Milwaukee Bucks End-of-Season Report Cards
All in all, the 2019-20 season for the Milwaukee Bucks will go down as a good one. After a disappointing 2-2 start, the Bucks got red hot. By March 1st, the team sat at 52-8, and serious talk began about the cream and green reaching 70 wins. A tough schedule combined with a Giannis injury would lead those hopes to fade, but the Bucks were still destined to have home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
Then, in mid-March, our world as we know it changed due to COVID-19, and the NBA season was put to a halt. Thankfully, commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of the league put together a successful plan to resume the season in a bubble atmosphere at Disney.
But unfortunately for the Bucks, they would never recapture the magic they had prior to March. The team sputtered to a 3-5 record in their eight-game playoff tune up. After losing game one to Orlando, the Bucks would win their first round playoff series in five, but still didn’t look right. Their flaws were soon exposed against the Miami Heat, who took it to the Bucks in four of five games.
While it was a great season, the end of it left a bitter taste in Bucks fans’ and players’ mouths alike. A team like that was expected to at the very least compete for the NBA Finals. Still, however, there was an exceptional level of play for this team throughout the year. Let’s take a look at how each player on the Bucks’ roster graded out with some end of season report cards.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: A
Just when you didn’t think he could get any better, the Greek Freak did. Giannis averaged career highs across the board in points, rebounds, and assists. He made his team better once again on both ends of the floor. In the games Giannis didn’t play, the team was below .500, and it was never more evident how much they needed his presence on the court than at the end of the Heat series. Giannis won his second consecutive MVP award, and pulled off the rare feat of winning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
The only things keeping Giannis from an A+ is his play in the bubble, particularly early in the Miami series. He means everything to this franchise, and frankly this city, so it will be interesting to see what happens this offseason.
Khris Middleton: A-
Many will think this grade is too high for Middleton, but he really was pretty darn good this year after signing a max contract extension in the offseason. As consistent of a shooter as they come, Middleton finished just short of a 50/40/90 shooting season. Middleton showed his chops in several games, but especially in games without Giannis, like when he scored a career-high 51 points in January against Washington.
There were some shaky moments in the playoffs, but the Bucks would not have been where they finished without Middleton, who earned his second straight All-Star nod.
Eric Bledsoe: B-
Recency bias may lead many to think this grade is too high for Bledsoe as well. But in the first half of the season, the point guard was playing at a near all-star level. Bledsoe continued to come into his own as a true point guard on his team, and the defense he provides is hard to overlook. He plays well with Giannis and Middleton, and has always been a good fit with the team. The problem with him is consistency, specifically when the lights are brightest in the playoffs. Bledsoe again failed in the postseason, none more noticeable than his 2 for 12 shooting performance in game five against Miami.
Brook Lopez: B-
Lopez received a hefty sum of money in the offseason as well. He remained a solid center in today’s NBA, and a good fit in Mike Budenholzer’s system. But Lopez was not quite what he was last year, and was wildly inconsistent with his shooting for the greater part of the season. His three-point percentage dropped from 36% to 31%, and his overall shooting dropped by two percent as well. Lopez did shoot better in the playoffs, and remained a strong defensive presence on this team that led them to the top defensive rating in the league once again.
Wesley Mathews: C+
The grade pretty much sums up Mathews’ first season in Milwaukee: average. Seen as a perfect fit in Bud’s system, Mathews shot 36% from deep, but just 39% overall from the field. No one expected Mathews to be elite, but he was tasked to take over for Malcolm Brogdon – someone many Bucks fans thought the team should have kept around in Milwaukee. Mathews was a plus defender all season for the Bucks however, and it is questionable that he was often left on the bench late in games against the Heat last month.
George Hill: B+
Hill is another player who didn’t have the best finish in the bubble, but the majority of his regular season was very good. Hill shot a career high 46% from three, which was tops in the league for most of the year – an impressive feat for the veteran in today’s three-point heavy league. Hill was also often the most consistent and dependable player off the bench. He’s a savvy veteran, and someone the Bucks still might be able to get a couple quality years out of.
Donte DiVincenzo: B+
After an injury-marred rookie season, DiVincenzo came back this year and exceeded expectations, turning a bust label into valuable bench asset. The Big Ragu almost averaged double-digit points per game, and was often a fill-in starter for the cream and green when they needed it. He was another player who wasn’t exactly great in the bubble, but the second-year guard showed he could be a valuable asset in years to come.
Pat Connaughton: C+
Connaughton had his moments this season, but didn’t necessarily emerge as the team’s sixth man like many thought he might. Connaughton’s minutes and averages across the board dropped, and there was a point in the middle of the season where he fell out of the rotation. He also played sparingly in the Heat series to end the year. Connaughton is a fan favorite and valuable bench guy, but it would be nice to see him step up his play slightly.
Kyle Korver: C
Korver is another guy who probably falls in the average category for the 2019-20 season. We all know what Korver is by now: a deadly three-point shooter who will go down as one of the best from beyond the arc to ever play. Korver shot a solid 41% from three again this season, but he just didn’t have some of the big games one might have expected he would in this system. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the 17-year veteran.
Robin Lopez: C-
It was a fun signing when the Bucks decided to ink their second Lopez twin over the summer. While his play on the court was nothing spectacular, he did bring the fun and energy you’d expect him to with this team, whether it was his rivalry with mascots or pregame wrestling routines with Giannis. Lopez did not crack the rotation in the playoffs which was concerning, however. One plus was that he was actually a decent three-point shooter this season, which was a new element to his game.
Ersan Ilyasova: C
Ilyasova had some valuable and productive moments in another season with the Bucks this year, but he took a step back from last season. Ilyasova was another player who was phased out of the rotation late in the playoffs, and while he is always a solid defender and rebounder, it would have been nice to see him shoot the ball a little better, especially from deep.
Sterling Brown: D+
When Sterling Brown is on the court, he shows he has the talent to play in this league. But for whatever reason, he has not been able to crack the rotation on a deep team. While he had some moments last year that sparked intrigue, Brown seemed to take a bit of a step back this year. His shooting numbers were down, and consistency again remains an issue for the third-year player.
D.J. Wilson: D
Wilson is similar to Brown in the fact that it is puzzling as to why he can’t get more minutes. He is still very young and raw, but Wilson has talent and is not a bad shooter. He was seen very little after the NBA resumed their season in the bubble, and at this point it is fair to wonder how long he sticks in Milwaukee.
Marvin Williams: C+
Acquired by the Bucks early in the season, Williams was a productive player for the team and brought a great veteran presence to the frontcourt that the team needed. He was also one of the more consistent players the Bucks had in the playoffs, and seemed to give everything left that he had in the tank for one last run at a title. Right after the Bucks were eliminated, Williams announced he would retire after what was a productive career for the former No. 2 overall pick.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo: Incomplete
Thanasis’ play on the court is less than spectacular, and obviously he received very few minutes on a deep team. But his value on this team as a hype-man off the bench cannot be overlooked. And of course, it does not hurt to have Giannis’ brother on the roster when trying to lure him back to Milwaukee for the next several years.
Frank Mason III: Incomplete
Mason III’s NBA report card may be incomplete, but he had a special year in the G League for the Wisconsin Herd, and was named league MVP. Mason III did actually earn a few minutes in the playoffs this year as well, and the former Kansas Jayhawk has shown he can play in this league if given the chance.