Heading into the 2023-24 NBA season, the largest question marks for the Milwaukee Bucks revolved around the team’s wing rotation.
Who would start alongside Khris Middleton? Would the young guys get involved in the action? Could Milwaukee get meaningful production from their vets? The biggest question was which player would play the role of the team’s big wing defender, a.k.a. the player who can take on the toughest defensive assignments when called upon.
There were plenty of questions, which could be a common theme throughout the entire season. That position could ultimately be the difference between a title and an early exit.
As season progresses, keep an eye on the Milwaukee Bucks’ wing rotation
The Bucks have played one contest so far, so the team’s rotation is certainly not set in stone yet. In that game, Coach Adrian Griffin’s wing rotation went primarily as expected. Malik Beasley was the starting two-guard, Khris Middleton was on a minutes restriction, Pat Connaughton got time, MarJon Beauchamp got in on the action, and Jae Crowder – more of a four – saw a key role.
As for minutes distribution, Beasley got 31, Crowder got 27, Connaughton got 20, and Beauchamp and Middleton played 16 each.
Middleton, coming off off-season surgery and an injury-riddled 2022-23, is likely to be eased into the rotation. It may sometimes be frustrating, but the team needs to take as much precaution as possible, even if it involves playing less than 20 minutes to start. Having him healthy at the end of the year is outright essential.
Beasley has rightfully earned Milwaukee’s starting two-guard spot after an excellent preseason. He’ll perform well on offense, but the big question mark is what he can give on defense. Griffin is trying to make him a valuable defensive contributor, and if Beasley can indeed take that step, his importance to this team will know no bounds, especially later in the season.
Crowder, who came into the season very motivated, will be incredibly valuable for Milwaukee as they look to find their clear-cut big wing defender. Though it’s a small sample size of a couple of preseason games and one actual game, Crowder has looked much more competent on both ends of the floor for the Bucks this season than last year, showing that he could perhaps play that role.
Things get interesting when it comes to Connaughton and Beauchamp. The former is coming off a down year and struggled mightily in the preseason. If his struggles persist, difficult conversations may need to be had. Perhaps those talks could involve Beauchamp, who is poised for a leap in his second year, leapfrogging him in the rotation for good.
As he showed in the opener, Beauchamp can make his presence felt defensively whenever he is on the floor due to his length and athleticism. That type of impact is exactly what this team needs as they search for answers defensively. As long as he continues to perform, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the sophomore’s role grow consistently as the year goes on.
Two wild cards are Andre Jackson Jr. and a possible trade deadline acquisition. Jackson, a rookie, may not play much early on, but he, like Beauchamp, possesses all of the attributes to stand out on defense. If the other wings are struggling, perhaps Griffin could throw the youngster into the fire in an attempt to unearth some of his potential, primarily on the defensive side of things.
If the Bucks want to beef up their wing defense, perhaps they could swing a trade in the coming months for a household name like they did in 2021. That wouldn’t be until much further down the line, as the team likely wants to see what they have internally, and rightfully so, as there are many interesting names in the Milwaukee Bucks’ wing rotation right now.
It cannot be stressed enough how important finding that wing defender will be. While others like Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo are working, the Milwaukee Bucks need a player whose job is to make life as difficult as possible on the opposing team’s top player. It’s been a major weakness in recent memory, and it’s even more important now with Jrue Holiday gone.
For now, these first few months will likely be a “feel it out phase” for Griffin and these new-look Bucks as everyone aims to get accustomed to working together. Yet, by the time the end of the regular season starts approaching, the Milwaukee Bucks need to have that wing rotation figured out if they want to compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
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