Milwaukee Bucks: Grading Jordan Nwora’s season at the All-Star break

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

If you want a microcosm of the Milwaukee Bucks season this year, the year Jordan Nwora has been having is probably pretty close.

The sophomore came into the season with a lot of folks expecting him to take a leap into being a consistent rotation player this year and that… hasn’t happened. But, what has happened is that there have been a lot of nice flashes mixed in with some frustrating moments. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone considering he’s a second round pick and it can take time for any young player to figure it out.

It hasn’t been smooth, but Nwora is having an interesting second NBA season.

Evaluating Jordan Nwora’s 2021-22 season with the Milwaukee Bucks at the NBA All-Star break

Let’s get his overall numbers out of the way. In 46 games, Nwora is averaging 8.3 points on 51.3 percent true shooting, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists. Not the most impressive, but there have been some moments.

That’s the thing with any young player, especially one that was taken later in the draft. You shouldn’t be looking for them to be amazing right away, but you’re looking for those flashes of what they could be if their development goes according to plan.

Even as a big Nwora supporter, I can admit that he didn’t start the season well and it made sense why he fell out of the rotation. The opportunity was there for him to grab hold of a rotation spot after a successful preseason and while the team was dealing with a slew of injuries.

In his first 17 games, he played over 20 minutes a night but averaged eight points on 50 percent true shooting. That’s essentially his season average in points and his true shooting right there.

He played sparingly until COVID hit the Bucks hard and forced him into a starting role. That’s when we saw some big flashes. In those five starts, Nwora averaged 16 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.6 steals. He shot over 43 percent on six 3-point attempts per game and his true shooting bumped up to 53 percent in that time. Not elite efficiency, but better.

That has been more of what we’ve seen from him since that five-game stretch. In his final 18 games leading up to the break, the 23-year-old played nearly 20 minutes a night, averaged 8.6 points on 53 percent true shooting and three rebounds per game.

Nwora has immense confidence in himself and his scoring ability, as he should. He’s shown that he can get hot and have big nights when he’s really feeling it. The problem becomes when the confidence is too high in certain moments and he’ll try to score outside of the flow of the offense.

That wouldn’t be as big of a problem if he had more freedom such as when he starts and gets to play 35+ minutes when a few starters are out and they need his offense. That’s when it’s ok for him to take the contested stepback 3 and get into his bag a bit more.

But for him to become a more valuable role player, he needs to worry more about being in the right positions for catch-and-shoot opportunities, moving off-ball to create open passing lanes, etc. He’s too talented to be limited to just that role all the time, but for when he’s sharing the floor with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday? That’s what his job is at that moment.

He’s around 37 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities this season but struggled going into the break, only connecting on 27 percent of those looks in his last 10 games, per

I’m also going to need him to stop settling for long 2s. I’m not anti-mid range by any means, but if you’re shooting 9-for-45 from anywhere, it’s not the best shot (from Cleaning the Glass). He does have a nice floater game that could be developed a bit more when he gets the chance to play in an expanded role.

A few things I’ve liked about Nwora’s game this season: he’s turned the ball over way less this season, he doesn’t foul, he’s a solid rim protector for his position, and he’s a good individual rebounder.

The defense is still a work in progress and there are still moments where he’s out of position, caught ball-watching, etc. But again, a young player. I’ve said before that for a player like Nwora, I’m more concerned with finding a couple of things that he can do well and building on those. No one should expect him to be Kawhi Leonard, but we’ve seen that he can defend the rim and has good instincts for when to go up for blocks. It’s impressive that he has such a low foul rate while still being a good rim protector.

Maybe I’m being too lenient because I’m caught up in what I think he can become with those self-creation flashes. It’s entirely possible that he doesn’t end up finding a role with the Bucks and moves on, it happens with the majority of second round picks.

But I’m going to keep choosing to see what a player can do as opposed to what they can’t. I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again, but I don’t think we can give up on Nwora yet.

BTBP All-Star Break Grade: C

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The Bucks still have depth issues on the wing due to injuries, so Nwora will still have opportunities coming out of the break.