Know Your Role: Johnny O’Bryant and Player Value

He’s not lighting up the box score, but Johnny O’Bryant is playing a valuable role for the Bucks. Plus: Giannis highlights, next week’s preview, links, the stats of the week, and more.

What makes a basketball player valuable?

This is a question we struggle with yearly when trying to hand out the Most Valuable Player award to the league’s best players, but rarely a question we consider when talking about all the league’s players. While the league’s best players dominate our attention and thoughts, the remaining players make up a majority of the league.

So, what makes a player in this majority stand out? How does one judge their contributions?

First, no one should grade Jerryd Bayless by the same standards as Stephen Curry. A great game from DeAndre Jordan doesn’t look like a great game from Miles Plumlee. There are certain things expected of the league’s top players, while there are other things expected of the rest of the league’s players. Every player on every team has a specific role. Those roles change as players, skill levels, rosters, and coaching philosophies change, but there are undoubtedly specific roles for each player on the team to play.

When judging the performance of these players, wouldn’t it be best to judge them on how well they fill their specific roles?

Before Jabari Parker’s return, Johnny O’Bryant was expected to fill roughly 20 minutes per game at the power forward position. His major responsibilities were to be solid on defense. He was to help call out coverages, remain in a good position, and rebound. On offense, he was expected to stay out of the way by setting good screens, making smart cuts on the baseline and in the high post, and shooting wide open jumpers.

Bryant excelled at almost all of those responsibilities. There is certainly a valid critique that he could have been a better defensive rebounder at times, but, for the most part, O’Bryant has been great this season.

WHAT?! GREAT?! He’s averaging four points and three rebounds a game! You think that is great?!

Yes, O’Bryant has been great this season. I could cite the advanced statistics that show the Bucks have been most successful with O’Bryant on the floor this season, but instead, I’ll focus on the things O’Bryant has done in the box score. He has snatched two offensive rebounds on a single possession. There is the charge he took in Toronto. The assists he had against the Wizards.

And there is so much more beyond that. O’Bryant has barked defensive instructions at players not doing their jobs. He has made cuts from the baseline to the high post that freed up Greg Monroe’s post position, eventually leading to an assist for Monroe. Unfortunately, those things don’t show up in the box score, but one important person is taking note.

“He has to have the hustle plays. He has to do all the little things and he’s done that every time he has taken the floor,” says head coach Jason Kidd, when asked about O’Bryant’s contribution on Wednesday. “I think for him, he has to understand that people are in front of him, but also be prepared. He’s done a really good job with that thus far and he has to continue to do that.”

With the return of Parker and impending return of John Henson, O’Bryant’s role will likely be decreased, but with his recent success, Kidd will likely expect much more out of him when he steps on the floor. Fair? Probably not, but that is how roles work in the NBA, especially when you play great in your previous role.

What to Read

Jason Kidd Cares Not for Your Expectations – At Bucksketball, Jeremy Schmidt wrote a wonderful piece detailing Jason Kidd’s concerns as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks and how those concerns might not match up with what fans would like to see.

Year Three of Giannis –’s Alex Boeder examines year three of Giannis and what, or more accurately who, Antetokounmpo may look like after his year three leap.

A hesitant Jabari Parker returns to the floor for the Bucks – The Journal-Sentinel’s Gary D’Amato took a closer look at Parker’s return on Wednesday night with some help from Parker’s father, Sonny.

Clip of the Week

Obviously, Giannis Antetokounmpo put on quite a show during his three-game 20 point scoring streak, but the most exciting part of his scoring binge has to be the improved body control he has shown off this season. Antetokounmpo has shown an increased ability to slow himself down and finish at the rim, instead of just barreling forward and drawing fouls. (There is certainly still some of that, but he is getting better at it.)

Week in Review

Wednesday, October 28 – The Bucks hosted their season opener for the first time in 31 years, but the home crowd couldn’t get them over the top of the New York Knicks, as they lost 122-97. Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out with a one-game suspension, which gave Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams a few more chances and both responded, scoring 22 and 20 points respectively.

Friday – Despite Antetokounmpo exploding onto the scene with a 27 point, 9 rebound performance, the Bucks blew a fourth quarter lead and fell to the Wizards 118-113. The Wizards shot the lights out from the three-point line, hitting 12 of 21 three point attempts and a few in the final five minutes that ultimately sunk the Bucks.

Sunday – The Bucks lost their third straight game to open the season in Toronto. The Raptors beat the Bucks 106-87 with six players in double figures. Antetokounmpo was the only one to get anything going for the Bucks with 20 points, nine rebounds, and two assists.

Monday – The Bucks were able to disrupt their early losing ways with a 103-96 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. Jerryd Bayless was the Bucks’ leading scorer on the night, hitting six threes and scoring 26 points. Antetokounmpo also went for 21 points, which gave him three straight games of 20 or more points for the first time in his career.

Wednesday – It wasn’t pretty, but the Bucks were able to pick up their second win of the season against the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite an uneventful return for Jabari Parker, the Bucks were able to pull out a victory with a strong, 21-point performance from Khris Middleton and some help from the bench.

Next Week’s Preview

Friday – The Bucks will head to the Mecca of Basketball to take on the Knicks for the second time this season. On Opening Night, the Bucks fell 122-97 with former #2 pick Derrick Williams taking over the game and scoring 24 points.

Saturday – Instead of sticking around New York, the Bucks will head back to Milwaukee to try to beat the Nets for the second time this season. The Nets are still winless on the season.

Tuesday – After two days off, the Bucks will welcome head coach Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics to Milwaukee.

Wednesday – The Bucks will head to the Mile High City to take on the Nuggets, who are led by former Sacramento Kings coach Mike Malone in his first season in Denver. Danilo Gallinari has led the team in points, but rookie Emmanuel Mudiay has garnered many of the team’s headlines with his early season play.

Stats of the Week

10.2 – Johnny O’Bryant has mostly stayed out of the way offensively and that has meant a miniscule usage percentage of 10.2 percent. Among players that appeared in at least 30 games, there were just six players that recorded less than a 10 percent usage rate last season.

6.6 – Greg Monroe is currently averaging 6.6 post touches per game, which is good for eighth in the entire league.

13.8 – Greg Monroe is currently averaging 13.8 elbow touches per game, which leads the league. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the number of post and elbow touches Monroe gets as the season moves forward.

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, where he would love to know which former Bucks you look most forward to seeing this Saturday at the outdoor tailgate before the game, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Oscar Robertson.