Does Doc Rivers not play young pieces? What happened to minutes for Bucks' youth?

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers
Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The impact coach Doc Rivers has had on the Milwaukee Bucks cannot be overstated: this is not the same team. The sets are different, the schemes look different, the coaching staff is changing and the defense looks much-improved. 

Another key critical change is the player rotations. The minutes seemed to have increased for the veterans on this team. But those increased minutes have come at the expense of Milwaukee’s younger players.

Why have these changes been made? And has it helped? Let’s look a little closer at the player rotation; especially as it pertains to MarJon Beauchamp, Andre Jackson Jr., and AJ Green.

A statistical look at the minutes

In a Tuesday-night home blowout win over the Charlotte Hornets, Beauchamp played nine minutes. 

Nine minutes! In a total shakedown? In a game where it would totally make sense to rest some veteran guys?

In a big win against the Brooklyn Nets on Dec. 27, Beauchamp played 21 minutes, scoring 11 points. He was also 2-of-3 from the 3-point line. Milwaukee won (144-122). At that point in the season, it felt like he was playing.

For Beauchamp, this might (and this could be a stretch here) have something to do with the team attempting to showcase him to trade him. I don’t have any quotes from the team or from Beauchamp himself that would give this theory away, but still, to go from playing under Adrian Griffin to not playing under Rivers is a change. 

Jackson did not play in Tuesday’s blowout win. In the first meeting between the two teams, AJJ played eight minutes; in the second meeting between the two, he played 13 minutes. His playing time is down.

For Jackson, being a rookie doesn’t help. Doc Rivers makes you earn your spot and work hard to get playing time. Here is 76ers star Tyrese Maxey on his relationship with Rivers. Transcribed by Liberty Ballers' Josh Grieb:

One thing I do appreciate him for is early in my career, like in my rookie year, he made me earn my spot,” he said, “and that’s going to go a long way for me. I feel like I was good enough to play, but he was able to humble me and make me earn my spot."

Rivers has that veteran-coaching mentality that rookies must earn their keep in the NBA. That is very different from his predecessor.

A benefactor of the switch to coach Rivers seems to be AJ Green. If anything, his minutes seem to have gone up. Green did play under Griffin but now seems to be locked into around 15 minutes per contest.

In a Feb. 9 blowout win, Green played 13 minutes. He ended the game with 8 points. In the second game against Charlotte, Green played 18 minutes. He shot 1-of-9 from 3. That’s not very good. Rather than being pulled, Rivers seems to keep playing him now. 

For AJ Green, there does not seem to be another player (Jae Crowder, Pat Connaughton) blocking his way to minutes.

More on Rivers

Doc Rivers is an accomplished NBA coach. He played professionally in the league, playing in 864 career games. He played for Atlanta, the Clippers, the Knicks, and the Spurs and over his 13-year playing career averaged close to 11 points a game (10.9). He is the definition of an NBA player's coach.

One should also assume as a rookie he was asked to “earn” his way onto the court.

Rivers has been awarded an “NBA Coach of the Year" and was also named one of the 15 greatest coaches in NBA history. He won an NBA championship as the coach of the Boston Celtics in the 2007-2008 season. He made another NBA finals with the Celtics two years later. The Celtics lost that year to the LA Lakers.

Milwaukee has been hot after the NBA All-Star break, going undefeated so far following a turbulent past few weeks.

All of this takes time. The ultimate lesson here is that it still is the NBA regular season. Milwaukee currently sits as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. If you are in the top four seeds, what does it matter? You get home-court advantage in the first round. And then you play on and try to get to the finals. 

For this franchise and for AJJ, Beauchamp, Doc Rivers and everyone else, any issues related to playing time will all be wiped away if the Bucks reach their ultimate goal of winning the NBA title.