The Milwaukee Bucks enter the season restart with very few questions about their rotation, with the minutes behind superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo being a rare exception.
With one day away from kicking back on their 2019-20 season, the Milwaukee Bucks enter their restart with little open-ended questions regarding their rotation.
Save for the COVID-19-related delays for Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton, the last few weeks have shown the Bucks haven’t had to deal with the opt outs and absences other title contenders continue to deal with since the NBA descended upon Orlando earlier this month.
As they have been throughout head coach Mike Budenholzer’s tenure, the Bucks are a team that relishes in their strength in numbers and that great depth perfectly interlocking with their core stars headlined by superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
So while there hasn’t been this level of intrigue in what’s largely been this second training camp of sorts, one of the rare questions facing the Bucks’ rotation will be how Budenholzer will opt to fill the minutes behind Antetokounmpo.
Of course, when we last saw the Bucks in action, that was a role that was held by recent newcomer Marvin Williams, whom the Bucks brought on following his midseason buyout with the Charlotte Hornets. While the sturdy veteran had struggled to bring his shot along with him initially, Williams largely looked the part with his unselfishness and defensive presence throughout his limited minutes behind Antetokounmpo.
The process of Williams stepping right into a prominent spot on the Bucks’ roster was fellow veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova getting squeezed out of the rotation.
There were reasons behind that as the Turkish international had been mired in a tough, extended slump following a very hot start to the 2019-20 season and Ilyasova’s minutes had grown increasingly erratic in their overall impact on the team as a whole.
Now, nearly four-and-a-half months since the Bucks and the NBA were last in action, Budenholzer will be forced to essentially choose between Ilyasova and Williams for who he feels will give the team a better shot to seamlessly fill in on the court when going into the team’s bench.
While both players couldn’t have come from more different backgrounds when both were drafted more than 15 years ago, both Ilyasova and WIlliams’ respective longevity is quite distinct, even on this veteran-laden Bucks team. And at this stage, both veterans overlap with one another with the role playing skill-sets they have fashioned to last this long into their careers.
Yet, it’s Williams’ solid mobility and heady versatility that makes him a more appealing asset at the backup 4 spot behind Antetokounmpo, at least on the defensive side of the ball. That alone may help him to see the floor, just as we saw even as he was struggling to hit shots from the outside.
There are certain nights or matchups that Ilyasova’s occasionally plodding feet prove to be too much of a liability for the Bucks and it’s understandable why the Bucks’ front office felt they needed some cover behind Antetokounmpo in that sense.
Even as that’s remained the case for much of his career, Ilyasova’s nose for the ball, especially on the boards, and streaky floor spacing may still have its place on this team in the season that remains. That obviously starts with the seeding schedule the Bucks have before going on to the start of their playoff run.
While Williams looks to be in pole position, judging by what we saw in his two appearances during the Bucks’ scrimmages in Orlando, he still needs to show that he’s capable of hitting 3-pointers in the few scoring opportunities that will come to him when on the floor. If not, then the door opens up for Ilyasova to make his case to resume his role.
Budenholzer will unquestionably trust both Ilyasova and Williams going forward in Orlando, as he largely does with most players on the Bucks roster. Thus, it will be on the two veterans to make an interesting subplot that we may have to follow in the coming weeks and months.