Milwaukee Bucks Mid-Season Report Cards
Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
With the NBA season halfway point officially in the rearview, it is a good time to evaluate each team and how their players have lived up to expectations so far.
Between the excitement of a new arena, an aggressive new coach, and the emergence of an MVP candidate, the Milwaukee Bucks have been a pleasant and tantalizing surprise atop the Eastern Conference.
The 2018-2019 season has started out about as well for the Bucks as anyone in Brew Town could have hoped. After winning their first seven games, Milwaukee finished the first half of the season with a 29-12 record, one of the best records after 41 games in franchise history.
While Giannis Antetokounmpo is the star and undoubted leader of this team, the Bucks have a deep roster and one of the best records in the NBA. Below are my first half grades for each Bucks player, and a brief summary of their contributions thus far:
Giannis Antetokounmpo: A
Giannis has been incredible so far this season, deservedly inserting himself into the MVP conversation. The Greek Freak leads the Bucks in points, rebounds, and assists, while also turning in some absolutely incredible plays on a nightly basis.
Giannis gets an easy A. The only thing keeping him from an A+ is his continued struggle from the three-point line.
Khris Middleton: B-
While Middleton has been solid, he has yet to perform quite as well as expected. An incredible playoff series against Boston last year certainly raised his profile, but Middleton’s scoring has been down, as is his knack for doing the little things. That said, he is still very valuable to the Bucks, and can hit a clutch shot when needed.
Eric Bledsoe: B+
Seemingly rejuvenated by head coach Mike Budenholzer’s up-tempo system, Bledsoe has looked more energized this season. He’s giving better effort and providing a spark on both sides of the ball.
Taking a more unselfish approach, Bledsoe has become a pass-first point guard (averaging 5.7 assists per game) who can also score when the Bucks need it. With so many shooters on this team, Bledsoe is playing just as the Bucks need him to.
Malcolm Brogdon: A-
Coach Budenholzer has given Brogdon the green light this year, and this aggressive approach has been a successful one. He’s posting a coveted 50/40/90 shooting split.
After a quad injury plagued Brogdon last season, he has come back with a vengeance. Brogdon continues to prove he was an absolute steal in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft, and has arguably been the Bucks most important player after Giannis.
Brook Lopez: B
While Lopez isn’t exactly the focal point of the offense he once was in Brooklyn, he has had a very nice bounce-back season and is flourishing with the Bucks. Not only can he step outside the arc and drain threes, but Lopez’s presence in the lane on defense and his ability to rebound is something the Milwaukee has sorely lacked in recent memory.
George Hill: B
Hill was traded to the Bucks on December 7th, and though the move helped the Bucks balance their books, it also brought in an established veteran. Hill has been with his former assistant coach in Budenholzer, and has come in and been a capable bench contributor. His experience should be a plus for Milwaukee down the stretch.
Ersan Ilyasova: C
Ilyasova has played decently, but also has been a bit of a disappointment in his return to the Bucks. Various injuries have not helped, and he’s far from the same play-making knockdown shooter he was for Philadelphia last season.
Pat Connaughton: B-
Connaughton started out the season hot, but has fallen out of the rotation since the Hill trade. Despite the recent lack of playing time, Connaughton can still be a dangerous three-point shooter if and when the Bucks need him to be. He is also a very underrated athlete.
Tony Snell: C+
Snell is someone who could be on the trading block, as the Bucks may try to unload his big contract. He’s having a solid but forgettable season off the bench.
His playing time is down ten minutes a contest compared to the last two seasons, but Snell is still averaging a career-best 45.6 percent from the field. Likewise, he has played better on the defensive end after really struggling last year.
Donte DiVincenzo: D+
DiVincenzo has been battling an ankle injury as of late and has played in just 23 games this season. When he has played, he has certainly looked like a rookie. There was a lot of hype about him over the summer after his National Championship run with Villanova, but he has shot just 39 percent from the field including an abysmal 24.6 percent from three.
Sterling Brown: C+
Brown is another wing player for the Bucks who doesn’t see a ton of action. When he has played, however, he has brought good energy to the team, and continues to be the capable three-point shooter we saw in his rookie year.
D.J. Wilson: B+
Wilson cracking the rotation has been one of the biggest and most enjoyable surprises for the Bucks this season. He’s averaging 18 minutes per game after a shaky rookie campaign.
Wilson shook off an early season injury and has come on strong. He’s averaging 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds a night. The Michigan product is still just 22 years old, and is proving he can play at the NBA level.
Thon Maker: D
Maker is even younger, but at age 21 the former first-round pick is starting to disappoint. He is only logging 12 minutes per game, inflated by an Ilyasova injury.
Yes, Maker can come in and hit an open three or two, but he does not provide a post presence. He’s also had issues staying out of foul trouble. Kevin Garnett’s MVP prediction for Maker is starting to look a bit bleak. Jason Smith: Incomplete
Smith has played in just five games since joining the Bucks as part of the Hill trade and has been a non-factor on the court. However, he will be a good veteran presence for the locker room down the stretch.
Christian Wood: Incomplete
Wood has played in six games this year for the Bucks, spending a good amount of time in the G-League. However, he is averaging close to 28 points and 13 rebounds a game for the Wisconsin Herd, and is a name to watch if injuries occur in the Bucks frontcourt.
With the Bucks playing so well, it is hard to give many negative grades. Almost every player on their roster has made important plays this year to contribute to their 29-12 first half record. Giannis will always get the headlines, but it will be the play of some of these other guys that determine how far this team can go in the second half of the season.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.