A Look Back at the 2019-20 Milwaukee Bucks

November 12th, 2020

by Alan Lu

The Milwaukee Bucks logo.
(Photo:
Milwaukee Bucks/Sports Logo History)

The Milwaukee Bucks steamrolled through most of the regular season, as they won 53 of their first 65 games prior to the season getting suspended due to the coronavirus.  However, during the time when there was no basketball, it was said that neither Giannis nor Khris Middleton picked up a basketball or played that sport when there were no NBA games playing.  When they got to the Orlando bubble, they struggled, as they won just 3 of 8 games in the regular season.  They even lost their first playoff game in 2020 to the Magic, but rebounded to win in five games.  However, they then lost to the Miami Heat in five games in the second round, as they had another surprise, early exit in the playoffs.

Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar big man, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been racking up MVPs and the Defensive Player of the Year award in the regular season, but the shadow of Jimmy Butler looms large as his team unexpectedly lost to the Miami Heat in the 2nd round of the 2020 NBA playoffs.
(Photo:
Kim Klement/USA Today Sports, via HeatNation)

F Giannis Antetokounmpo – B+

2020 (MIL): 63 GP, 29.5 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 5.6 APG, 55 FG%, 30 3PT%, 63 FT%, 30.4 MPG, 31.9 PER, 11.1 WS

Giannis Antetokounmpo had another stellar season in the books, and he came away with a lot of regular season accolades.  He was named the 2020 MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, and the almost seven-foot tall superstar can do so many things really well on the basketball court.  He is a terrific scorer, rebounder, and facilitator, and he was named the league’s best defensive player.

However, he has still struggled to knock down outside shots, which plagued him against the Miami Heat in the playoffs.  His teammates had trouble consistently generating offense, and opponents could sag off of him, as outside shooting and free throw shooting remains as his main weaknesses in his game.  Giannis also seemed to struggle defensively in the playoffs, too, and jokes on social media were made that the NBA gave the wrong man the DPOY award, that maybe it was supposed to go to Anthony Davis instead.  Giannis seemed reluctant to guard Jimmy Butler in the playoffs, and when he did, he seemed to be about only average in guarding him, as he would sometimes force turnovers and get stops, and other times would get beat off the dribble to allow scores.  The Bucks’ season ended earlier than expected, just like last year.  One thing has been consistent though, that Giannis has been a very fun player to watch, especially during the regular season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Franchise player/starting point forward on the Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2021 Rating: 4.5 stars

Khris Middleton had a solid season in 2020, but his team had a surprisingly quick early exit in the second round of the 2020 playoffs after having obtained the best regular season record in the NBA.
(Photo:
Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images, via Orlando Magic Daily)

F Khris Middleton – B+

2020 (MIL): 62 GP, 20.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.3 APG, 50 FG%, 42 3PT%, 92 FT%, 29.9 MPG, 21.1 PER, 7.9 WS

Khris Middleton had a very good season with Milwaukee this past season, and he was able to make his second All-Star team in the NBA.  He really excelled at shooting and scoring the basketball, and he did just about everything well on the basketball court during the regular season.  Unfortunately, he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well during the playoffs, and his team ended up getting eliminated by the Heat in the second round of the postseason.  Still, Middleton has proved himself to be very important for the Bucks’ team, though he will need to find a way to provide consistent shooting, scoring, and defense in the playoffs for them.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting small forward on the Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2021 Rating: 3 stars

Eric Bledsoe has continuously put up solid numbers in the regular season, but he’s now a much-maligned starting point guard due to his consistently terrible postseason play for the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Photo:
Ashley Landis/AP Photo, via The Oklahoman)

G Eric Bledsoe – C

2020 (MIL): 61 GP, 14.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.6 RPG, 48 FG%, 34 3PT%, 79 FT%, 27 MPG, 17.6 PER, 5.4 WS

