In his first season with the Bucks, Pat Connaughton will be called on to add depth to the back end of the bench. Though the role isn’t expected to be big, the 25-year-old shooting guard has some upside as he enters his fourth season in the league. When injuries or shooting droughts hit other players, Connaughton will be entrusted help Giannis, Khris, and Eric keep the Bucks rolling.
Last season, Connaughton saw the biggest role of his three-year career. In his third year with the Portland Trail Blazers, Connaughton averaged 18.1 minutes per-game while posting career-high averages in every major statistical category. While his 5.4 points per-game didn’t set the world on fire, it didn’t need to when playing next to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. However, he showed an ability to put up points when needed by scoring double digit points in 12 games, including a 24 point effort in the Blazers’ season opener. His on/off splits prove that he helped his team on offense, though his defensive effort not have had much of a positive impact.
Areas for Improvement:
For a guy towards the end of the bench, would you be surprised if I said he could improve everything? Connaughton has the potential to be a solid role player, but so far he hasn’t shown to have one attribute that can’t be found in a better form elsewhere on the roster. However, if there’s one thing that Bucks fans should hope for when it comes to improvement, it should be Connaughton’s assist numbers. Coach Budenholzer is putting an offensive system in place that emphasizes ball movement, so an improvement in assists will be a sign that Connaughton is helping to keep the ball moving to Giannis and Khris instead of bogging down the offense.
Projected Role: Extra Guard Depth
Looking at the Bucks’ roster, it’s hard to see how Connaughton will have a large role this season with Bledsoe, Brogdon, Delly, Snell, and DiVincenzo all vying for minutes in the backcourt. Add in Middleton and Sterling Brown as possible shooting guards in bigger lineups, and Pat Connaughton appears to be on the outside looking in as far as the rotation is concerned. However, injuries happen. Last season, the Bucks depended on players like DeAndre Liggins and Sean Kilpatrick for guard depth, and struggled whenever they took the floor. He may not be called on often, but when he does, Connaughton will need to help keep the team clicking.
Projected Key Stat: Three-Point Shooting
As the Bucks head into this new season, Coach Budenholzer has made it clear that three-point shooting will be a priority for the team’s offense. Connaughton should be able to contribute to this when he is on the floor, though this is another skill that the shooting guard needs to take a step forward on. While his 35 percent three-point average last season was pretty good, it was still a point below league average (for reference, his average would put him between Middleton and Brown’s averages for last season).
While shooting will be incredibly important for Connaughton this season, defense may be what determines his minute total. Considering how many other players will be counted on to lead the offense, Pat will need to prove his value on the defensive side of the ball. Consider who’s playing in front of him. Brogdon, Bledsoe, Delly, and Snell all have a reputation of playing decent defense while also being important offensive players. If Connaughton wants to stay on the court, he needs to keep Giannis and the starters from having to play catch up at the end of games.