The weekly grades are back for another year, and oh boy. I understand some sort of illness is going around the Bucks currently, with MarJon Beauchamp being the most public acknowledgment of this, and we expected—even being warned about this by Giannis himself—a slow start. A rookie head coach with new (if questionable) schematic ideas, a new superstar with a major role on the team, a returning superstar who didn’t get a proper runup to the season due to offseason surgery, and general rust... it’s all understandable. What’s also true, though, is that we weren’t expecting it to quite look like this: an uninspiring and perhaps lucky 2-2, where both wins nearly weren’t so.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: B
4 GP, 31.0 MPG, .537/.143/.641, 24.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 3.8 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 BPG
It seems like whatever offense the Bucks are running right now caters a bit too much to Giannis’ whims. To be fair, he had two very good games sandwiched around two very uneven ones, and his free throw shooting bounced back in a big way after opening night. But it seems clear that playing alongside Dame is going to require him to make a not-insignificant adjustment, and he hasn’t yet figured out what that is.
Damian Lillard: B
4 GP, 33.0 MPG, .400/.290/.914, 21.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.8 APG, 3.0 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The shooting has been bad, but like some of Milwaukee’s other key players, Dame seems quite underutilized. This isn’t on him. How poorly he’s shot from distance is, though. With his wacky offseason and a trade mere days before training camp, this is understandable and we’ll keep a pretty long leash based on his past. Opening night was sensational.
Khris Middleton: B+
3 GP, 16.8 MPG, .368/.222/.750, 7.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.3 TPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG
In limited minutes—which hopefully actually start to tick up in earnest now (please?)—Middleton has actually looked a lot better than his numbers indicate on both sides of the ball. As some have suggested, the offense should function better with him alongside either superstar. This is a much slower ramp-up than his regular season debut last December, though. It could be more like when he came back again in January when he was at no more than 20 minutes for two weeks, and didn’t hit high twenties for almost a month.
Brook Lopez: B
4 GP, 23.8 MPG, .457/.353/1.000, 10.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Like Dame, this isn’t his fault. Though he was in double figures prior to last night, he’s being woefully forgotten about defensively by making him trap smalls behind the arc, or being sent to the bench for whatever reason as the Bucks flail about sending bodies at cutters, rather than having a reliable giant dude in drop coverage. That’s what made him good! Why aren’t they letting him do that?
Malik Beasley: A-
4 GP, 30.0 MPG, .500/.462/.333, 12.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 TPG, 2.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG
The volume and accuracy from deep have been helpful after he only took one three against Philly. They’ve unfortunately come in losses, but he’ll make his mark in a victory before long because he fits the offensive role they need from the off-ball guard. His defensive efforts in this (ahem) effortful scheme have been appreciated too, as he’s notched two steals each night. It’s at least masking some of his drawbacks on that end.
Bobby Portis: B
4 GP, 19.4 MPG, .559/.000/.588, 12.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
In double figures every night and grabbing as many boards as he can (not as plentiful this season on the defensive glass), Portis hasn’t yet made a three this year. He has had helpful scoring bursts at times, notably in the two victories, that make me wish he was getting more than 19 minutes per.
Pat Connaughton: C-
4 GP, 22.2 MPG, .364/.286/.750, 5.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Connaughton also deserves a longer leash based on his past with this team, but there’s no denying his shot has looked very off this year. Griffin’s scheme seems to capitalize on his worst tendencies, so that’s looked bad too, but it’s—here I go again—underutilizing his main plus on that end: that he’s probably the Bucks’ only guard (or perimeter player, period) who can get over screens.
Jae Crowder: B+
4 GP, 25.8 MPG, .500/.500/.600, 7.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Here’s a guy who looks motivated to right last year’s wrongs by coming into the season strongly, at least as a shooter. That being said, he hasn’t been able to keep opposing wings in front of him either because he’s often been at a footspeed disadvantage. Things would go better for him defensively if his strength was being leveraged—not his athleticism.
Cameron Payne: B
4 GP, 13.9 MPG, .563/.500/.000, 5.8 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.8 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Quickly moving past a forgettable debut, Payne has looked solid enough running second units, and his ugly jumper is falling. The ball should be in his hands more when he’s out there, though, and he doesn’t need to be playing alongside Dame. What’s that? Did I just say that someone’s being underutilized again?
MarJon Beauchamp: A-
3 GP, 16.2 MPG, .538/.500/1.000, 6.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.0 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG
One of the best adjustments Griffin made this week was putting Beauchamp on Tyrese Maxey when he got rolling. It worked! On Trae Young? Less so, as the sophomore picked up three quick fouls. The biggest step he can make right now is not being baited into personals, because they really need his youthful speed and length on defense. Threes are icing right now.
A.J. Green: B+
3 GP, 8.8 MPG, .429/.400/1.000, 3.3 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.0 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Another Buck who may deserve more playing time, though Green wasn’t very impactful when assuming a sick Beauchamp’s place in the rotation versus Miami. With Dame struggling currently, he might be the team’s second-best outside shooter behind Beasley, so I wouldn’t mind him getting run in situations like... oh I don’t know, what happened in the first quarter last night?
Adrian Griffin: C-
2-2 W-L, 112.4 ORtg (11th), 119.0 DRtg (29th), -6.6 NetRtg (24th)
An expenditure of ink on Griffin’s defense is overdue, and coming. For the purposes of this column, let’s just say that it hasn’t been a good first week in the NBA for Griff. I won’t grade him too harshly since it’s his first time, but I’ll share this nugget I read today which comes from a league source outside Milwaukee: going 0/14 on interviews prior to this job is something of a staggering number.
Incomplete: Thanasis Antetokounmpo (2 GP, 11 MIN), Andre Jackson Jr. (2 GP, 13 MIN), Robin Lopez (1 GP, 6 MIN), Chris Livingston (1 GP, 6 MIN), TyTy Washington Jr. (1 GP, 3 MIN)
There’s just a lot for everyone to work on here. What are the most important things to address? Clearly, Giannis’ responsibilities to the offense in concert with Dame’s are the biggest issue, but that’s one that will need more time. In the short term, I’ll settle for better utilization (I’m a broken record) of Lopez and Payne, better shooting from any of Lillard, Portis, and Connaughton, plus more Middleton than 17 minutes.
How would you grade the Bucks’ performance this past week?
This poll is closed
What are some of your individual grades? Let me know in the comments below.