Bledsoe’s season in 2020 was a roller coaster ride of sorts.  He played well during the regular season, and he excelled as a scorer and all-around playmaker to help his team get many wins.  However, in the playoffs, he ran into the same issues.  Bledsoe had trouble knocking down jump shots or scoring consistently, and he wasn’t entirely effective as a facilitator, as the Bucks had trouble consistently generating offense.  There are growing voices amid the NBA community that would like Bledsoe to be removed from the Bucks’ team, and his woeful playoff performance did not help this year.  Still, he is a talented player that will likely earn a lot of minutes for either Milwaukee or another NBA team in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starter/solid bench player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

C Brook Lopez – C

2020 (MIL): 68 GP, 12 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 44 FG%, 31 3PT%, 84 FT%, 26.7 MPG, 15 PER, 5.5 WS

He is a skilled, floor spacing big man that had an up and down season this year with the Milwaukee Bucks.  Lopez struggled to consistently make shots in the regular season, but he excelled at knocking down shots in the playoffs.  He did a good job of blocking shots and playing interior defense, but Lopez will really need to improve his rebounding.  Lopez’s shooting, scoring, and defensive skills will allow him to get a lot of playing time on the Bucks in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starting center on the Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

G Wesley Matthews – C+

2020 (MIL): 67 GP, 7.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 40 FG%, 36 3PT%, 76 FT%, 24.4 MPG, 8.1 PER, 3.2 WS

Wesley Matthews is a prototypical 3 and D type of role player in the NBA.  He excels at knocking down outside shots, and he also took on tough defensive assignments to help his team get stops in games.  On the downside, he struggled to score or rebound the basketball, and he didn’t take many shots on offense.  Still, he played fairly well for the Bucks, and he will likely earn plenty of minutes for them next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Matthews has a player option at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Milwaukee Bucks’ point guard, George Hill has played very well for his team off the bench, and his consistency as a player in both the regular and postseason may lead people to think if he may actually be a better player than the starting point guard, Eric Bledsoe.
(Photo:
Kim Klement/USA Today Sports, via The Indianapolis Star)

G George Hill – B

2020 (MIL): 59 GP, 9.4 PPG, 3.1 APG, 3.0 RPG, 52 FG%, 46 3PT%, 84 FT%, 21.5 MPG, 16.9 PER, 5.5 WS

George Hill played very well during the regular season, and he did an outstanding job of knocking down shots to provide floor spacing for his team.  He led the league in three-point percentage, and an argument could be made that maybe he didn’t get enough playing time this season.  He didn’t quite shoot the ball as well in the playoffs as he did in the regular season, but Hill really excelled as a shooter this year.  He will need to be much more assertive in taking shots on offense, but he had a solid season in 2020, and he will likely earn plenty of minutes on the Bucks in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2.5 stars

G Donte DiVincenzo – B+

2020 (MIL): 66 GP, 9.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 45 FG%, 34 3PT%, 73 FT% 23 MPG, 14.1 PER, 4.3 WS

Donte DiVincenzo had a fairly good second-year in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks.  A former 2018 NCAA tournament hero that scored 31 points in the National Championship game to help Villanova get the title, DiVincenzo excelled as a scorer, facilitator, rebounder, and defender off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020. 

However, he struggled to knock down outside shots or free throws consistently this season.  He will need to make more shots consistently, but DiVincenzo is a talented swingman that may be a fairly high upside player for the Bucks, and will likely earn plenty of playing time with them for the upcoming season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Starter/solid bench player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars (3 star potential)

G Pat Connaughton – C+

2020 (MIL): 67 GP, 5.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 46 FG%, 34 3PT%, 78 FT%, 23 MPG, 11.5 PER, 3.4 WS

Pat Connaughton is an athletic swingman that plays a 3 and D role for the Milwaukee Bucks.  He generally excelled at making plays on both ends of the floor, but he will need to improve his outside shot and be more assertive in taking shots on offense.  He will most likely be in an NBA team’s rotation in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

F Kyle Korver – B

2020 (MIL): 58 GP, 6.7 PPG, 43 FG%, 42 3PT%, 85 FT%, 16.6 MPG, 11.3 PER, 2.5 WS

Kyle Korver is a sharpshooting forward that really excelled at knocking down three-point shots this past season, though he did not seem to do much else on the court.  He really excelled at making threes to provide floor spacing, and Korver will likely continue to do so for either the Bucks or another team in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

