Milwaukee Bucks: It’s on Mirza Teletovic to be better next season

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 12: Mirza Teletovic
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 12: Mirza Teletovic /

Mirza Teletovic had a bad first season on the Milwaukee Bucks, and he’s got to get better next season.

It’s no secret that Mirza Teletovic had a rough first season with the Milwaukee Bucks. Usually when a player is being talked about as a salary dump candidate who may need to be bundled with a draft pick, it doesn’t speak kindly to their stock as a player.

Teletovic’s struggles weren’t all that straight forward, though. Despite him being bad statistically, the Bucks were actually pretty damn good in his minutes last season. Teletovic played 70 games, and Milwaukee was generally better for having him on the floor.

With Mirza, Milwaukee outscored the opposition by 3.4 points per 100 possessions. Without him the Bucks were 0.6 points per 100 possessions worse off. Even though he was worse in nearly every statistic than he was the season before, 2016-17 Mirza Teletovic was a net positive for the Milwaukee Bucks.

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There are a few explanations for that. One is that his spacing helped things, even if Teletovic wasn’t actually knocking down shots. His quick trigger from just about anywhere on the floor makes defenses scramble, even if a Teletovic shot isn’t statistically that deadly.

Another reason Teletovic’s on/off numbers look nice is that he spent a lot of his 1133 minutes with good players on the floor last season. Over half (631) of his minutes were spent with Greg Monroe, who was a huge net positive for Milwaukee last season.

The four players Teletovic spent the most time with were all really good for the Bucks, actually. After Monroe, Teletovic played the most with Jason Terry, Malcolm Brogdon, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Some mix of adding space to the Bucks offense and sharing the floor with some of Milwaukee’s most effective players combined to make the team play better with Teletovic on the floor. That makes it more discouraging that he played poorly last season, and puts the onus on Teletovic to improve. The Bucks cannot be blamed for putting a player in a poor position to look good this time.

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Despite playing the same role on a team with better weapons around him, Teletovic’s three-point percentage dropped from 39.3 percent to 34.1 percent, as his field goal percentage, points per 36 minutes, rebounds per 36, assists per 36 and steals per 36 all dropped as well.

Teletovic can be effective. He proved as much in his lone season with the Phoenix Suns, in which he set a record for making more threes off the bench than any player ever, while shooting 42.7 percent from the field and scoring 12.2 points in just 21.3 minutes per game.

Theoretically, there’s no reason Teletovic shouldn’t be able to be that effective again. There was no All-NBA caliber player on his team when he was with the Suns. Typically players get better if they have smaller roles on good teams, not vice versa.

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Either Teletovic had a career year in 2015-16 and won’t reach those heights again, or he randomly slumped last season and can return somewhat to form soon. Unless the Bucks find a salary dump trade they find palatable, the team will have to hope it was the latter, because there’s still $20 million owed to Teletovic over the next two seasons.