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Bucks Weekly Report Card: November 30

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

Portland Trail Blazers v Milwaukee Bucks

My apologies for not keeping up with this column the past couple weeks with the holiday. We’re back, though we’ll only look at stats from the past week-ish of games (four, going back to the Boston loss) and evaluate each player on those merits, but we’ll touch on broader trends for each player since the last report card on November 9th too. Plenty to touch on, so let’s dive right in...


Giannis Antetokounmpo: B+ (last time: A-)

4 GP, 38.0 MPG, .526/.167/.698, 29.5 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, 3.5 TPG, 2.3 SPG, 1.3 BPG

Sorry to be a downer here, but a very productive week was marred by another underwhelming outing versus the Celtics, who have had Giannis’—and the Bucks’ as a whole, to be fair—number since Game 6 of the 2022 second round. Or maybe it’s more of a mental thing with him, as in that matchup he didn’t particularly struggle with any Boston defender, including Jrue Holiday, at least not physically. He tried to establish himself inside with seven first-quarter attempts in the restricted area, had a couple blocked, then only got there eight more times the rest of the game, settling for a jumper that has been better this year, but not on this occasion. To my eyes, this is a matter of his touch being off more than good man-to-man defense, and this has been happening more and more when he faces Joe Mazzulla’s squad.

Damian Lillard: A (last time: B+)

4 GP, 37.3 MPG, .469/.361/.941, 30.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 7.0 APG, 2.0 TPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG

Ladies and gentlemen, your early front-runner for the Jerry West trophy... erm, Clutch Player of the Year. Lillard has a chance at establishing the NBA’s record for points scored in clutch situations with 65 already, less than 200 from LeBron’s high mark since those statistics started being kept. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this is the stretch where Dame’s 3P% has started to heat up in recent seasons, though it really starts to cook as we get deeper and deeper in.

Khris Middleton: B+ (last time: B+)

3 GP, 21.6 MPG, .400/.364/1.000, 12.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.7 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG

Mercifully, his Achilles issue was so minor that Middleton didn’t look any different than prior (in terms of how he’s looked this season) upon return. Yes, he’s had real defensive issues and we should adjust those expectations accordingly (let’s cross our fingers for merely average) but they haven’t impacted his on/off numbers: in fact, the Bucks’ defensive rating rises 5.6 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor. He looks increasingly important to keeping the offense flowing both via the eye test and the numbers too, as their ORtg jumps 10.7 to 127.2 (which would rank as the league’s best by far) versus when he sits.

Brook Lopez: A (last time: A-)

4 GP, 32.1 MPG, .625/.364/.917, 22.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.8 TPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.3 BPG

Really the only guy who showed up in Boston among the starters until Dame Time, Lopez followed it up with a massive effort against Washington’s paper-thin interior defense a couple days later. It’s great that he can still step into a secondary—or even primary—scoring role as Middleton continues to ramp up. Now that Adrian Griffin employs him properly after what Zach Lowe termed “a polite mutiny,” we can expect opponent stats at the rim (currently fourth-best in accuracy conceded and 15th in terms of volume conceded) and defensive rebounding numbers (now seventh in DREB% after being 27th two weeks ago) to keep trending in the right direction.

Malik Beasley: B (last time: C+)

4 GP, 30.9 MPG, .472/.423/.000, 11.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 TPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG

It’s been interesting to see fan opinion shift on keeping Beasley in the starting lineup over the past few weeks thanks to a recent hot streak. However, he was far too uninvolved against the Celtics—who I don’t recall being keyed in on him, necessarily—with just one shot attempt before the last six minutes of the fourth quarter, despite 15 minutes to that point. He doesn't need to be more aggressive necessarily, but needs to hunt his own shot or free himself up more often to be effective in big matchups like this because doesn’t offer enough otherwise. That being said, he’s done great work on the glass in the past three contests.

Bobby Portis: C (last time: B+)

4 GP, 24.7 MPG, .355/.255/.000, 6.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG

Besides a solid afternoon against the Blazers, Portis is in a mini-slump. It looked like his outside shooting was coming around midway through the month, but since November 15th he’s just 5/16 from deep. His rebounding numbers are down significantly this year, but as Lopez has moved closer to the basket on D, they haven’t ticked up too much. He’s always been a bit tip-happy on the boards, but it seems even more pronounced this year.

