Milwaukee Bucks: Guard depth remains a lingering concern

PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 23: (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 23: (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

For as deep as the Milwaukee Bucks’ roster is, backcourt depth remains one notable area that could provide meaningful concern down the line.

A loss to the Denver Nuggets at the end of January may not be the end of the world, but the Milwaukee Bucks would have much greater reason to be stressed if similar circumstances to Friday night were to arise when the postseason rolls around.

As the Bucks fell to just their seventh loss of the season, the headline takeaway for many will undoubtedly be that they once again found themselves burned by a blistering three-point shooting effort from an opponent.

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As our own Dalton Sell has outlined, there’s a developing theme of opponents who beat the Bucks not just shooting well, but putting together season-best three-point shooting efforts.

I’d argue that just as significant on Friday night, though, was how Milwaukee’s offense stalled after the first quarter, with Mike Budenholzer’s side going on to score just 72 points over the remainder of the game, split evenly with 24 in each quarter.

Regardless of which of those two issues proved to be most prevalent on Friday, the fact is that there was a piece of team news that played into both of those elements.

The Bucks were without George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo for the game against Denver, and reportedly could be without Hill for a few more games as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury.

Those absences are not only significant due to how that pair have thrived in the Bucks’ rotation this year, solidifying themselves as two of the three most important bench players on the team, but also due to the relative lack of depth at their respective positions.

Hill primarily plays at point guard for the Bucks, with DiVincenzo usually taking up responsibilities at shooting guard, yet in fluid lineups and in case of emergency, both players have also frequently been asked to slot in at the other guard spot too.

That’s largely attributable to the fact that Hill and starter Eric Bledsoe are the only two traditional point guards on the full roster, with two-way player Frank Mason III available as a contingency in the regular season.

With Mason dealing with his own injury issues of late, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton were forced to take up additional playmaking duties alongside Bledsoe on Friday, while a rotating cast of the less frequently used Pat Connaughton and Sterling Brown were also required to cover backcourt minutes.

Middleton and Antetokounmpo can handle that extra responsibility, as evidenced by their nine assists apiece against Denver, but there can be no doubting that it likely comes at an opportunity cost of what that All-Star duo could otherwise be doing in terms of scoring.

Perhaps even more significant, though, is the fact that Hill and DiVincenzo are top tier on-ball and perimeter defenders. Without them, not only will opposing teams find it easier to make their way through to the paint, but there’s also an opening that could provide opponents with more joy when it comes to three-point shot quality.

Players such as Connaughton and Brown can fill those kind of gaps when they’re at their best, but consistency has been an issue for both of them.

If the Bucks are lucky, they’ll get a chance to work their way through the postseason with a relatively clean bill of backcourt health. But even just a short-term injury to Bledsoe, Hill or DiVincenzo at the wrong time could cause real damage, not to mention a potentially catastrophic situation where multiple of those players end up hurt simultaneously.

With just days remaining to the trade deadline, my own view of what the Bucks should or (more accurately) shouldn’t do closely resembles the case laid out by Dan Larsen on Saturday.

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Having said that, if the Bucks are compelled to make a move, the logical target would be a point guard who could add just a little bit more security in the face of a potential playoff injury doomsday.