Bucks End of Season Report Cards
The 2018-19 NBA season will go down as one of the best ever for the Milwaukee Bucks. After opening the brand new Fiserv Forum, the team won their first seven games and never looked back. For the first time since 1981, the Bucks won 60 games, and were the NBA’s best team, record wise. They also won the Central Division, and finally captured a playoff series victory, both firsts since 2001.
In the playoffs, the Bucks looked primed for an NBA Finals appearance. Going 10-1 through their first 11 games and holding a 2-0 lead against the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, things were looking brighter than ever in Milwaukee. But after a double overtime loss in Game 3, the rails came off as the team would lose four straight for the first time all year to end their season.
It’s a bitter ending that still leaves a sour taste in the mouth of Bucks fans. But this team treated fans in Milwaukee and across the entire NBA to some truly great basketball this season. It was a deep team and a lot of players contributed to the 60 wins the Bucks racked up. Let’s take a look at how each player did with end of season report cards.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: A
Giannis struggled at times at the end of the Bucks playoff run, but overall he had one of the best seasons in Bucks franchise history and put together a campaign that could very well end up with an MVP award. The Greek Freak averaged career highs across the board with 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. He also shot 58% from the field, including an outstanding 64% from inside the arc.
Maybe more important to this Bucks team was the defense he provided. A finalist for defensive player of the year, Giannis averaged a block and a half per game, and made some jaw dropping plays like this one regularly throughout the season.
Simply put, Giannis does things on the basketball court little if anyone else can do. It was an incredible season from the sixth year pro, one that fans in Milwaukee will not soon forget.
Khris Middleton: B+
Although inconsistent at times, Middleton had a solid campaign that led to his first ever All-Star game appearance. While his offensive numbers were down from last year, it was Middleton’s all-around game the Bucks were able to rely on. He was matched up against the opposition’s best player more nights than not on what was the NBA’s number one team in defensive rating.
Middleton became more of a leader in coach Mike Budenholzer’s system, and that showed all the way through the postseason. Like Giannis, despite some struggles in the Toronto series, Middleton remains a key fixture of this franchise. It will be interesting to see if the Bucks choose to give him the money that says that.
Eric Bledsoe: B
Recency bias may make this grade seem high, but Bledsoe had a stellar regular season. He was much better and seemingly more comfortable in Coach Bud’s system compared to the Jason Kidd regime, becoming more of a pass first point guard on a team with multiple scoring options. Combined with better effort on defense and more energy on both ends, Bledsoe earned a four-year, $70 million contract extension in March.
While his play in the final two playoff series left a lot to be desired, Bledsoe has to be commended for a solid season. He is genuinely happy in Milwaukee, but he is going to need to step up at some point in the playoffs for the fans’ feelings to be mutual.
Malcolm Brogdon: B+
Brogdon had a stellar campaign going until a plantar fascia tear derailed his season after 64 games. He had a rare 50/40/90 shooting season, and averaged a career high 15.6 points per game. The president continues to play stellar defense while showing great composure on the court. After his injury, he returned for Game 5 of the Boston series and really played pretty well in the Toronto series considering he hadn’t played in two months. Averaging almost 14 points per game, the Bucks may not have even made it to Game 6 without him.
Brogdon becomes a restricted free agent in the offseason and will likely get a big offer from someone. Like Middleton, the Bucks will have to make a big decision on whether to pay him or not.
Brook Lopez: A-
Lopez was arguably the most underrated signing of the offseason, as the 11 year veteran had a renaissance year in the cream and green. Fitting into Budenholzer’s let it fly system perfectly as a stretch five, Lopez averaged a career high six three point attempts per game. He also brought a good veteran presence that this team lacked the past few years, as well as some typical Lopez swagger.
Most importantly, Splash Mountain gave the Bucks the interior presence they sorely needed on the defensive end of the court. Lopez averaged over two blocks a game, and the Bucks also went from worst to first in rebounding thanks in large part to the seven footer. He willed the Bucks to a Game 1 victory over Toronto with a 29 point effort, and will be another member of this squad up for a pay day in the summer.
Ersan Ilyasova: B-
Ilyasova was nothing spectacular in his return to Milwaukee, averaging the fewest points he had since his rookie season. At times he struggled to shoot the ball, frustrating many who saw him get hot down the stretch in Philadelphia last season. However, he brought the intangibles off the bench every championship contending team needs. As always he was a solid rebounder and sneaky good defender, leading the league in charges taken.
Pat Connaughton: B+
Before the season, many Bucks fans probably didn’t even know who Connaughton was. But he made a name for himself early and often with his energy, hustle, and underrated athleticism. Although he fell out of the rotation at times, Connaughton was thrust into heavy minutes at the end of the regular season and early in the playoffs due to injuries. He averaged career highs across the board and always brought a spark off the bench when the Bucks needed it.
George Hill: B+
Hill was acquired by the Bucks in early December in one of many excellent moves made by GM John Horst over the last calendar year. Playing for his old assistant coach in Budenholzer, Hill immediately brought a veteran presence to a team that was lacking it. While he didn’t necessarily provide the scoring or play of his Indiana days, Hill turned back the clock in the postseason, which included a 21 point effort on the road in Boston, and a 24 point game in Toronto.
He was a consistent player off the bench down the stretch and the Bucks postseason run may not have gone the same without him.
Nikola Mirotic: C+
The Bucks made a brilliant trade to acquire Mirotic at the trade deadline, but overall the results were a bit disappointing. A broken thumb suffered in March would keep him out until the playoffs and he was never really able to pick it up after. While he had some good games pre-injury, it just wasn’t quite the same Mirotic we have seen in the past with the Bulls and Pelicans. By the end of the Toronto series Mirotic had been benched by Coach Bud, and it will be interesting to see what kind of interest the team has in bringing him back this offseason.
Sterling Brown: C+
Brown didn’t crack the rotation much after the Detroit series, but he continued to show improvement in his second year. He is a solid shooter and when given minutes he can really score, as evidenced in a 27 point effort in late March against the Hawks where he played 33 minutes. A little more consistency would be nice but he continues to show promise as a “3 and D” guy off the bench.
D.J. Wilson: B+
Little to nothing was expected from Wilson after a lost rookie season where many fans already had him labeled as a bust. Coach Bud saw potential early in camp however and Wilson was put into action as soon as he became healthy in December. Averages of 6 and 5 are not eye popping, and he didn’t play as much late in the season with a tighter rotation. But Wilson looked athletic and like he belonged on the court when he did play, which after last season was a pleasant surprise for Milwaukee.
Tony Snell: C-
Snell was okay in the “let it fly” system, but for what the Bucks are paying him, the results continue to be disappointing. Connaughton and Brown often brought more energy when on the court than Snell, and an injury in late March effectively ended his season. He did not play more than six minutes in any playoff game, and it’s fair to wonder if the injury was still plaguing him.
Donte DiVincenzo, Pau Gasol, Tim Frazier, Bonzie Colson: Incomplete
Each of these guys ended the season on the Bucks postseason roster but their contributions were minimal. DiVincenzo began the season in the rotation but quickly fell out of it, and injuries plagued him the remainder of the year. The Bucks will hope for a Wilson like turnaround in year two. Gasol was an interesting acquisition in March for the team, but he played in just three games before suffering a stress fracture in his foot. He was brought in more for a veteran presence anyways, but it is fair to think he could’ve provided some quality minutes against his brother in the conference finals. Frazier and Colson are G-League guys who played very sparingly, but each had a few moments that showed their potential as bench contributors in the league.
Statistics Courtesy of Basketball Reference