Milwaukee Bucks: Is Pat Connaughton making good with expanded role?

Mar 29, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Pat Connaughton has been a staple rotational player for the Milwaukee Bucks since their ascension into contention two seasons ago.

Despite his familiarity with the franchise and desire to stay in Milwaukee, the three-year extension that the Bucks handed him this past offseason worth $16 million was certainly met with mixed reviews among fans. Connaughton had been coming off an abysmal postseason run where he was nearly unplayable, and such a hefty deal seemed concerning.

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However, following his flameout in the playoffs, he seemingly entered this season with a massive chip on his shoulder. With 43 games played, Connaughton has been playing relatively impressive basketball since getting his new deal.

Averaging 6.9 points on .455/.411/.769 shooting splits, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per contest, the guard has served as a productive contributor in the second unit.

Pat Connaughton has stepped up in a big way for the Milwaukee Bucks as his role increases.

Averaging a career-high 22.9 minutes per game, the most among any reserve on Milwaukee’s roster, Connaughton has been a key piece in the rotation this season. The guard has seemingly continued to earn the trust of his head coach Mike Budenholzer as the season progresses with his minutes increasing every month.

  • December — 17.6 minutes
  • January — 18.5 minutes
  • February — 23.3 minutes
  • March — 28.6 minutes

Connaughton’s increased opportunity can most likely be attributed to his much improved 3-point shooting, knocking down 41.1 percent of his triples on 3.7 attempts per game. Both of those are career bests for the five-year man out of Notre Dame, which has provided a solid boost of floor spacing in the second unit.

This newfound 3-point stroke comes after the guard knocked down just 33.1 percent of his threes on 2.9 attempts throughout his first two seasons with the Bucks and where his shooting was arguably the weakest aspect of his game. Adapting to become a more reliable threat from behind the arc, it is justifiable for Connaughton to be seeing a more prominent role offensively.

On the other side of the ball, the guard’s efforts have been hit or miss. At times, his freakish athleticism can certainly help him match up against opponents on the wing due to his 6’5″ height and 6’9″ wingspan. However, he can oftentimes be seen using that 44-inch vertical of his to get far too aggressive on the closeout and take himself out of the play entirely. That can be annoying from time to time, but with 31 steals and 17 blocks on the season, Connaughton remains active defensively.

Essentially, the guard is Milwaukee’s utility man in the second unit by doing some of everything to make his presence felt on the floor nightly. While he will not stuff the stat sheet most nights, Connaughton knows his role and how he can contribute to this team. For reference, his uptick in minutes has seen him in more late-game situations recently, and as he told reporters, he is comfortable with minutes in the biggest moments, which comes via

"“That’s something I pride myself on, making winning plays. Coming into the season, I wanted to be more consistent in general, more consistent with that, and being able to help the team in different ways. For me personally, it’s been shooting some nights, it’s been rebounding and defending other nights, and it’s been a combination of both hopefully every night.”"

Overall, Connaughton has been a solid rotational piece in the rotation for the Bucks. As evidenced by his nearly 30 minutes per game in March, Pat is someone who is trusted among the coaches and teammates, and he has ensured not to let them down.

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Has he been perfect? Of course not. Still, averaging career-highs in several statistical categories across the board, Connaughton’s contributions this season have been a pleasant surprise.