Milwaukee Bucks: Torrey Craig’s place in the rotation is still unclear

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 16 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 16 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Head coach Mike Budenholzer has not been afraid to shake up the Milwaukee Bucks’ rotation this season, and that was on full display last night.

The Bucks finally snapped their five game losing streak Friday night with a 98-85 win against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, but they were without one notable rotational player. Torrey Craig logged zero minutes in the game, his first DNP-CD in quite some time.

More from Bucks News

Budenholzer instead relied heavily on Pat Connaughton, who played 27-and-a-half minutes off the bench. That put him well above his season average of 19.7 minutes per game, and the guard made his mark by scoring six points on 2-of-4 shooting from behind the arc while also tallying five rebounds and one assist.

Craig would typically see minutes behind Connaughton as well as superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Budenholzer deferred to Thanasis Antetokounmpo Friday night instead.

Thanasis has primarily been out of the rotation lately, but he checked into the game during the third quarter of Thursday’s loss against the Toronto Raptors and provided an immediate spark. He played 15 minutes Friday night, his most since January 1, and brought that same energetic boost.

Torrey Craig found himself on the sidelines Friday night as the Milwaukee Bucks mixed up their rotation.

Prior to Milwaukee’s two-game skid against the Raptors this past week, it appeared that Craig had solidified his place in the rotation. He had played double-digits in eight straight contests, but his status moving forward has been clouded in these past three games.

Craig logged just eight minutes in Milwaukee’s loss to the Raptors on February 16, followed by a brief seven minute showing two days later against the same team. Finally, he was absent from the rotation Friday night in what had been a recurring scenario previously this season.

The veteran’s case for minutes has been an uphill battle all season and has endured his share of adversity from training camp where he missed time with a groin injury. After signing with the Bucks in free agency, Craig battled a groin injury throughout training camp and the preseason, which hindered his minutes going into the start of the season.

This caused him to be the odd man out in Milwaukee’s rotation by seeing his minutes in mop-up duty early on. Unfortunately, Craig suffered a fractured nose in his second appearance of the season during his three minutes of action against the New York Knicks on December 27th. He underwent surgery to repair the fracture, and being sidelined for that extended period did not help his case for minutes.

Finally, on January 24, Craig broke through the rotation with a 13-minute outing against the Atlanta Hawks and seemingly earned his place off Milwaukee’s bench for good. However, as evidenced by this three game stretch, that is not the case. Craig’s place in Mike Budenholzer’s rotation moving forward remains a mystery, but there is no doubt that this season has not gone as many envisioned it would for the forward.

After playing a pivotal role in the Denver Nuggets’ postseason success over the past two seasons, Craig is playing a career-low 11.4 minutes per game this year in Milwaukee. However, Craig having the highest defensive rating of all Bucks rotation regulars is certainly pretty damning, even with his defensive pedigree in mind.

For all of the ups and downs that have followed Craig since arriving in Milwaukee, they still made a shrewd decision to quickly pick him up in free agency after the Nuggets rescinded their qualifying offer on his contract. And as The Athletic’s Eric Nehm spoke on the ‘Weitzman Can’t Jump’ podcast with Yaron Weitzman, they made that decision with Craig’s usage in small ball lineups in mind:

"“I think the Bucks strategically targeted Torrey Craig as soon as he become available and the Nuggets let go of his contract and he became an unrestricted free agent. I remember talking to people in the organization that were like ‘We got to get him. Torrey Craig is going to unlock this.'”"

Next. 3 questions the Bucks must ask before trade deadline. dark

The tenacious defender is still someone who could certainly help the Bucks, particularly in a playoff setting, but they must continue to find the time and his best use of him.