Milwaukee Bucks: Grading Sandro Mamukelashvili at the All-Star break

Dec 18, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming into the season, I don’t think anyone could have expected the Milwaukee Bucks to need the contributions that they’ve gotten from Sandro Mamukelashvili they have. That’s the reality of going into a season with a lack of depth in the frontcourt and then having to deal with injuries to two of those guys.

Mamukelashvili hasn’t played starters minutes or anything and since they’ve added guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, and Serge Ibaka, there has been less of a need for him but the 54th overall pick in the 2021 draft has been… not too bad.

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

Mamukelashvili has played a total of 315 minutes, which is 31st among rookies. He’s played around the same amount as lottery picks Moses Moody and James Bouknight! That, of course, doesn’t mean he’s as good as those players, just that the Bucks had to rely on him a fair amount at points this season.

His overall season averages are more reflective of a late second-rounder. The 22-year-old is averaging 3.0 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 0.5 assists in 9.3 minutes per game. If we wanted to have some fun with the per 36 numbers, he’s at 11.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and around one block and steal per game as well.

It’s hard to evaluate too much from Mamukelashvili in the NBA since so many of his appearances are in garbage time (he’s been under 10 minutes in 23 of his 34 games). But there have been some encouraging signs that he could carve out a role as a rotation player in the future.

The first is that he’s shooting over 38 percent from 3 on 4.5 attempts per 36 minutes. 46 percent of his shot attempts have come from 3, so he’s certainly got the volume. He was a 34 percent 3-point shooter in his final three college seasons (he took less than an attempt per game as a freshman), so there’s been a bit of an improvement.

If Mamukelashvili wants to stick around as a rotation player, especially with the Bucks, he’ll need to be able to nail his catch-and-shoot 3s when they swing it around to him. 36 of his 39 3-point attempts have come as catch-and-shoot opportunities and he’s made almost 39 percent of them! Encouraging!

The other skill is that Mamukelashvili has been very active on the offensive glass. He’s top five among rookies for offensive rebounding rate (8.4 percent) and that has been one of his primary ways of getting his own offense but it also helps generate offense for others.

We all saw the unique skills that Mamukelashvili showed in college with his ball-handling and passing, but that’s not what the Bucks need from him when he’s on the floor. His G League stints have allowed him to show more of that and he’s had some solid games with the Wisconsin Herd. In seven total games (so including that weird tournament they did at the beginning of the season), Mamukelashvili has averaged 19.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.3 blocks.

He’s also shooting 53 percent on five 3-point attempts per game, which is absolutely wild. This is true of his NBA games as well, but you can see how much he’s sped up his release since Summer League and how confident he looks taking 3s.

Naturally, there are negatives with any rookie and that’s true of Mamukelashvili as well. You can tell he’s just not there yet as an NBA defender. In games where he’s been asked to play a solid amount of minutes against real NBA competition, he’s consistently singled out on switches by the opposing team and it… doesn’t go well. Guards are shooting 63 percent against him and overall, he’s allowing opponents to shoot around 60 percent.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a rookie is struggling, let alone a rookie big man, let alone a rookie big man that was taken in the late second round. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t get better, but that’s a large reason as to why he’s not playing more given what he’s shown on offense so far. One thing I will say is that he doesn’t foul a lot, which is a good sign.

If he can keep crashing the offensive glass and hitting those catch-and-shoot looks when they come and then round out some of the other areas of his game, he might have a chance to be a decent rotation big in a couple of years.

BTBP All-Star Break Grade: C+

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There won’t be much of a chance for Mamukelashvili to play down the stretch if Ibaka, Bobby Portis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and (eventually) Brook Lopez are healthy but there may not be a better group of bigs to learn from for the rook.