Bucks G League: Wisconsin Herd bank on continuity as two-way deadline passes

Canton, OH - DECEMBER 14 (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
Canton, OH - DECEMBER 14 (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images) /

A growing sense of continuity has been a strength for the Bucks G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd, as they hit the halfway mark in their incredibly successful 2019-20 season.

With sole possession of the best G League record at 19-5, the Wisconsin Herd continue to write their stunning year-over-year transformation.

The start to 2020 has been a successful one for the Bucks’ affiliate as they have taken four of their five games since the turn of the year as they head into their morning clash versus the Erie Bayhawks Thursday at Menominee Nation Arena.

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As the Herd continue to adhere to a successful formula passed down by their parent club under first-year head coach Chase Buford, there’s been no real need to tinker with the formula. Wednesday was just the latest reinforcement of that as it served as the deadline to sign two-way contracts.

With this being the third season since two-way contracts have been a thing in the NBA, this day in the league calendar is usually a transaction frenzy.

Whether it’s players nearing the end of their 45 days on their two-way deals or those players’ performances not meeting the expectations of decision makers, NBA teams usually use the deadline to bring in players on now-prorated two-way contracts and thus, spinning the revolving door of two-way players. And in the past two seasons, the Bucks and Herd have followed that trend, whether it’s been in-house (Xavier Munford) or bringing in an addition like former two-way player Bonzie Colson II.

This year, though, the deadline has come and gone and the Herd didn’t join the fray of teams cycling through their two-way contracts.

While that certainly speaks to the fact that Frank Mason III has seen just four appearances with the Bucks while Cam Reynolds hasn’t seen any appearances in Milwaukee or elsewhere, their respective performances and leading contributions with the Herd have been equally essential to why the Herd are the G League’s cream of the crop.

Just as he has all season long when up with the Herd, Mason has been a leading offensive force for the Herd and that’s only picked up in the wake of Rayjon Tucker‘s call up to the Utah Jazz. And with the strides he’s made as a 3-point threat, Mason stands as the Herd’s leading scorer (24.3 points per game) and 3-point shooter (42.7 percent) while leading all two-way players around the league in the scoring department.

As Mason continues to get buckets on the regular, Reynolds looks to be on the mend from a truly hellish shooting slump throughout the month of December that limited him to .356/.319/.684 shooting splits in the Herd’s 10 games last month.

Despite that downturn, Reynolds has been persistent in letting it fly and he looks to be on the other side of his slump as his production for January (14.8 points per game on .413/.351/.833 splits) have resembled his production on the year at 15.2 points on a .402/.345/.667 slash line through his 24 appearances with the Herd, as of this writing.

With both Mason and Reynolds setting the tone, the Herd don’t merely have a 1-2 punch as they have a well-built supporting cast that lifts one another and fits snugly within the scope of their system.

That’s especially shone through since Tucker’s departure and we’re starting to see the full breadth of talent the Herd have beyond their two-way players, as well as standout contributors such as Jaylen Adams, Jemerrio Jones and the occasional cameo from Bucks big man Dragan Bender when he’s on assignment.

And full credit goes to both the Bucks’ front office and specifically, Herd general manager and Bucks vice president of basketball operations, Dave Dean, for identifying players that could complement one another as the Herd appropriate the system built by reigning NBA Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer.

It speaks to the fact that scouting goes beyond the draft and the NBA at large, and Dean has executed a master class in recognizing players like Mason, Reynolds, Adams, Jones and so on, and building around them to form the cohesive starting unit they’ve been for the Herd all year. And equal praise goes out to Buford in executing that vision, and it’s something will very likely make him a favorite for G League Coach of the Year, should the Herd maintain their winning pace in the second half of the season.

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The Herd won’t rest on their laurels with what they have achieved at the halfway point in the season as they pursue their first playoff berth in franchise history. But what’s clear at this point is that the revolving door that was the Herd’s roster last season appears to be shut and for good reason.