Milwaukee Bucks: Diving deep into Pat Connaughton’s improved season

Feb 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
Feb 8, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) /

After finding himself in the middle of the Milwaukee Bucks‘ hectic offseason, Pat Connaughton has proven why they made a point in securing his return.

Of course, that refers to the controversy that unfolded around the three-year, $16 million deal that Connaughton inked early in free agency, all of which ended being a far greater number than what was first reported. Through no fault of Connaughton’s, I should add.

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For the grievances that some Bucks fans might hold in the contract that Connaughton got in the offseason, it shouldn’t be held against him when he has made considerable strides on both ends of the court this season.

As a role player, Connaughton isn’t asked to do an exorbitant amount when he’s on the floor, but instead fills a vital role that isn’t short on responsibilities. The most obvious is to spread the floor, a staple in a Budenholzer offense, and has stood as a massive hurdle for the sixth-year wing to clear throughout his career.

To this point in the season, Connaughton is averaging 5.3 points while shooting 39.4 percent from beyond the arc on a career-high 67.6 3-point attempt rate. Per, Connaughton is hitting 41.2 percent of his 68 catch-and-shoot triples this season, which is by far a high mark as well, and has improved his range by shooting 40.7 percent on above the break threes.

Even as he battles through streaky stretches, having a repeatable shooting stroke was big point of emphasis in Connaughton’s condensed offseason this year as he recently discussed on WTMJ’s Courtside with the Milwaukee Bucks hosted by Gale Klappa:

"“I’ve worked a lot with one of our assistant coaches, Ben Sullivan, and even with Kyle Korver a little bit last season, on just making sure that I have a shot that I can repeat every single time. I think that’s what you lose track of. You look at that result of the shot as opposed to how you shot the shot and for me, you have to worry less about the result and worry about how you shot each shot.”"

Pat Connaughton has also provided versatile defending for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Beyond his improved shooting that helped him achieve his ‘3-and-D’ status, Connaughton has slacked on the latter end of that label.

Certainly Connaughton has his deficiencies or limitations, especially when tasked with guarding premier scoring guards and wings. Instead, what Connaughton provides with his team defending helps plug a lot of holes as the Bucks seek to put everything together on that end of the floor.

With a career-high 1.8 steal percentage this season, Connaughton has been very impressive getting his hands into passing lanes to deflect or force turnovers on the opposition. And the 28-year-old’s athleticism continues to lend itself well in being able to block shots, whether rotating in front of the basket or closing out on opposing 3-point shooters, as seen by his 1.9 block percentage.

The fact that Connaughton is an incredibly productive rebounder by pulling 5.5 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes brings together the full package that he provides for the likes of head coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff.

Even as he’s averaging the fewest minutes of his Bucks stint so far this season, Connaughton has been a key cog from their supporting cast. To that point, Connaughton holds a +14.2 net rating, the highest of all Bucks players this season.

That’s certainly helped out by the fact that often shares the floor with at least one of the Bucks’ cornerstone players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton. yet being able to play a useful role within the framework of the Bucks’ foundation is important for someone of Connaughton’s stature.

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Whether Connaughton can maintain these high marks and continue shooting the ball at a high clip remains to be seen, but the fact that he’s been so effective in many areas showcases has made him quite the utility player for the Bucks.