last week: A-)
1 GP, 19 MIN, .250/.500/.000, 6 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 3 TOV, 0 STL, 0 BLK
While it was great to see him back on Tuesday, clearly Holiday’s conditioning is not fully back yet. As my colleague Riley put it, it did indeed appear like he was moving through a sea of molasses. Though his couple of treys were helpful, he couldn’t help much defensively. Twenty-some minutes tonight and two days off before the team’s next action should help.
Brook Lopez: B+ (last week: A-)
4 GP, 29.0 MPG, .489/.273/.667, 12.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 2.0 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 3.3 BPG
I remarked recently how Lopez’s rim protection seems to have slipped a hair in the last week or two, despite healthy block numbers. Perhaps more concerning, though, is his recent propensity to get in early foul trouble. In four consecutive first quarters, he’s picked up two whistles, and during the first four minutes in two of them. His individual rebounding—three consecutive in double figures, a first as a Buck—mitigates this somewhat.
Grayson Allen: B- (last week: C)
4 GP, 28.3 MPG, .314/.320/.750, 9.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Even as the overtime hero in Canada, the shooting slump obviously continues, but twice this week he contributed in a multitude of other ways. On Sunday (eight assists) and Wednesday (five), it was as a passer, but in each game this week he defended pretty solidly despite usually giving up a few inches to his man. More Holiday and Joe Ingles should let him slide down the assignment list.
Bobby Portis: B (last week: B+)
4 GP, 30.6 MPG, .468/.353/1.000, 18.0 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 TPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG
As usual, Portis paced them offensively through some slogging first halves against the Wolves and Wizards (on Tuesday) before a pretty tough night to cap off his week, at least defensively. He’s racked up five double-doubles in a row and might be finding a little more rhythm from deep after not making one in over a week. For most of this week, he was one of two—and on New Year’s Day, really their only—reliable creators Milwaukee had.
Jevon Carter: C- (last week: C-)
4 GP, 27.4 MPG, .321/.286/1.000, 6.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.5 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Despite pounding the air out of the rock with his dribbling, Carter is now scoreless in his last 46 minutes of gameplay (on only six shots, but still) and accrued four personals in each of those two games. He’s the pest that Milwaukee needs on one end, but he’s far too involved on the other. I will give him props for a great second half last Friday in Ingles-led lineups as the Bucks made their move, coming on the heels of a brutal first half.
Pat Connaughton: C+ (last week: B)
4 GP, 30.8 MPG, .368/.313/.000, 9.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Though he cooled off after a 4/7 start, Connaughton’s triples did wonders in a first half in Toronto where no one made anything. Credit to him for continuing to shoot when entering the New Year on an 0/9 skid, but after he successfully converted at the basket for his first attempt in that Wizards loss, I wouldn’t mind seeing him attack more than once per game.
Joe Ingles: B (last week: D+)
3 GP, 20.1 MPG, .389/.375/.000, 6.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 6.7 APG, 2.3 TPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG
We finally saw GM Jon Horst’s hypothesis in adding Ingles this week come to fruition, particularly in the second half of the Minnesota tilt. His passing hasn’t always looked crisp, but as Adam suggested, that’s as much a function of integration as it is rounding into form (which he’s doing!). As others figure out his court vision, more of those headscratchers should flip from live-ball turnovers to quality looks.
MarJon Beauchamp: B- (last week: C)
4 GP, 19.4 MPG, .429/.267/.500, 7.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.5 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
This is one of the rookie’s more sustained periods of playing time since November, and I’d say we’re getting more of the good than the bad that comes with young NBA talent lately. Like Connaughton, Beauchamp’s early makes from behind the arc stuck out versus the Raptors, but throughout the game what impressed me more was his passing, as he kept making the right reads. He’s already exceeding my minimal offensive expectations.
Jordan Nwora: D+ (last week: incomplete)
2 GP, 9.7 MPG, .500/.500/1.000, 4.5 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.0 BPG
As perhaps the second-least trusted player on the roster, Nwora got some legitimate burn this week after a string of DNPs, and didn't distinguish himself either way outside of a few buckets at inconsequential moments.
Serge Ibaka: C- (last week: incomplete)
1 GP, 16 MIN, .286/.000/.000, 4 PTS, 2 REB, 0 AST, 3 TOV, 2 STL, 1 BLK
I suggested last week that Ibaka get a little more run in an effort to ration Lopez’s workload. I’ve also seen commenters opine that he’s in Bud’s doghouse—N.B. lack of playing time does not equate to punishment—but there’s little to show that our ideas of providing him with more run are warranted.
Sandro Mamukelashvili: D+ (last week: incomplete)
3 GP, 9.1 MPG, .000/.000/1.000, 0.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Surprisingly, Mamu saw double-digit minutes as a mid-half change-of-pace option in back-to-back games, mainly due to foul trouble for Lopez and Ibaka. Aside from grabbing a few boards and making some good passes, he too isn’t doing much during shorthanded shifts.
A.J. Green: C+ (last week: incomplete)
4 GP, 15.8 MPG, .400/.313/1.000, 5.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Part of the Ingles-captained bench mob that leashed the Wolves last week, he sank many of the looks at moments the Bucks needed them in what’s been the most extensive action of his career. Despite the teamwide glacial period, though, he would need to make 100% of his attempts to justify more action. He gets picked on too often defensively to be reliable during key stretches and can’t defend or pass at Allen’s level.
Mike Budenholzer: B (last week: C)
3-1 W-L, 104.2 ORtg (28th), 104.4 DRtg (4th), -0.2 NetRtg (16th)
Let’s get something straight. If you take a timeout with 3:22 left ahead by 21, pulling your starters is eminently reasonable. If you’re a crazy person like Nick Nurse, leaving your starters in from the 8:24 mark of the fourth, seeing them go down 21 five minutes later, keeping them in is what you do. All that to be 17-21 on January 4th? My, my. To Bud’s credit, he re-inserted all his starters 39 seconds later after two VanVleet threes, still up 15. Do you want someone to blame for what happened after? Maybe look to the fellas in black and white, two turnovers in the final 50 seconds, or a Canadian Screen Award-worthy performance by Gary Trent Jr. Don’t sleep on this defense either, and don’t worry about Scottie Barnes’ few late buckets.
Incomplete: Thanasis Antetokounmpo (2 GP, 5 MIN), Wesley Matthews (DNP), Khris Middleton (injured), George Hill (ill)
Next week brings a somewhat challenging East road trip through New York and Atlanta before the first of two games in Miami, who rank second behind Toronto at forcing opponents to cough it up. As we continue to wait for Middleton, the remainder of Milwaukee’s playmakers are probable at minimum. If the offense shows some upward trends this week—be it through converting their continued quality looks or their usual brute force—against these mid-tier conference foes, that will count as a not-insignificant victory. If it doesn’t, Horst’s deadline priorities seem very clear.
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.