As the Bucks left the court following their embarrassing 4-1 defeat to the Miami Heat in the second round, Connaughton’s future was uncertain. He was set to hit unrestricted free agency, and although he made no bones about wanting to return, the feeling was not mutual from a large portion of the fanbase. The guard had a lackluster showing against the Heat, and many wanted the Bucks to just let him walk.
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However, the Bucks opted to go against the grain and bring him back on a hefty three-year deal worth $16 million, which rubbed many people the wrong way as they felt like it was a massive overpay for a player that was practically unplayable in the previous postseason.
Connaughton would have to regain the trust of this fanbase, and after playing a career-high 22.8 minutes per game in the regular season, he slowly started to do just that. Yet, his shining moment undoubtedly came in the NBA Finals.
Pat Connaughton was downright sensational for the Milwaukee Bucks en route to winning the 2021 NBA Finals
Becoming a staple in the playoff rotation by seeing the most minutes among any reserve, Connaughton was destined for a bigger role in the NBA Finals. Indeed, he played 30 minutes per contest across six games, and he undoubtedly made good with the opportunity as he provided the team with a massive spark in the second unit.
He would average 9.2 points on 47.5 percent (19-of-40) shooting from the floor, including a phenomenal 44.1 (15-of-34) from 3-point range. Aside from a rare scoreless outing in Game 6, the guard was electric offensively, knocking down his shots, particularly from the outside, with the utmost consistency. Shooting from the perimeter had been among his most prominent flaws in the past, but one would not have guessed that after watching him confidently let it fly from long range during this series. His 15 made 3-pointers were the second most in this series only behind 16 made from both Khris Middleton and Jae Crowder.
When he was not shooting the lights out, Connaughton was making the hustle plays consistently for the Bucks, particularly in the rebounding department. He would finish the series with 35 total rebounds, the fourth most on the team. His persistent effort was particularly evident on the glass offensively, where he would gather 10 boards throughout the series. Putting that high-flying athleticism to good use, Connaughton created many second-chance opportunities to help keep the offense going.
Following the team’s Game 6 victory, Connaughton spoke to the media about what it meant to him to not only win this title but to do it in front of the home crowd. He would praise the fans in the process, highlighting just how important they were during this eventful postseason run that ended with the Bucks hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Via the Milwaukee Bucks official YouTube:
"“Just the support you’ve felt around the city throughout this entire playoff run has been incredible. To be able to do it and win it and be able to call ourselves world champions in front of our home fans… It’s incredible. You know, the city of Milwaukee deserves it. I’m just proud that I could be a part of a team with my teammates that gave it to them.”"
Following a spectacular showing in the NBA Finals, Pat Connaughton has achieved redemption after being subject to significant criticism throughout the previous year. He entered this season with a massive chip on his shoulder, and what better way to end it than helping the team win a championship for the first time in 50 years.
Connaughton will be back next season and beyond, and he has undeniably earned his place among the many fan-favorites for this franchise.