Pat Connaughton: C (last time: C)

4 GP, 20.5 MPG, .438/.300/1.000, 4.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.0 TPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG

A week or so ago, it seemed like Connaughton’s outside shooting was on the upswing after a chilly start. This right ankle sprain that could keep him out a bit doesn’t seem likely to help things. His postseason numbers last year salvaged a down year that was somewhat plagued by injury, but hopefully he doesn’t need to do that again as we move into 2024.

Cameron Payne: C (last time: A-)

4 GP, 15.5 MPG, .333/.222/.000, 3.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.0 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG

Bench scoring is down across the board, isn’t it? Crowder was providing some, but Payne was providing plenty of his own as well until the last week. He’s still working out fine in the second unit, but on Tuesday he was a -15 among a bench that was all below water (meanwhile, the starters were all at least +9). Playing him alongside Dame worked a few times, but that doesn’t seem to be his best utilization.

MarJon Beauchamp: D (last time: A-)

4 GP, 13.4 MPG, .182/.250/.750, 2.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 TPG, 0.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Unlike the guy below him, Beauchamp isn’t quite good enough in other areas (though not necessarily bad) to justify many minutes when he’s not scoring, a statement which is the exact opposite of what I would have expected I’d be saying about him last year at this time. That includes defensively; again, he’s not bad, but he’s not sufficiently effective as a perimeter defender currently, and those skills are what the Bucks need from him most right now.

Andre Jackson Jr.: B+ (last time: incomplete)

4 GP, 7.8 MPG, .833/1.000/.000, 3.3 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.3 TPG, 0.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG

I think I’ll be beating this drum for a while, but Ajax should be getting rotation minutes every game right now, especially with Crowder and now Connaughton out. Those gaudy shooting numbers are obviously on low volume and obscure the fact that he’s simply not a scorer but don’t mistake that as him being an offensive zero. His cutting, passing, and playmaking mean he’s already a good connector in halfcourt and transition, though this isn’t showing up in his on/off statistics yet (-3.2 net rating currently, which the defense improving a mere half point when he sites). Still, let’s see if the eye test keeps flattering him or he hits any form of rookie wall.

Adrian Griffin: B (last time: B+)

3-1 W-L, 118.5 ORtg (7th), 115.9 DRtg (23rd), 2.6 NetRtg (14th)

Milwaukee’s recent defensive uptick has largely come against some of the league’s worst offenses, notably Portland’s last-ranked unit on Sunday. There are still plenty of head-scratching moments throughout games, though they do seem to lessen when the game is on the line. While I wouldn’t say this anymore of Lopez, I still think Griff is not always putting some players—notably Beasley, Jackson, and even Giannis—in the best spot to succeed defensively.

Incomplete: A.J. Green (3 GP, 10 MIN), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (1 GP, 4 MIN), Robin Lopez (DNP), Chris Livingston (DNP), TyTy Washington Jr. (DNP), Lindell Wigginton (DNP), Marques Bolden (DNP), Jae Crowder (injured)


Earlier this month, I mainly was hoping the Bucks would stop being outscored. Mission accomplished! There’s a positive. I also hoped for perimeter defensive progress, zeroing in specifically on Beauchamp and Crowder (alas...), so we’ll still have to wait on that one. For now, still a negative. Their spot league-wide is improving a bit in transition up to 21st from 25th, but their 116.5 DRtg on the break in the past two weeks is still identical to their 116.6 full-season mark. So there’s a neutral.

In the games ahead for that sweet, sweet In-Season Tournament money, they’ll be facing some much more potent offenses (including Atlanta’s fourth-ranked group that shredded them early in the season and one of Boston or Indiana’s next week, depending on the tournament outcomes), so now is the time to show whether or not the defensive improvements are for real, or smoke-and-mirrors from playing crappier teams.

I do think the Dame + Giannis halfcourt outbreak has arrived, though, if not ALL at once. I’d still like to see more of that two-man game: as many have recently mentioned, Giannis is only setting 9 ball screens for Lillard per game making that action an uninspiring 60th or so league-wide in terms of frequency. Hell, can we see more inverted pick-and-rolls between those two too? You can count the number of times Dame has screed for Giannis this season on two hands.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    A
    (5 votes)
  • 70%
    B
    (36 votes)
  • 17%
    C
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    F
    (1 vote)
51 votes total Vote Now

What are some of your individual grades? Let me know in the comments below.