F Ersan Ilyasova – B

2020 (MIL): 63 GP, 6.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 47 FG%, 36 3PT%, 83 FT%, 15.7 MPG, 14.9 PER, 3.6 WS

Ersan Ilyasova played very well for Milwaukee in the regular season.  He made shots efficiently, excelled as a rebounder, and he also defended well.  Curiously though, he didn’t play much in the playoffs, despite having been a very statistically efficient player for them in the regular season in 2020.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

F Marvin Williams – B- (B- with Charlotte, B- with Milwaukee)

2020 (TOT): 58 GP, 5.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 45 FG%, 36 3PT%, 86 FT%, 19.5 MPG, 11.2 PER, 2.4 WS
2020 (CHO): 41 GP, 6.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 45 FG%, 38 3PT%, 86 FT%, 19.7 MPG, 11.8 PER, 1.5 WS
2020 (MIL): 17 GP, 4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 44 FG%, 31 3PT%, 86 FT%, 18.9 MPG, 9.8 PER, 0.9 WS

Marvin Williams excelled as a shooter and defender off the bench for both teams this season.  He struggled to shoot or score for Milwaukee in the regular season, but he excelled as a shooter, rebounder, and defender for them in the playoffs.  In addition, Williams has declared his intentions to retire at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Retired former NBA player

Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Williams retired at the end of the 2020 season.

Robin Lopez and the Milwaukee Bucks’ players deciding to beat up mascots was a thing in the pre-Orlando bubble days. But then, the NBA didn’t allow mascots in the bubble, and perhaps the Bucks’ mojo didn’t come with them to the postseason as a result. The Milwaukee Bucks’ segment of this video begins around the 9:10 mark.
(Source: YouTube/NBA Desktop)

C Robin Lopez – C

2020 (MIL): 66 GP, 5.4 PPG, 49 FG%, 33 3PT%, 53 FT%, 14.5 MPG, 10.2 PER, 1.5 WS

Robin Lopez is an energetic, high-motor center that is the twin brother of Brook Lopez.  He showed a willingness to take threes this season, and he played above average defense for the Bucks this year.  He didn’t seem to do anything that remarkable, but he was able to make a three-point shot on occasion. 

Strangely though, he was quite bad at making free throws, however.  Signed to provide rim protection in a backup center role and for team chemistry purposes as he is Brook Lopez’s brother, Robin Lopez could end up providing minutes for Milwaukee (or another team if he declines his player option) in 2021.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Robin Lopez has a player option at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G-F Sterling Brown – 2020 season grade, D+

2020 (MIL): 52 GP, 5.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 37 FG%, 32 3PT%, 80 FT%, 14.8 MPG, 9.5 PER, 1.1 WS

After having played well in his second year, Brown struggled to make shots consistently this season for the Bucks in 2020.  He did rebound and defend well, but his inability to make shots prevented him from getting much of a run in the playoffs this past season.  Still, he is a 3 and D type of role player that has a chance to get more playing time next season.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Rotation player
Projected 2021 Rating: 2 stars

Side note: Will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season.

G Frank Mason (Two-Way) – B-

2020 (MIL): 9 GP, 6.9 PPG, 3,2 APG, 2.1 RPG, 45 FG%, 29 3PT%, 59 FT%, 13.1 MPG, 16.9 PER, 0.4 WS

Frank Mason excelled at attacking the basketball to get scores for Milwaukee this season, and he also did almost everything well for Milwaukee in limited minutes, except make outside shots.  Mason didn’t get much run in the playoffs however, but there is hope that he can fill a backup role for an NBA team on a consistent basis.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Fringe rotation player, backend roster
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

F-C D.J. Wilson – F+

2020 (MIL): 37 GP, 3.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 39 FG%, 25 3PT%, 61 FT%, 9.8 MPG, 8.2 PER, 0.3 WS

After having played fairly well in a more extended role for the Bucks in 2019, Wilson saw his minutes cut, and he did not shoot nor rebound well for them this past season.  He also did not block many shots, but he was able to show that he can be a capable defender for them.  He will need to make shots more consistently and he will have to rebound the ball better.  He was drafted to be a floor spacing big man, but so far, he’s been too inconsistent in the NBA.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth big man, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars (2 star potential)

