Milwaukee Bucks: Ranking the 6 best passers on the 2021-22 roster

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 20 (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 20 (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Donte DiVincenzo
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – MAY 11 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

I’ve found that one of the more underappreciated skills in the NBA has always been passing. It’s not always about making the flashy passes like Steve Nash but also being able to create passing angles and make plays that aren’t really open right away (something Nash was also great at). The Milwaukee Bucks don’t have any elite passers. I don’t think that’s unfair to say.

However, they do have guys who are very good at creating those passing angles and can reliably set up their teammates for good looks. I wouldn’t say passing is a big strength of the Bucks, not like shooting will be for the 2021-22 team, but their best players are their best passers, and the role players generally make the right pass at the right time.

The Bucks under Mike Budenholzer have finished 12th (2020-21), 5th (2019-20), and 7th (2018-19) in assists per game, showing that they have been really good at moving the ball around as a team while not having an elite passer such as Nikola Jokic or Chris Paul on their team.

Expect that with more comfortability in the new offensive sets that Budenholzer implemented last season, there will be better assist numbers in the coming season. Most of the names on this list shouldn’t be a surprise, but the ones that were left off are more limited in their playmaking capabilities. With that being said, let us rank the passers for the 2021-22 Bucks.

Ranking the best passers on the Milwaukee Bucks: No. 6 – Sandro Mamukelashvili

I think in terms of pure passing capabilities, Sandro Mamukelashvili would be a little higher than just sixth on the roster. However, he hasn’t played an NBA game yet, so it’s hard to put him ahead of some of the more accomplished passers on the Bucks.

In college, Mamukelashvili really blossomed as a passer in his senior season when he had a bigger role in the offense, and his usage rate jumped by almost four percent from his junior season. His assist rate jumped from 11 percent to over 20 percent in his final year, and he averaged over three assists per game for Seton Hall.

At his size, he has a truly unique game, and his passing skills are a big part of that. I was excited that we got to see a glimpse of it during Summer League, where he made some pretty nifty passes. If he can find a role in the NBA with the Bucks, then Mamukelashvili will absolutely rise in a ranking like this.

Ranking the best passers on the Milwaukee Bucks: No. 5 – Donte DiVincenzo

I think this one may surprise some people, but I liked the strides that Donte DiVincenzo took as a passer this past season, and I wanted to give him a shoutout for it. I don’t think anyone will confuse DiVincenzo for an elite passer or even one of the three best on the team, but he’s becoming more reliable in a playmaking role. He’s made some pretty slick passes, including a couple from a game against the Detroit Pistons on January 4th.

His assist rate bumped up to a little bit over 14 percent and his turnover rate dropped by nearly two percent from the previous season to 12.5 percent. They’ve experimented with DiVincenzo at point guard a little bit the last couple of seasons, and while it hasn’t been great, he’s been able to show he’s a capable secondary ball-handler when needed.

Per Second Spectrum, DiVincenzo created nearly eight points from his assists per game and, by adjusted assists, was right around four per game. For a player with a relatively low usage on a team that has three ball-dominant players, those are pretty solid numbers.

Milwaukee Bucks: Jrue Holiday
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 07: (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Ranking the best passers on the Milwaukee Bucks: No. 4 – George Hill

George Hill has been such a consistently solid passer throughout his career that I don’t know if he fully gets appreciated for it at times. He’s settled in nicely at a career 18.2 percent assist rate but has had years where he was above 20 percent and even a year over 30 percent. As a guard, those are not the highest numbers in the world, but he can competently make the right passes as a role player and even make some flashier/harder ones such as this.

I think there’s a gap between Hill and the top three passers on the team, but Hill is certainly a solid passer. In 2019-20, Hill created the same amount of assist points per game as DiVincenzo and also had nearly four adjusted assists per game.

Ranking the best passers on the Milwaukee Bucks: No. 3 – Jrue Holiday

This is where the big gap between the role players and the Bucks star players begins. I think you could comfortably rank the Bucks three stars in any order, and I’d be fine with it, but for now, I have Jrue Holiday at number three.

My biggest knock against Holiday is that he’s sometimes a little too ambitious or aggressive with his passes, and it can lead to turnovers. He’s also not a player that can always make a passing decision on the fly and is more of a premeditated passer. Other than that, he is quite terrific and making cross-court skip passes and nice pocket passes in the pick and roll.

Part of what made him such an upgrade over Eric Bledsoe was that even if he wasn’t scoring, his defense and passing were always consistently on point. He made a pass in Game 7 against the Brooklyn Nets in particular that really impressed me.

One of the biggest criticisms of Holiday’s game is that he can over-pass at times and not be aggressive enough, which I do agree with, and it was a big point of emphasis among the Bucks last season. Overall, having a point guard like Holiday who can make these types of passes is a breath of fresh air for Bucks fans.