Is Johnny O’Bryant The Milwaukee Bucks Secret Weapon?


Some 43 games into the Milwaukee Bucks season, Johnny O’Bryant continues to help the Bucks with his unspectacular yet solid play.

There is a select group of 30 players in the NBA that have the most positive impact on their team’s net rating when they’re on the court. Five of those 30 players are: Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Jonas Valanciunas, and Johnny O’Bryant.

Okay, so maybe Cameron Bairstow and Lavoy Allen are also members of this group, which lowers the prestige of it somewhat. Still, the Milwaukee Bucks have been at their best with JOB on the floor. And unlike Bairstow, O’Bryant has been a whole lot more than a human victory cigar this year. He’s been good.

The Bucks have their best offensive rating, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, and rebounding percentage with O’Bryant on the floor. He’s only been out there for 571 of the Bucks, meaning guys like Khris Middleton have played almost triple the minutes JOB has.

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It’s fairly obvious that O’Bryant playing three times as much as he does now would hurt those numbers, but that’s not really something Bucks fans should worry about. JOB has already reached his apex role on this basketball team. Johnny O’Bryant will likely never be a starting power forward.

He might get a couple more minutes per game off of the bench as he continues to get better, but expecting him to end up as much more than a seventh or eighth man is wishful thinking. Wanting him to be any more than he is now is foolish thinking.

As much as it’s missed by the Bucks fanbase in particular, not every draft pick is a home run. The Giannis Antetokounmpos of the world are few and far between. Being able to find serviceable NBA role players in the second round is just as impressive as finding stars in the top half of the first round, and just as difficult as well.

A full third of the players selected in the 2014 NBA Draft’s second round (where the Bucks took JOB) have never played an NBA game. Many more, like fellow 2014 second rounder Damien Inglis, have gotten some NBA run but haven’t shown many signs that they’ll last more than a year or three in the NBA.

In his rookie season, the same could be said about Johnny O’Bryant. It’s true that his situation was rough–an injured second round pick starting his first career game is the definition of a baptism by fire–but regardless of the circumstances, O’Bryant struggled.


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And then O’Bryant got better. His statistics in 2016 aren’t exactly eye-popping, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s a better player than he was last season. O’Bryant’s field goal and free throw percentages have skyrocketed, and he’s been making more contributions across the box score than he could last season.

JOB isn’t scoring more per 36 minutes, but his efficiency is way up. O’Bryant added a full 20 points to his offensive rating, and adds fractions of wins on both ends of the court. He’s not making the kind of difference that fellow under-23-year-olds Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker are, but he’s not hurting the Bucks either.

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As I wrote earlier this season, that’s because O’Bryant remains a smart decision-maker. Out of the 72 shots JOB has attempted from 10 feet or farther away from the rim, 65 have been shots with no defender within four feet of O’Bryant. 90 percent of JOB’s long twos have been wide open shots, and he’s nailed 46 percent of them.

That’s not a great number for open shots, but considering those are about the only shots O’Bryant takes his field goal percentage is nearly as high. O’Bryant still has problems finishing on drives as evidenced by his 44.4 field goal percentage on layups, but lately he’s looked better around the rim.

Calling him a secret weapon is a bit of a stretch, as Johnny O’Bryant isn’t scaring any other teams with his offensive game. But he is a secret bright spot for these Bucks, and has made them better for half of an NBA season and counting.

Next: Find Out Who Your Milwaukee Bucks Of The Week Are!

That seemed impossible based on his poor first season, but thankfully at least one of Milwaukee’s 2014 second round picks is enjoying some success in the NBA.