Milwaukee Bucks: Mike Budenholzer continues rotation experiments

Jan 1, 2021; Milwaukee, WI, USA Nick Monroe/Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2021; Milwaukee, WI, USA Nick Monroe/Handout Photo-USA TODAY Sports /

 Head coach Mike Budenholzer has experimented with his rotations throughout the first six games of the season, but will it continue for the Milwaukee Bucks?

The Milwaukee Bucks are off to a 3-3 start six games into the 2020-21 NBA season.

Of the many things that have stood out, occasional tweaks in the rotation have been among the most apparent. Milwaukee spent big in the offseason to shore up their depth considerably, which left the reshaped roster fighting to earn playing time in training camp. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer was recently asked how he would handle minutes with the reshaped roster, to which he responded:

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"“I think there was some thoughts whether we could shake it up and throw somebody out there. It’s also early and guys have kind of earned opportunities. You gotta be careful while being flexible and giving other guys a look”"

While the starting lineup is certainly not going to change, Budenholzer has recently experimented with his second unit to see exactly who can help where. In particular, one player whose minutes have been scattered throughout his five appearances this season is D.J. Wilson.

Wilson logged double-digit minutes in Milwaukee’s first two games, the fourth-year forward has logged fewer than 10 minutes in his last three games, the fourth being a game he did not see any action in. Budenholzer was asked about Wilson’s inconsistent playing time throughout the first six games, telling reporters:

"“He was really good through training camp and through preseason. It’s nothing about what he hasn’t done…I think it’s just mix it up, give different guys some looks. DJ is someone who is going to help us a lot this year”"

Budenholzer also talked about Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who took Wilson’s spot in the rotation and has seen extended action in the early going this year. Thanasis has logged double-digit minutes in four out of his five appearances this season, having served as a regular off the bench.

For reference, the 28-year-old only finished with double-digit minutes in four of his 20 appearances last season, already matching his total this year. Bud has shown newfound faith in Thanasis early on this season, and he explained why during a recent media session:

"“I think there’s a defensive versatility that he brings. I think, particularly with Miami, they’ve got a lot of wings and point guards, we just thought he could be disruptive there. He’s been good in practice, good in training camp. Just trying to get better defensively, but he also brings an energy offensively. We’ll see how we go tonight.”"

Mike Budenholzer has done some earlier experimenting with his bench, but other names will likely get some run this season.

Milwaukee’s roster is full of talented pieces, which has overcrowded the rotation at times. One name that stands out the most is Torrey Craig, the swingman the Bucks signed this offseason. Craig has a reputation as a premier defender, and many were excited to see him in the rotation from the start of this season.

However, Craig played just 13 minutes across his three appearances this season before having broken his nose in a loss to the New York Knicks. The forward underwent successful surgery and is currently slated to miss about two weeks. When he returns, all eyes will be on Budenholzer and whether he will finally give Craig a meaningful chance.

Another hot topic of discussion has been the minimal playing time for the rookie duo of Sam Merrill and Jordan Nwora. The pair have received most of their minutes in garbage-time, and although that atmosphere alleviates some pressure, they have shown promise. Perhaps Budenholzer will look to get these two more involved with his rotations as the season progresses to get their confidence up.

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Budenholzer has shown his willingness to try new things this season, including shaking up the rotation, which has been a welcoming sign for fans. Hopefully, if he continues, these changes can lead to positive results as the Bucks fight for position in the Eastern Conference.