We’re now in the thick of the Milwaukee Bucks’ regular rotation, and today is the day the Handyman Reserve and NBA Champion Pat Connaughton leaves our annual exercise. Hopefully this one doesn’t leave a trace …
Everybody Milwaukee’s favorite real estate mogul was originally drafted in the second round in 2015, though this is actually his second time being drafted by a pro team (the first being a fourth round in the 2014 MLB Draft). Oddly enough, the NBA pick who became Pat Connaughton was initially moved by the New Jersey Nets in 2011, sent through Utah and Atlanta before coming to Milwaukee, and in 2014 sent back to the Nets (now in Brooklyn) in exchange for … former head coach Jason Kidd.
A quick draft day trade to Portland led to Pat’s selection, and after three years with the Blazers, the Bucks picked him up for a nifty little two-year contract, and Milwaukee was able to keep him through the offseason. 2020 with a much maligned (at least at the time) two plus one contract that still pays well below the league’s average salary for a competent playoff wing.
While Planet Pat can follow Giannis into the weight room, Connaughton doesn’t quite measure up to the same burden on the pitch as the reigning Finals MVP. At 6’5 “and 210 lbs, he’s a good build but not a good height for a shooting guard. His jumping ability is impressive, but his lateral quickness is less so. He’s strong enough to hold up against opposing forwards, but he doesn’t have the length to be an impact defender.He has a real knack for rebounding, a skill Milwaukee relied heavily on during his run to the playoffs.
More importantly, he found his depth range (37.1% vs. three in the regular season, 38.9% in the playoffs) while taking the vast majority of his shots from behind the arc. This mid-career shooting revival made Connaughton an “all trades, master of none” replacement in a staple of Milwaukee’s smallball lineup in the playoffs. He is trusted by his teammates and coaches, and regularly got the call when the Bucks needed his versatility. Prior to the PJ Tucker acquisition, lineup including Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, Giannis, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton was Milwaukee’s alleged response, and there is no indication that Connaughton will not be part of the calculation in the future.
Taking Pat out of the contest before either of the starters or Bobby Portis makes sense, but how did Connaughton get edged out by Donte DiVincenzo? On the one hand, Donte (24) is four years younger than Pat (28) and the youngsters always get a boost in the theoretical rankings. DiVincenzo is an equally talented rebounder for his position, and he can also boast of superior playing ability (career 4.8 assists per 100 possessions for Donte vs. 3.5 for Pat) and rushes for steals around. twice as often (career 2.1 steals per 100 for Donte against 1.1 for Pat).
But those highs are offset by a few lows, as DiVincenzo’s rewards come with quite a bit of risk. Donte is one of the Bucks’ most frequent over-assists in defense, a habit that produces a steal or deflection much less often than a failed spin or late fight. Connaughton, on the other hand, has exhibited a much higher degree of defensive discipline over the past season, making fewer mistakes and virtually eliminating his iconic overflows when shutting down shooters. Combined with his durability, Connaughton suddenly looks like a much safer option in high-stakes situations than DiVincenzo, who has also struggled with injuries since joining the league.
It depends on what fans are more comfortable with, and whether Donte DiVincenzo’s ways of playing are more useful alongside the main Bucks core than Pat Connaughton’s constant contributions. In this case, it looks like Pat is left on the outside, but either way we can expect to enjoy another season of Massachusetts’ best.
The 6th most important player in Milwaukee’s playoff success is …
Donte Di Vincenzo
347 votes in total
This poll will end at 7:00 a.m. Central on Wednesday, September 22.