Milwaukee Bucks: What does a fully healthy rotation look like?

Jul 8, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Jul 8, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

Let me tell you a story about the Milwaukee Bucks. It happens in a not-so-distant future, but a future that Bucks fans are still unsure will ever come. It’s a story about the defending champions having a fully healthy roster and how good they could be once that happens. I know, it sounds crazy after a wonky preseason and two regular-season games but there is a world where the Bucks will have their full complement of players for at least one game this year!

It was expected that the Bucks would be without Donte DiVincenzo to begin the season and even resting some of their key players if they picked up any nagging injuries (such as Brook Lopez and his sore back). But we’ve already seen the champs be without six total potential rotation players for a game already and have been without four of them for multiple games already.

It has caused some uneven performances due to younger players being forced to play more minutes than they’d normally be expected to against strong competition. It’s been somewhat of a positive to get guys like Sandro Mamukelashvili and Justin Robinson early minutes, but they’ve also been the cause of some of those uneven performances.

But what will a full rotation look like for the Bucks once everyone is available?

Predicting the full rotation for the Milwaukee Bucks once all players are available

It’s unlikely that the Bucks will have their full roster for many games this season with their objective to rest key players and be extra cautious with injuries, but it will no doubt happen at some point.

When fully healthy, the Milwaukee Bucks could reasonably have an 11-man rotation for the regular season. That would be shortened to at least nine players for the first round of the playoffs unless the Bucks think they can walk over their first-round opponent and want to give everyone a chance to play.

It’s not unfair to say that Mamukelashvili, Robinson, and Georgios Kalaitzakis won’t be in the rotation once the Bucks have all their players available, so we’ll leave them out. Let’s begin with the starters since that’s the easiest group to predict:

  1. Jrue Holiday
  2. Grayson Allen/Donte DiVincenzo
  3. Khris Middleton
  4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  5. Brook Lopez

The big three should all see 30+ minutes depending on how close the game is, they could rest early if they blow a team out like against the Brooklyn Nets. Lopez’s minutes will fluctuate based on matchups and foul trouble, but he should see at least 25 minutes per game and remains a lock as a starter.

I’m still not ready to fully entrench Allen as the starting two-guard yet but he has certainly made a great case for himself. He looks very comfortable in his new surroundings and his percentages should normalize with the looks he’s getting. DiVincenzo brings a different element with his defense and ball-handling, but we’ll see if the improved shooting from last year carries over. Now for the key reserves.

  • Bobby Portis
  • George Hill
  • Pat Connaughton
  • Allen/DiVincenzo

It’s a lock that these three guys and whichever of Allen and DiVincenzo doesn’t start will be guaranteed minutes. Portis showed last year the value he brings with his spacing as a big, his rebounding at both ends, and the energy that he has to be in the rotation. Hill has struggled a little bit early on, but he’s still a very good veteran ball handler that can defend both guard positions and knock-down shots. Connaughton has become one of the more underrated parts of this team and is a great player at filling in the gaps on offense while being able to guard multiple positions confidently.

The minutes are a little looser here but 20 or so (give or take for how each one is playing that game) would be right around what you should expect for each guy. Then there are the fringe rotation guys who could earn more minutes depending on their performance.

  • Semi Ojeleye
  • Rodney Hood
  • Jordan Nwora

Nwora looks like someone who will need to be in head coach Mike Budenholzer’s rotation because of his spacing (shooting over 40 percent on 3s so far) and he’s showing definitive improvement on the defensive end, which was the biggest key for him to getting playing time.

However, there are a few impediments to just how many minutes he’ll get and they both missed the first two games in Hood and Ojeleye. Sure, it might sound a little crazy that two guys making the minimum would hold back a young player who shows real promise, but they’re veteran guys who won’t have the growing pains that Nwora will have. That being said, there is a possibility where they can all play in the rotation.

Ojeleye is a strong defender who will hopefully fill some of what P.J. Tucker did on defense and has improved his shooting over the last couple of seasons. If he can do those things consistently, he will have a role with the Bucks, it just might not be as big as the four key rotation guys above him. Hood is a wild card after struggling last season coming off a devastating injury, but he’s proven to be a solid bucket-getter when healthy who can space the floor. He and Nwora are in similar roles and that’s one of the more interesting subplots of the Bucks season as they battle for playing time.

It’s hard to predict how the minutes will shake out between these three, but Ojeleye has the easiest path to gaining more if he’s hitting shots and the need for more players in the big man rotation. That would also mean Thanasis Antetokounmpo could get some spot minutes here or there and he’s not been too bad early on, but I’d take the 11 guys ahead of him. He’s still an energy guy who Budenholzer will use at the end of quarters to bring a spark, draw a foul, or get under an opponent’s skin.

I’d been looking forward to seeing how Budenholzer would flesh out the minutes with the new acquisitions before Nwora decided to announce with his play that he deserves a look in the rotation. Now I’m looking forward to it even more but will have to wait a little longer for it to happen.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: Analyzing Pat Connaughton’s steal of a contract. dark

The one bright side of these injuries is that it keeps the Milwaukee Bucks from having to make tough playing time decisions and just keep kicking that can down the road.