Bucks Midseason Grades are in. Let’s see how everything shook out after a busy NBA trading deadline.
“You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit”
There is a really great 4K teacher that I know who always says, “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.” That is exactly how we should feel about the Bucks 4-15 rotation guys. On the whole, they are fine. Fans love Bobby Portis and fans love Pat Connaughton: they should-they are fans! Wesley Matthews is a Marquette guy; Serge Ibaka is new and Thansis is our guy. But after giving out a ton of “A’s” to the big three, it is a time for a little bit of a reality check.
The reality is that for the Bucks, sitting at 35-22, they are not perfect. These grades are reflective of that. Giving Giannis and Jrue and Khris an “A” is easy. Giving an NBA player an “F” is a tougher call. https://wisportsheroics.com/giannis-couldnt-believe-his-all-time-ranking/
All grades are subject to NBA standards and of course, are highly up for debate. Please make those comments below.
Bobby Portis Grade: B-
A true fan favorite (who doesn’t love his energy and the “Bobby”, “Bobby”, “Bobby” chants) Bobby Portis is having a more than serviceable year relative to other NBA players, averaging just under nine rebounds a game and just over 15 points per game (both close to career highs). Portis is the 4th leading scorer on the Bucks. But of course, with him, it tends to be the intangibles that have helped this team the most, providing energy lost with the departure of PJ Tucker.
Simply put, Bobby is a career 12 and 8 guy. This year, so far, he’s stepped into that “splash mountain” role in the Budenholzer system and is now a 15 and 9 guy. There seems to be something about this offense that really put the big man out behind that three-point line to let er rip!
The former Chicago Bulls first-round draft pick had a few cups of coffee in Washington and New York but has seemingly found a home in Milwaukee. Being a 12 and 8 type of player is nothing to scoff at. He’s still young, 26, and certainly is just entering the prime of his career.
What has been interesting to watch in the first half of the season is how much better Portis has gotten at shooting (and taking) the three. His percentage at the time of this writing is a career-high 43% with career highs in makes and attempts. We all were in awe of watching Brook Lopez “splash mountain” it up when he was healthy. Now we have to come up with some kind of nickname for Bobby as he fires off those threes, which of course, are encouraged in a Budenholzer offense.
Grayson Allen Grade: C+
The Bucks formula is to have Giannis plow through the defense and either score or kick out the ball to a shooter. And the Budenholzer game plan has always centered around taking lots of threes and hoping they go in. Allen seems to be fitting in and improving with every game. He just needs to hit more shots. And he will.
He is Bucks’ 5th leading scorer; he averages another 3 rebounds and 3 assists in about 28 minutes of play and his field goal percentage is a little down. Once he starts sinking more shots, I think this grade moves up. He seems due in the second half for more 18 point/8 rebound/5 assist type stat line.
Grayson is the guy, reputation-wise, you want on your squad.
George Hill Grade: C
Bucks midseason grades would not be complete without a perfectly average grade for the NBA player considered to be 98th out of 250 in RAPTOR player rankings.
Right around the start of the season a group of Milwaukee Bucks players went and visited Geroge Hill’s ranch in Texas. It is growing in legendary stature amongst NBA players. It is supposed to be beautiful, filled with exotic animals and is an awesome spread. Of course, that makes sense because George Hill has played basketball with everyone. At the time of this writing, Hill has played with over half 271 of overall eligible NBA current players!
When Hill plays he is a good fit. Again, on a team of veterans Hill’s performances continue to stand out because they are just solid and a good overall average answer for a team that has to have solid guard play. When he plays he plays a lot (around 25 minutes per game) and doesn’t shoot a ton, score a ton, rebound a ton or have a ton of assists. So what makes him so valuable? It is because he doesn’t shoot a ton, rebound a ton or turn the ball over. He just keeps everything moving when he is in the game.
At the time of this writing, he is averaging LESS than a turnover a game. For Hill, his role with the Bucks is best to “hold serve”.
He has an amazing free throw percentage 95% at the time of the writing, gets steals and facilitates. It just does not necessarily show up in the assists category because he tends to be a pass behind the shot. I think this grade goes up as well in the second half and especially in the playoffs.
Jordan Nwora Grade: C-
Nwora is a young player who represents the future of the Milwaukee Bucks. His putting the Rockets on “skates” moment was a season-ready highlight.
His grade will certainly shoot up to be higher if he keeps providing amazing highlights like he did with his ankle breaker versus Houston on Dec. 23rd. But for now Nwora feels like a “rookie” on a veteran team. He doesn’t get in all the time and when he does he seems to be able to score. His playing time has been sporadic and if he wasn’t on such a deep Bucks team, I wonder if we wouldn’t see much higher numbers.
