Bucks Lead

Connaughton’s Versatility Could Answer Key Questions for Bucks

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The Milwaukee Bucks’ shooting guard position was a question mark leading into the 2019-20 season, with the departure of Malcolm Brogdon and the signing of Madison native and Marquette alum Wes Matthews. That said, additional questions remain unanswered in the early stages of the season.

  • What will Donte DiVincenzo’s role be when healthy for a full season?
  • How much of the shooting guard minutes can a veteran like the aforementioned Matthews handle?
  • Will Korver simply absorb minutes with Giannis on the court?
  • Is Sterling Brown ready to take a leap to a prominent, every-night rotation guy?
  • Lastly, where does this leave “Bench Mob” leader Pat Connaughton?

While these questions won’t be answered within the first two weeks of the season, it’s no secret that Bucks Twitter is wondering.

Judging by the above poll results, Donte is the fan-favorite. We think that — when looking at the past few games — if DiVincenzo can stay healthy and continue his incredibly hot shooting from deep, he’ll earn a huge chunk of the minutes. He brings an awesome boost in athleticism and isn’t scared of the moment.

But what about the other guys?

Sterling Brown, along with Donte, brings additional athleticism and ultra-aggressive defensive ability, unlike Korver and Matthews (though Matthews has had a decent start defensively). Most Bucks fans will agree that it’s been great to see the youthful athleticism and aggressiveness the past few games from DiVincenzo and Brown.

From Korver and Matthews, the Bucks need shot-making when Giannis is on the floor. No one expected these two veterans to turn back the clock and dominate on the defensive end. But if they shoot 40 percent or better with high volume from behind the arc, the Bucks will be happy with their production at season’s end.

That leaves us with a simple question about Pat Connaughton — could he be the answer as the Bucks’ starting shooting guard? Listen, we know this isn’t a popular opinion, but let’s take a closer look to see if Connaughton may be the best fit with the highest floor, even though he may not have the highest ceiling at the position.

THE BLAZER DAYS

Let’s start by taking a look at Connaughton’s career to this point. He broke into the league in the 2015-16 season with Portland and played just 4.2 minutes per game in 34 games. In the 2016-17 season, Connaughton, a former two-sport athlete at Notre Dame, doubled his minutes in 39 games; not much noteworthy improvement in his second season. But in 2017-18, his final season in Portland, alongside two of the best guards in the league — CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard — Connaughton took a major leap toward becoming a legitimate NBA rotation guy. He played in all 82 games that year, averaging 18.1 minutes. In those 82 games, he averaged 5.2 points per game and shot 35 percent from three. Following that season, Pat Connaughton signed a 2-yr/$3.36MM contract with the Bucks.

MILWAUKEE WELCOMES PAT CONNAUGHTON

Last season, Connaughton logged a career-high 20.7 minutes per game, scoring 6.9 points per contest. He also added more than four rebounds and two dimes per game, while shooting 33 percent from distance. Bucks fans were impressed with Connaughton’s basketball IQ, his playmaking ability, his defensive tenacity and his innate ability to find himself in the right place at the right time, especially in clutch situations.

So far in 2019-20, Connaughton has been more aggressive on both ends of the floor. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging a career-high in many major statistical categories, with a line of 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Simply put, when given the opportunity, Connaughton has become a trusted contributor for the Bucks and is constantly improving as a shooter to help space the floor.

IT’S ABOUT THE LITTLE THINGS 

Connaughton’s play passes the eye test. Turn on any Milwaukee Bucks game and you’ll see the former second-rounder diving for loose balls, jumping into the stands to save turnovers, and dominating the offense and defensive glass among players with far more size.

Connaughton is a true team guy, beloved in the locker room and he’s always in the right spot to make great use of his athleticism (see video below from last season) and his basketball IQ cannot be understated.

Along with that incredible IQ and intangibles both on and off the court, the Bucks are still getting production on offense from Connaughton. And given a larger role and opportunity as the season progresses, the Bucks might just find that Pat Connaughton is the perfect combination of the defensive ability of Sterling Brown, the athleticism of Donte DiVincenzo and the veteran presence of Wes Matthews, and even some of the clutch shooting ability that Korver brings to the court.

As we mentioned, it’ll likely be a “by committee” position for the Bucks throughout the year, but who are we to say that Connaughton can’t be a major contributor at the position?

Although matchups will likely determine who gets the majority of the minutes from this group, we’ll just have to wait and see how impactful Pat Connaughton’s versatility can be this season for Milwaukee.

We think fans will be pleasantly surprised.

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