Milwaukee Bucks: Pat Connaughton playing much-improved basketball

Jan 11, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Pat Connaughton’s time with the Milwaukee Bucks has been hit or miss since he signed with the team in the 2018 offseason.

The high-flying guard has been a staple in head coach Mike Budenholzer’s rotation for two years, and he has had consistency issues. That was fully on display in the team’s playoff run this past year, where he was basically a non-factor. Many wanted him gone after that as he was set to hit free agency. However, he instead received a three-year, $16 million deal over the offseason.

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Milwaukee had initially handed him a two-year extension worth $8 million, which wasn’t legal in the CBA as the Bucks intended to sign him through an Early Bird Rights exception. That led to the deal being revised to the pact it is today.

Connaughton heard all of the negative chatter this offseason about his extension without question, and he spent the time off training to get himself back on the right track.

As the new season approached, Pat sat down with Bucks reporter Zora Stephenson to discuss a multitude of topics, including his offseason regimen, the Bucks’ acquisition of Jrue Holiday, and specifically, what role he envisioned for himself this coming season:

"“I would say taking it up that next step. I think I’ve gotten better every year of my career. I think it’s time to take it even a step further. I’m excited for my role to increase on the team, and with that, I think it is the responsibility to have some consistency. I think throughout the past two years, I’ve done a lot to help the team win, and I’ve shown flashes of what I can do, and now it’s about trying to do that on a consistent basis.”"

Pat Connaughton has played much-improved basketball for the Milwaukee Bucks to start the 2020-21 season.

Now in his third season with the Bucks, Connaughton has shown consistency and has turned some heads in the process over his scattered minutes this season.

Averaging 17 minutes a night, Connaughton is putting up 6.3 points on .462/.500/1.000 shooting splits, four rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. Undoubtedly the most surprising part of Pat’s game in the early going has been his much-improved 3-point stroke.

Throughout his first two seasons with the Bucks, Connaughton went 121-of-366 from distance, a subpar 33.1 percent. His lackluster shooting made him an irregular fit in Milwaukee’s offense, but he has looked up to par this season, although it comes in a much smaller sample size. Currently 19-of-38 from behind the arc throughout his 11 games, Pat’s rejuvenated shooting at 50 percent from deep has been a welcoming surprise for the team.

However, when he is not shooting the lights out from downtown, Connaughton is still making the hustle plays, diving for loose balls, or jumping up to contest the opposing shooter. One of the most apparent occurrences of this hustle came in the team’s 125-123 loss to the Brooklyn Nets Monday night.

With 3:29 left in the final quarter, the Nets were up 114-113, and Brook Lopez heaved a triple that would have given Milwaukee a two-point lead. However, he missed everything, and Connaughton leaped out of bounds and saved the ball to Jrue Holiday, who scored under the basket to give the Bucks the lead. Plays like that will not show up on the stat sheet, but it was unquestionably a big moment as this game came down to the wire.

Although a groin injury knocked him out of the rotation for three games, the guard has been playing inspired basketball, and hopefully, he can keep it up consistently as the Bucks chase that NBA title.

Next. 3 reasons not to panic about Brook Lopez’s quiet start. dark

Consistency is the operative word here, and Pat Connaughton has been just that to start the season with that sizeable chip on his shoulder.