Sandro Mamukelashvili Grade C-
He’s 22 and he is part of the Bucks future. Standing at 6′ 10″, he is big and has the potential to be a starter in the NBA. He’s only averaging 4 points a game in just over 9 minutes a game but he can shoot (46% FG) and can shoot the three (39%). He’s going to be good and there was a reason he was not dealt.
Pat Connaughton Grade: D+
Now that he is hurt who knows what is next for Connaughton. He has a player option after this season and is an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Another fan favorite and seemingly position-less player who shoots a ton of threes, this is just my personal thought here on our local real-estate developer. Have the Boston Celtics ever inquired on trading for him and if they have, were they willing to offer a couple of first-round picks for him? A seemingly perfect fit for Boston sports, Connaughton is playing now, more than he ever has in his NBA career (About 28 minutes per game). He also seems to get hit in the face just about every game.
He’s averaging eleven points per game and is shooting right around 40% from the three-point line. But relative to his NBA peers, he has lacked that defensive “jump” he needs and his rebounding numbers are down, even though he is playing more. Steals are up (but again he is playing twice as much) and this grade goes up if he can just become more of a defensive stopper. “C’s” get degrees: for Pat, this still means he starts for 8+ other NBA teams out there. But overall, he is a player rated in the top 300 of NBA players- not in the top 50 or even 100 for that matter. When Allen starts over him or Nwora starts over him, it seems indicative of this grade.
Wesley Matthews Grade: D
Another early-season pick-up to help supplement the ups and downs of Donte Divencino’s injury, Matthews has provided a needed spark when called upon. (Christmas day again! What a shot.) But to say that he is someone who can deliver more than 5 or 6 points in 10-12 minutes when needed feels like a big ask. Matthews can play but on a deep Bucks team, he needs to be efficient. He also needs to continue to improve his defense. He could stand to rebound more.
Greg Monore/Boogie Cousins/whoever: Grade: D
You know that friend you have who can say something so crazy at just the right time that scares the bejesus out of other people but he’s your “guy” so you just chalk it up to him being in your corner: well that is Boogie Cousins and the Bucks. It’s probably why they moved on to the quiet, humble, less crazed Greg Monroe.
Why did the Bucks drop Cousins? Again, for seemingly the umpteenth time in his career Cousins has found a resurgence with an NBA club. At 31 years old, he has been able to step in for Brook Lopez (33 years old) in a more than capable fashion, providing some much-needed backbone. While Portis provides more of that team and TV energy, Boogie certainly has provided the trash talk. (Remember, this is a man who once threatened to shoot his girlfriend in the head.) And scoring: Cousins scores at all the right moments.
Remember, in 2016 Cousins averaged 25 points per game with a lowly Kings team and has the ability to do that at times when needed. Both Cousins and Monroe have provided a pretty valuable lift for a team that needed it with Lopez out. With that 2016 Kings team, he was playing around 35 minutes per game. His per-game scoring average was 7th per game with the Bucks. With COVID-19 depleting lots of rosters, this seems to have been another great move by Jon Horst. Who knows who plays center next?
Rodney Hood Grade: D-
It just never clicked for Hood. That was why he was traded.
He really did some nice things for the Jazz between 2015-2018 where he was a much more prolific scorer. For the Bucks, it is looking like he can give you 10-12 minutes off the bench and hit a few threes. Also known for his defense, he simply has not come close to the steals per game number he saw earlier in his career.
Semi Ojeleye Grade: F
Averaging around 15 minutes a game and 2 points and 2 rebounds, Semi appears to be the 412th best player out of 450 NBA players. He would be easily replaceable on this roster and does not seem to be playing with much confidence.
Thanasis Antentokumbo Grade: F
Being in the NBA and being one of the 450 best players in the world is a great accomplishment. (Certainly, more than I could ever dream of.) But I’m just not sure where the value is here and, to say it out loud, without his famous younger brother being on the Bucks is Thanasis on this team?
Lindell Wigginton Grade TBD
Wigginton has been very handy at times with George Hill hurt. He plays fast and can provide useful minutes. But the jury is still out here too. He’s young (23) and can score if called upon by driving the basketball. Even after a good Pacers game let’s keep this as to be determined. Because… well… as much as things will continue to change with this roster he might be starting or gone by the time this gets published.
Brook Lopez: Grade INC
At the time of this writing, Brook has not played enough to pass off any kind of a “grade”. Brook is 33 and has started to show some wear and tear in a long career.
At the time of this writing “you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.” Right now we have the 5th or 6th best team. We also have a veteran team readying itself for what will hopefully be a deep playoff run.
Bucks midseason grades are partially based on WAR data from Fife Thirty-Eight. More updated numbers can be seen here.
All photos taken by the author.