Do the Milwaukee Bucks need to get more offense from their bench?

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 22 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 22 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

If you want a microcosm of the 2021-22 Milwaukee Bucks season, then look no further than their up and down bench production this season.

Before the preseason, I said that this is the deepest Bucks roster in a long, long time. Although I had relatively high expectations for players such as Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood, I figured that even with a couple of underwhelming seasons, the Bucks would have above-average to good bench production this season.

The addition of Grayson Allen meant that either he or Donte DiVincenzo would be coming off the bench, meaning they’d have another starter caliber player to play as a reserve. Well, through injuries and injury recovery, the Bucks haven’t had that and their bench has been a source of frustration as they’ve let the starters down in a few games this season.

How bad has the offensive output for the Milwaukee Bucks bench been and why is it happening?

I still believe the Bucks have great depth and they could absolutely win the title with the players they have as reserves right now. Would a trade help? Sure, but it’s not a necessity in my mind. Though some intriguing bench scoring options could be added. Still, the bench hasn’t been great and it could become a reason to worry when the games start to matter.

I’ll say this first: bench scoring shouldn’t be a priority for a championship team since you’ll shorten your rotations the deeper you go into the postseason and how much offense you get from your five or six best players is what matters most.

However, the Bucks have the second-lowest scoring bench at 27.1 points per game. They’re behind other contenders such as the Brooklyn Nets (23rd, 32.4 PPG), Golden State Warriors (9th, 37.0 PPG), Phoenix Suns (7th, 37.4 PPG), and Miami Heat (3rd, 39.1 PPG).

Field goal percentage is a flawed stat, but the Bucks bench has the lowest field goal percentage at 39.2 percent while being 18th in 3-point percentage at 33.0. They don’t get to the line whatsoever (4.3 free throw attempts per game, lowest in the league) which doesn’t help matters, but it’s mostly because their reserve players are asked to catch-and-shoot as opposed to driving to the basket and drawing contact.

This is all down from last season where the Bucks had a middle-of-the-road bench (19th, 34.8 PPG) despite having a roster that I consider to be worse than this one. So what’s going on, why has the production dropped off even though they have a talented group?

First and foremost is that Bobby Portis has started most of the games this season due to Brook Lopez’s injury. You lose over 11 points per game from Portis and basically haven’t replaced it (aside from the 17 games when they got around nine points per game from DeMarcus Cousins).

DiVincenzo has also seen his scoring average drop by over three points per game, so he hasn’t been able to fill the Portis-sized hole in production either.

Another source of frustration has been George Hill’s lack of shooting. He would have been an option to fill that hole and even add to their bench production, but he’s shooting a little over 31 percent from 3 and is averaging 7.1 points per game.

The one consistent source of offense from the Bucks’ reserves has been Pat Connaughton. His shooting has been much-needed to be a pillar of offense in Milwaukee’s rotation at over 40 percent on nearly six attempts a night.

Jordan Nwora could be someone that would help boost the Bucks’ lack of bench offense but his minutes have been spotty after a rough start to the season where he didn’t help the bench scoring either.

This is all to say that I’m not worried or concerned. All of the players I listed (save for Nwora) all have value outside of their scoring. DiVincenzo, Hill, and Connaughton (as well as Wesley Matthews) are all good or better defenders and that’s almost more important when the playoffs arrive. If they can hang on defense, then the Bucks will piece together enough offense through their Big 3, Portis, and Allen to make it work.

Also, if and when Lopez returns and pushes Portis to a reserve role again, that will be a massive boost. It’s also fair to assume that guys such as DiVincenzo won’t shoot this poorly the rest of the way.

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For now, though, they’ll need to live with their bench being limited offensively and that there will be bad nights mixed in with good ones (as is the case with almost every reserve player).