With trade talk absent, 2 key veterans have started figuring it out for the Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks v Philadelphia 76ers
Milwaukee Bucks v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

In the months leading up to the 2024 NBA Trade Deadline, fans proposed hundreds of mock trades, 90 percent of which featured Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton or both.

Despite their importance to the team over the last several seasons, with both being members of that 2021 title team, many felt like it was time to move one or both of them. For much of the season, those takes were justified, as both Connaughton and Portis struggled mightily to make much of an impact consistently for Milwaukee.

It seemed like all of that trade talk may have had an impact on both players, as it can be stressful to wonder if you'll be wearing the same jersey tomorrow when you are in a matchup. Yet, to the surprise of many, neither player was forced to relocate at the deadline, with the team opting to keep them.

Many felt like keeping the two outright spelled doom for the Bucks, but whether it be due to the dark cloud of trade rumors disappearing or the coaching change, both players have given the team a big jolt following the All-Star break.

With trade talk absent, 2 key veterans have started figuring it out for the Bucks

Milwaukee's bench had lacked a consistent scoring punch this season that would typically come from Portis in years past. Yet, after the break, he's been excellent, averaging 17.5 points, the third-most on the team in that span, while shooting 53.7 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from 3-point range. He's stopped forcing post-ups like he did early in the season, and it has worked wonders for him.

In addition to the scoring, Portis has been rebounding the ball at a tremendous rate, pulling down 8.8 on average in this span after the All-Star break. In a recent win over the LA Clippers, Portis hauled in 16 rebounds, becoming the first player this season with a 25-point, 15-rebound performance off of the bench, per Stat Muse.

This is the version of Portis Milwaukee needs. When he's scoring, pull down rebounds and pounding his chest like he has been lately, the energy infects the entire roster, and they play better as a result.

Meanwhile, though Connaughton hasn't put up the gaudiest stats like Portis, but he's still played well in his role. Over his last six appearances, he's averaged 7.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and one steal per game, serving as a jack of all trades for Milwaukee. That's exactly the type of role he played for the Bucks during the 2021 title run, and they need him to do it again.

The biggest knock on Connaughton has been his 3-point shooting, as he's hit just 30.4 percent of his triples in this span. If he could bump that up several percentage points, his impact would be felt more than it already has been as of late. He's shown that he can be a high-level Swiss Army Knife, and even with that shot not falling, he's proven lately that he can still do that.

When the final buzzer sounded at the 2024 NBA Trade Deadline, it must have felt like a big weight was lifted off of the shoulders of Portis and Connaughton. They were finally assured that they would finish the season in Milwaukee, and their play has benefitted because of it. Hopefully they can keep up this strong play down the stretch, as the Bucks will need them.

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