F Thanasis Antetokounmpo – C

2020 (MIL): 20 GP, 2.8 PPG, 50 FG%, 0 3PT%, 41 FT%, 6.5 MPG, 12.2 PER, 0.2 WS

Mostly signed because he is Giannis’ older brother that was there to provide support and team chemistry, Thanasis Antetokounmpo did not play very much for the Bucks this past season.  He is an athletic combo forward that may project into a defensive specialist role, but he will need to be able to knock down outside shots, and also cut down on turnovers and fouls in games.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth forward, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 stars

F Cameron Reynolds (Two-Way) – Incomplete

2020 (MIL): DNP – CD

This guy did not play a single minute while signed to a two-way contract with the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2019-20 NBA season.  He did play for the Minnesota Timberwolves as a rookie during the 2018-19 season, and he mostly excelled as a shooter for them in a limited role off the bench.

Reynolds is an athletic combo forward that projects into a 3 and D role at the NBA level, but he will need to improve his playmaking skills and his on-ball defense in the meantime, and he will also need to find a way to get playing time at the NBA level in the future.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Depth forward, fringe roster player
Projected 2021 Rating: 1.5 star (2 star potential)

Milwaukee Bucks’ head coach, Mike Budenholzer has won many regular season games in the NBA, but he has not quite figured out how to keep winning in the postseason. His teams have gotten bounced out of the playoffs earlier than expected in the past two years, including this season in 2020. His team’s woeful playoff performance may lead people to wonder if he can lead the Bucks to a title at all in the future.
(Photo:
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images, Behind the Buck Pass)

Head Coach:
Mike Budenholzer – B-

Mike Budenholzer is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year, and the Milwaukee Bucks head coach has a knack for winning far more games in the regular season than anticipated.  He has built his team to be a regular season powerhouse in the East, and he was able to get his team the first seed in the East for the second year in a row.

However, it’s been a different story in the playoffs.  Budenholzer has never lead any of his teams to the NBA Finals as a head coach, though he was close in 2019, but they ultimately lost in 6 games in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual champions, Toronto Raptors.  In 2020, the Bucks were the heavy favorite to represent the East in the 2020 NBA Finals, but they instead lost swiftly in 5 games to the 5th seeded Miami Heat in the 2nd Round of the playoffs. 

Budenholzer has been known to steamroll past opponents in the regular season, but in the playoffs, but he’s been criticized for not making the necessary adjustments to get his teams to win in the postseason.  Still, he’s expected to lead the Bucks to many regular season wins in 2021, though there’s growing skepticism about his coaching in the playoffs.

Projected 2021 Role/Expectations: Head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2021 Rating: 3 stars

The 2020 Milwaukee Bucks, season grade: B-

The Bucks won a lot of games in the regular season, but that ultimately didn’t mean much, because they came up very short in the playoffs.  They surprisingly were dealt a second round series loss to the Miami Heat in the second round, and superstar swingman, Jimmy Butler absolutely willed his way to lead the Heat to the series win over the Bucks.  Giannis couldn’t knock down outside shots, the Bucks had trouble generating consistent offense, Eric Bledsoe was utterly awful in the playoffs, and Budenholzer showed expressions that suggested that he didn’t quite seem to know what was going on with his team in the postseason. 

The 2020 Bucks won the most games in the regular season, but their Game 1 loss in the first round to the Orlando Magic was a warning sign, even though they went on to defeat the Magic in that series.  Ultimately, the Bucks’ flaws were too much for them to overcome, and they exited the Orlando bubble much earlier in the postseason than many people thought they would.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ Projected 2020-21 NBA Rotation

Projected Starters:
C Brook Lopez
F Giannis Antetokounmpo
F Khris Middleton
G Wesley Matthews
G Eric Bledsoe

Key Reserves:
G George Hill
G-F Donte DiVincenzo
G-F Pat Connaughton* (UFA)
F Kyle Korver* (UFA)
F Ersan Ilyasova

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
The 24th Overall Pick of the 2020 NBA Draft
C Robin Lopez
G-F Sterling Brown* (RFA)

