Front and Center: The Bucks’ Big Man Dilemma

The Bucks have three quality centers: Greg Monroe, John Henson and Miles Plumlee. Who will remain a Buck next season? Plus: Giannis dunks on the Pistons’ entire team, a shooting breakdown in our Stats of the Week, and more.

Jason Kidd does not like playing two big men at the same time and has rarely used the tactic during his nearly two seasons as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.

“The NBA is about shooting threes, so that eliminates a big,” Kidd said before the March 15 game against the Toronto Raptors. “When you look at the stretch four, everyone has one. And now, sometimes even your stretch four plays the five. The league is changing, and we’ve had to adapt to that.”

However, despite speaking out against two-big lineups, Kidd has used the tactic since John Henson’s return from injury on March 15.

Why has Kidd made such a seemingly drastic tactical change?

The Bucks have three centers worth playing, but Kidd only appears to want to use two centers in his normal rotations. Let’s take a look at each player and their case to remain a Buck next season.


Greg Monroe

Season Per Game Statistics: 30 minutes, 15.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, .9 steals, .9 blocks

Age: 25

His Case: Greg Monroe is still the Bucks’ biggest free-agent signing of all-time and pretty much the exact player everyone thought he was when the Bucks signed him during the summer of 2015. Despite much hand-wringing from some Bucks fans, his numbers have been nearly identical to his numbers from last season with the Pistons.

The concerns over his fit with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker are indeed real. But since the All-Star Break, the four-man combination of Monroe, Parker, Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton has been +4.1 (points per 100 possessions) after being a -2.4 before the All-Star Break.

Monroe is under contract with the Bucks for two more seasons, but has a player option allowing him to leave Milwaukee after the 2016-17 season.

John Henson

Season Per Game Statistics: 16.5 minutes, 6.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1 assist, .3 steals, 2 blocks

Age: 25

His case: John Henson missed 20 consecutive games in January, February, and March with a back issue and has played just five games since the All-Star Break, so this season may not be the most revealing part of his case to stay in Milwaukee.

In the 2014-15 season, Henson proved he was a capable rim protector on defense and capable rim runner on offense. His most notable success came as the Bucks’ starting center while the Bucks’ aggressive defense was at its best and they won six of seven games before last year’s All-Star break.

His play ultimately netted him a four-year, $44 million contract extension that kicks in this summer.

Miles Plumlee

Season Per Game Statistics: 12.9 minutes, 4.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, .3 assists, .3 steals, .9 blocks

Age: 27

His case: In the year since Miles Plumlee had been traded to the Bucks, he had played in just 52 of a possible 83 games for the Bucks with many of those appearances coming in mop-up duty late in games. Since the All-Star Break, however, Plumlee has appeared in every game and has played on a number of the Bucks’ best four-man and five-man lineups.

Most importantly though, he was inserted to the starting lineup when Antetokounmpo made the leap and Parker showed off his vast potential for the first extended period of time. Unfortunately, for the Bucks, Plumlee’s contract is dirt cheap this season, but he hits free agency this offseason. Fortunately, though, he will be a restricted free agent, so the Bucks have the option to match any contract offered to him.


The Bucks have a tough decision to make this offseason, but it’s a decision that may be made for them. Some team may pay an exorbitant amount of money for Plumlee after his recent strong play. Or, there may not be a trade market for Henson or Monroe. No one knows what the future holds, but it does seem pretty apparent that the Bucks will have to either choose just two players to keep on the roster or completely change the way they play.

Clip of the Week

Just a 1-on-5 fastbreak dunk. No big deal.

Antetokounmpo defies reason.

What to Read (aka your weekly roundup of Giannis articles)

Blogtable: Antetokounmpo’s future as a point guard – gathered a number of their writers to give their opinion on what the future holds for Antetokounmpo at the point guard position. There are a variety of takes — some good, some involve Rajon Rondo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo awakens as a 6’11” point guard-playing terror – At Sporting News, Ian Levy dissects Antetokounmpo’s play at point guard and just how extraordinary his progression as a playmaker has been in the last few weeks. (The stats and graphs are AWESOME.)

Why Giannis Antetokounmpo Playing Point Guard is Unfair – This is cheating because you need to watch this, instead of reading it, but so be it. Coach Nick at Bball Breakdown puts together a comprehensive nine-minute video that shows how difficult it is for opposing teams to gameplan for Antetokounmpo.

Week in Review

Thursday – Tyler Ennis, Rashad Vaughn, Damien Inglis, John Henson, and Miles Plumlee played the final 12 minutes of the game and outscored the Memphis Grizzlies 28-13 to lead the Bucks to a 96-86 victory. Even crazier, Henson picked up two technical fouls by mean mugging Lance Stephenson and Matt Barnes, which resulted in Henson’s ejection and Barnes attempting to see him in the Bucks locker room.

Sunday – After a slow but even start from both teams, the Jazz blew out the Bucks in the third quarter to take control of the game the Bucks ultimately lost 94-85. Parker led the Bucks with 19 points and eight rebounds and Antetokounmpo chipped in 12 points and seven assists.

Monday – After disappointing performances in back-to-back games, the Bucks starters came out and put themselves in a position to win on Monday night, leading 91-90 with 5 seconds left. The officials missed Tobias Harris traveling on the inbounds pass and allowed play to continue, which eventually ended with Andre Drummond tipping in a shot that gave the Bucks a 92-91 loss.

Wednesday – The Cavaliers are always in the news, but on Wednesday night, it could actually be because they won a basketball game as they beat the Bucks 113-104. LeBron James took over the game throughout and ended with 26 points, eight assists, and six rebounds, which looked a lot like Antetokounmpo’s line of 24 points, six assists, and six rebounds.

Next Week’s Preview

Friday – The Bucks will travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks, who have been hot recently and won 11 of their last 14 games. The last meeting between the two teams was a double overtime thriller in Atlanta, which featured a 28 point, 13 rebound performance from Parker in the Bucks’ 117-109 win.

Saturday – The Bucks will have little rest before getting back into action at home against the Charlotte Hornets. Like Atlanta, Charlotte is playing well lately, having lost just five games in all of February and March combined.

Wednesday – After a three-day rest, the Bucks will host the struggling Phoenix Suns in the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Suns have been one of the league’s most disappointing teams this season and seem to be a complete mess as an organization right now.

Stats of the Week

This week, Daniel Rowell wrote about Kyrie Irving’s role in Cleveland, which was great, but not of concern in this space. While writing about Irving, he put together a data set that maps out true shooting percentage and usage percentage on x-and-y coordinates for every player in the league. It’s a helpful illustration that shows how often players are using their team’s possessions and how well they are shooting while using those possessions.

Usage and TS Percentages

To mess with the data and see what’s going on around the rest of the league, go to!/vizhome/USGandTS/Sheet1 and play around.

Bucks takeaways:

  1. Antetokounmpo, Monroe, and Middleton are all efficient scorers with above-average usage. All three could certainly improve, but it is quite impressive to already see Middleton and Antetokounmpo score efficiently in their first years with large offensive roles.
  2. Bayless and Henson also find themselves in one of the good quadrants as they have been able have above-average true shooting percentages, while below average usage rates.
  3. For players that qualified (700 minutes or more) for the chart, Johnny O’Bryant and Rashad Vaughn recorded the two lowest true shooting percentages.
  4. Michael Carter-Williams appeared in the lower right-hand quadrant, which contains the players that had above-average usage and below-average shooting accuracy. Not a great place to be.

Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine’s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can also find his work at SBNation’s Brew Hoop or you can find him on Twitter @eric_nehm and tell him about your favorite answer in John Henson’s Twitter Q&A.