The obvious answer here is Giannis, as he shows up in every game and will always be a key player for the Bucks. However, there are three other key players that need to show up in order for the Bucks to repeat. Jrue Holiday isn’t on this list either, as if he struggles to score he still provides elite playmaking and elite defense. The players on this list provide mainly scoring and can be very streaky.
Key Player Number 1: Khris Middleton
Middleton has been known to be a streaky shooter. When he’s on his game, he looks like one of the best 3PT shooters in the league. Unfortunately, when he’s off his game he becomes close to an offensive liability. Middleton had a really slow start to this season shooting 41.6% from the field and 35.4% from 3PT range in his first 20 games. Those would’ve been his worst shooting splits since his rookie year. Over Middleton’s last 20 games, however, he’s shooting 47.9% from the field and 41.9% from 3PT range, while also averaging 21 points per game.
His season shooting splits are still the lowest they’ve been since the 2018-2019 season. Despite his improvement over the last 20 games, Middleton’s shooting splits are still one of the worst of his career. In order for the Bucks to become a threat at repeating, Middleton has to become more consistent and play like he has the last 20 games for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs. The Bucks cannot afford for Middleton to have games where he shoots 1-7 from 3PT range.
Key Player Number 2: Pat Connaughton
Pat Connaughton has been a revelation this season. After many fans screaming for a trade after his extension, Patty C responded with an incredible postseason run. He continued that level of play into this season and should be given serious consideration for Sixth Man of the Year honors. He is currently leading the Bucks in 3PT percentage at 40.9%. Connaughton’s first half of the season (25 games) was incredible: 12.3 ppg, 4.8 rebs, 1.4 asts, and 0.9 stls on 50-43-76 splits. Unfortunately, he has come back down to Earth a bit in the second half (24 games), so far: 8.2 ppg, 4.2 rebs, 1.3 asts, 1 stls on 44-38-92 splits.
Pat is still playing very well, but, like Middleton, is very streaky. When he’s on, he’s a double-digit point threat every single game. However, when he’s off, he struggles to put any type of points on the board. From mid-December to mid-January, Pat was in a massive shooting slump shooting 33.8% from the field and 25.9% from 3PT range. That Pat Connaughton cannot show up if the Bucks want another shot at the title. They need their Sixth Man of the Year candidate to continue to show up as he has in the last 7 games: 9.3 points, 3.9 rebs, 1.1 asts, and 1.1 stls on elite shooting splits 51-51-100.
Key Player Number 3: Jordan Nwora
Jordan Nwora is the dark horse of these key players. Nwora has explosive offensive potential. He has shown that when given the opportunity he can put up 20+ points. That being said, Nwora has also shown that he will force shots and become ice cold. Nwora is having a solid sophomore campaign, increasing his points, rebounds, assists, and blocks per game (8.2-3.8-1.0-0.3).
His efficiency has dipped a bit going from 46-45-76 to 41-37-76. It does make sense his efficiency has dipped, as he is taking three more shots per game, this year. Nwora’s offensive potential cannot be ignored, but he needs to become smarter with his shots and less selfish. At times, it seems like he’s trying to become Kobe, and forgets that he has a 2x time MVP and other elite scorers on the court with him. If Nwora can take better shots and become more of a team player when on the court, the sky’s the limit for his offensive potential.
You could argue that every Bucks player outside of Giannis should be on this list. Giannis will almost always give you 20+ points (as evidenced by him only having four games under 20 points). Many of the Bucks players are hit or miss on any given night. With teams they face giving 110% to try and beat the reigning champs, the Bucks cannot afford multiple players to have off nights. Hopefully, these players are keeping a lot in the tank and are ready to explode in the playoffs, as Pat Connaughton did last season.
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