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
F-C D.J. Wilson
F Thanasis Antetokounmpo
G Frank Mason (Two-Way Contract)
F Cameron Reynolds (Two-Way Contract)

Players that will be Restricted Free Agents:
Sterling Brown

Players that will be Unrestricted Free Agents:
Pat Connaughton
Kyle Korver
Marvin Williams (has said he would retire at the end of the 2019-20 season)

Projected Players Cut from Next Season’s Roster:
None

2020 NBA Draft Picks:
#24

Projected Offseason Plan for the Bucks:

It will be a trying offseason for the Milwakee Bucks.  The 2020 Bucks reeled off many wins in the regular season, but they struggled mightily in the Orlando bubble, and ended up with an early second-round exit in the playoffs.  They promised Giannis that they will build him a legitimate title contending team in 2021, but it won’t be easy.  For the time being, their team seems geared towards winning a lot of regular season games, but perhaps not much more than that.  There are also a lot of bad teams in the East that allow the Bucks to reel off a lot of regular season wins to pad their statistics.  In the playoffs, they will only face good teams (outside of maybe the first round), and so their road to the title only will get tougher from there.

First off, they will have to decide if Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe are players they can rely on in the playoffs.  Also, Giannis is in the final year of his contract, and they need to show him that they are capable of winning a championship, so they may be inclined to swing for a big move to try to help him achieve that feat.  One likely move would be for them to trade Eric Bledsoe, who is a much maligned point guard due to his woeful playoff performance in 2020.  Milwaukee could try to swing a trade to land Chris Paul, which could be a last ditch effort to get Giannis a title contending team.

In the draft, they will need shooters and scorers to surround Giannis, but they will also need the Lopez twins to be more reliable in knocking down shots than they were in 2020.  For the Bucks, they might just go best player available in the draft, and see where that player may fit with their team.  The Bucks are currently capped out, so their best bet to make a move would be to make a trade in the 2020 offseason.

Expected Regular-Season Record in 2021*: 51-21, 1st seed in the Eastern Conference

The Milwaukee Bucks have been regular-season warriors for the past two seasons in 2019 and 2020, and they are projected to have the best regular-season record once again in 2021.  In this scenario, they would play the winner of the 8th seeded Orlando Magic and the 9th seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs.

Expected 2021 Season Outcome:  If they run it back, the 2021 Milwaukee Bucks would be favored to win both a lot of games in the regular season, and to get the first seed in the Eastern Conference.  At the very least, the 2021 Bucks are expected to win a lot of regular season games, just as they did in 2019 and 2020.

However, growing concerns about their playoff performance persist as they haven’t been able to get consistent scoring around Giannis, people have questioned Giannis’ outside shot, as well as Budenholzer’s failures to make adjustments in the playoffs, along with Eric Bledsoe having struggled mightily in the playoffs in 2020.  Right now, there doesn’t seem to be much confidence in the Bucks being able to become the serious title contenders they once seemed poised to be before, but the talent is there, and the Milwaukee Bucks at the very least will likely win a lot of basketball games in 2021. (* – The asterisk denotes that the expected regular season win total is adjusted for the 72-game schedule that the NBA will play for the 2020-21 season.  The initial projection for the Bucks was for them to get 58 wins in an 82-game season.  Also, the projected record does not take into account for the NBA draft or free agency, as those events have not happened yet.)

In case if you need the rubric for my player rating system of projecting NBA players for the 2020-21 season, here is the link. In addition, Basketball-Reference, RealGM, and Spotrac were vital information sites that I used to look at player and team statistics, as well as contract information.

Side note: Also, the letter grades attached to the player name was my grade for their 2019-20 season, as it is my judgment of their performance and whether or not they met or exceeded my expectations, and didn’t have much bearing on my projection of how they will perform for the 2020-21 NBA season.

Thank you for reading my grades on the 2019-20 Milwaukee Bucks’ team, and it also was an early prognostication of what to expect for them for the upcoming, 2020-21 NBA season. There are still some notable events to keep track of, as the 2020 NBA Draft will take place on November 18th, and free agency will begin on November 20th. Thanks for reading.

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