Several factors have sparked life into Milwaukee Bucks’ second unit lately

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 24 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 24 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

Bench production has been among the Milwaukee Bucks’ most significant problems this season. On the year, Milwaukee’s bench brigade is averaging 27.3 points per contest (30th in NBA) while shooting 40.5 percent from the floor (30th in NBA) and 33.6 percent from distance (16th in NBA). These numbers have obviously been problematic for the defending champions, but the bench has shown signs of improved play lately as the Bucks look to close the regular season strong.

Assessing the Milwaukee Bucks’ vastly improved bench production recently

Over their last four games, the Bucks’ bench has averaged 45 points per game (fifth) while also shooting 45.3 percent from the floor (17th) and 35.6 percent from deep (17th). Though it comes via an incredibly small sample size, the bench brigade has been much better lately, and it is clear to see the handful of reasons why.

First and foremost, Pat Connaughton has been back in Milwaukee’s lineup for these four games following a month-long absence due to surgery. Despite the long layoff, Connaughton picked up right where he left off by averaging 13.5 points while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor and a stellar 39.3 percent from deep on seven attempts per game. Numbers like that have undoubtedly given the Bucks’ bench a much-needed jolt of energy as Connaughton has continued to light it up on the offensive end in what has been his most productive season as a professional to date.

Right behind Connaughton in the production column is Serge Ibaka, who has averaged nine points while shooting 36.4 percent from behind the arc. Ibaka has finished with double-digit points in his last two appearances, having given the Bucks a sizeable boost offensively. Sticking with the Bucks’ newcomers, Jevon Carter has always given them a lift on the offensive end by averaging 8.8 points while shooting an astounding 70 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from behind the arc. The guard has been outstanding since he came aboard, but his numbers lately have been through the roof in this brief stretch, which has helped improve Milwaukee’s bench production mightily.

This massive improvement in bench scoring has surprisingly come while Bobby Portis has battled with a pesky shooting slump. During his three appearances off the bench in this stretch, Portis has averaged just 6.5 points while shooting 26.3 percent from the field and 20 percent from three. The big man has had a tough time adjusting to his bench role after spending virtually all of the season in the starting lineup, and understandably so. As poorly as Portis has shot it since returning to the bench, he spent all of last season thriving in a sixth-man role, and once he regains his footing with the second unit, he should start clicking one again. Once he does, this bench unit will be even more formidable than it has already been lately.

In short, though it comes in a small sample size, this strong play from Milwaukee’s second unit is welcoming. Connaughton’s return has largely sparked this rapid increase in production, while the new tandem of Ibaka and Carter have made an impact as well. It will be worth monitoring whether the Bucks’ bench can keep it up down the stretch as the team has a tough schedule ahead.

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Hopefully this recent stellar play is a sign of things to come for the Milwaukee Bucks.