Why you (and the Milwaukee Bucks) shouldn’t give up on Jordan Nwora

PORTLAND, OREGON - FEBRUARY 05: (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OREGON - FEBRUARY 05: (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Alright, sure, the flashes may not be enticing to everyone but I’ll be damned if I didn’t shout out to Jordan Nwora after a pretty solid outing for the Milwaukee Bucks in their loss against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Despite the tough loss, Nwora had a nice night with 18 points on 70 percent true shooting as well as three rebounds.

I’ve written a ton about Nwora this year, the opportunities he’s been given, his up-and-down performance, but also the flashes that have kept me as one of the remaining members of Nwora Island. A lot of that was why I argued to keep him past the trade deadline.

It’s never perfect with Nwora (or any young player, if we’re being honest), and it wasn’t again last night, but I’m still willing to bet on the flashes he’s shown in spurts and that those flashes can become more consistent.

Jordan Nwora’s flashes for the Milwaukee Bucks continue to be enticing

Yes, I know that it’s frustrating watching Nwora chuck up a heat check or two outside of the flow of the offense. Giannis Antetokounmpo showed his frustration with it during the Sixers game in the third quarter when Nwora took a couple of heat check shots that didn’t fall.

As a Nwora optimist, it might frustrate me even more!

But seeing him get a bigger role in the offense when he gets the chance as the Bucks have been shorthanded yet again, you see why someone like myself gets so enticed by what he could be.

Now I’m not saying he’s going to be a star or even a full-time starter, I don’t think it’s fair to be those kinds of expectations on a late second-round pick. But there’s still a very real chance he can be a solid bench scoring option.

A lot of the frustration around Nwora offensively, from me as well, is that he tries to do a bit too much as a role player. In 64 games in his career coming off the bench, Nwora is averaging 5.6 points on 52 percent true shooting. In 11 games as a starter coming into last night, he’s averaged 16 points on nearly 55 percent true shooting, including 42 percent from 3.

He’s obviously a very confident player and that is both an asset and a hindrance. When he gets to start or even player bigger minutes and has more offensive freedom, we see what has me so curious as to what he can be in a couple of years.

This isn’t a ground-breaking take, but he needs to be reined in and it has been a process for him to have to learn to take a step back when he’s around Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday.

However, you’d much rather have to tell a player to rein it in than have to try to build up their confidence to take shots. You’re starting to see the results somewhat, as well! He’s been encouraged to fire away more catch-and-shoot 3s as opposed to his patented pull-up looks. In his last three games, six of his eight made triples were off the catch.

But of course, basketball is more than offense, there’s still a lot of headaches around his defense. It was a bit frustrating watching him against the Phoenix Suns and their impressive offensive sets.

I thought he held up relatively well against the Sixers and it was nice to see head coach Mike Budenholzer give him some late fourth-quarter minutes, though he did do a lot of offense-defense substituting with him when the game got extra tight.

Nwora isn’t going to become Wesley Matthews or Pat Connaughton as a defender, but if he can find a few things that he does well (he should some nice rim protection flashes early in the seasons) and build on those, it will help him stay on the floor and, eventually, get more chances on offense.

That’s the thing, Budenholzer will reward Nwora with more opportunities if he can simplify his game. The more he earns his head coach’s trust, the more freedom he’ll get outside of games where he’s inserted into the starting lineup when the Bucks are shorthanded.

Milwaukee has one of the lowest scoring benches in the league and while that may not matter come playoff time, finding guys who can help provide a spark when some of the big three are off would sure be nice. Nwora is a prime option to fill that void.

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It would also help to not make mistakes like not running to the corner, but that will hopefully come with more time playing around the team’s stars.