With defensive hound Jrue Holiday out due to coronavirus protocols, Mike Budenholzer made the unlikely decision to plug in sharpshooting guard Bryn Forbes into the Bucks starting lineup.
It’s by no means a substantial sample size, but two games in, the early returns have been promising to say the least. In that span, Forbes went 8-of-14 (57%) from three and scored 15 and 17. Through 24 games, he’s shown off the offensive talent that has allowed him to carve out a place in the league despite going undrafted in 2016.
Here’s our case for why Bryn Forbes could very well take up the starting shooting guard duties over Donte DiVincenzo, albeit in limited minutes depending on his defensive matchup.
It’s no secret that Giannis and Forbes have developed excellent chemistry early into the season. Their two-man game has drawn comparisons to the dribble hand-off actions of Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo in Miami. A good number of Forbes’ open looks from three have been generated by Antetokounmpo’s gravity.
The difference is that where Robinson is second in the league in points on assisted threes, Forbes is 23rd. This, despite him shooting a full ten percentage points higher than Robinson’s 39.4% from three on four fewer attempts per game.
Shoot that thing Bryn!! pic.twitter.com/Nk39OhtlHb
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 2, 2021
Per PBP Stats, Forbes is the top beneficiary of Giannis’ assists on the Bucks. Of the 85 three-point assists Antetokounmpo has dished out, a fifth of them were on shots taken by Forbes. Through 24 games, the two have connected on 25 assists, 17 of which were on threes, generating 67 points.
In the 260 minutes that Giannis and Forbes shared on the court together, the Bucks outscored opponents by 7.8 points with an offensive rating of 125.3 points per 100 possessions.
Outside of his hot shooting, Forbes admittedly provides very little to this team. Across the board, DiVincenzo’s play contributes far more to winning basketball. But when paired next to the reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Forbes’ offensive impact on games skyrockets when his shots are hitting their mark.
So far, the stats tell us that the two have the makings of a potent one-two punch on offense. Unfortunately, it’s clear this wrinkle in the Bucks offense has not yet been utilized enough. Having Bryn Forbes start games next to the Greek Freak could address that quite well.
Forbes is the better scorer
If he isn’t already there yet, Forbes might be well on his way to becoming one of the league’s premier sharpshooters. Among players with at least 80 three-point attempts this season, Bryn Forbes’ 49% is second in the league behind Wayne Ellington and ahead of Joe Harris.
Besides his scorching and team-high shooting, Forbes also leads the Bucks in points on assisted three-pointers. Of the 51 threes he’s taken so far, only one was not assisted on.
Bryn Forbes tied the Bucks record for most 3's in a game without a miss, going 6/6 from deep in last night's WIN!! pic.twitter.com/3UWF0Iph4Z
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 7, 2021
Across the board, Forbes is by and large the better scorer between the two. Forbes leads DiVincenzo in FG% regardless of distance from the basket.
Contrary to popular opinion, Forbes is not just a shooter. He has the strength to take the ball into the paint and finish with ease over most guards. He also has a well-developed floater package and mid-range game, making him the easy choice over Donte when it comes to scoring the rock.
In his 25 games played, Bryn Forbes is scoring 130.3 points per 100 shot attempts, according to Cleaning the Glass. He’s in the 96th percentile in that category. Though over 95% of his shot attempts are threes, his 63.9% effective field goal percentage is good for the 98th percentile in the NBA among guards.
Of note, he’s also the leading Buck on the bench unit in usage rate, with his 19.1% surpassing DiVincenzo’s 16.4% and even Lopez’s 14.9%. When Forbes is on the court, the team’s offensive rating shoots up to 121.1 points per 100, a full two-point increase from the team’s overall ORtg of 119.6.
Donte is the better defender
Another argument is that Forbes and Augustin defending other backcourts together is a recipe for disaster. Their defensive woes, after all, are well-documented and have been throughout their respective careers.
In the 92 minutes that the two have spent on the floor together, the Bucks went -15.5. On the other hand, they were +9.8 in the 106:33 that Augustin spent with DiVincenzo on the floor. This is why it makes sense to place the defensive guard on the bench unit next to him.
Slotting DiVincenzo into the bench backcourt effectively addresses the defensive woes that come with the 5-foot-11 guard. Donte is a pesky, athletic guard who has defensive fundamentals down to a science. He’s also second in the Bucks in total steals drawn and 14th in the entire league.
Admittedly, a roster shift this significant is prone to its own birth pains. DiVincenzo, after all, has started all of Milwaukee’s 24 games thus far. While having him on the court can hide Augustin’s defense, there’s also the issue of offense to take into consideration.
Both Donte and DJA are very clunky when finishing at the rim, and putting the two of them doesn’t bode well for the Bucks offense. On shots taken 0-3 feet from the rim, the two are shooting 58.7% and 38.9%, respectively. They’re at the bottom of the team in this regard. With Bobby Portis’ steady play buoying the bench, though, offense shouldn’t be a problem for the second unit just yet.
In the 30:11 that Forbes has played next to Holiday, Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Lopez, the Bucks were a net -5.7 in that span.
Forbes’ defense will still be a problem, too. He very clearly puts effort into that end, but his defensive fundamentals have always been severely lacking. When he’s on the court, the Bucks defense expectedly worsens, giving up 116.9 points per 100 from their 110.2 overall. He won’t be the best option to pit against the league’s superstar guards.
But Bryn Forbes has shown that he’s more than capable of keeping up his production in an increased role on the team. It’s time to unleash his scoring talent while allowing Donte to be a spark plug off the bench, a role he excelled in a year ago.