Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers must avoid this Mike Budenholzer-esque mistake

Since abruptly taking over as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks mid-season, Doc Rivers has done a lot of good things.

He’s hammered home the importance of the two-man game between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, has gotten the team playing much better defense and has helped get Bobby Portis back on the right track following a struggle-filled first portion of the season. The team has not been perfect, but in the grand scheme of things, the improvement is there.

Milwaukee Bucks v Sacramento Kings

Milwaukee Bucks v Sacramento Kings / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages


Yet, Rivers continues to make one decision with his rotations that could come back to bite the Bucks like a similar idea did under the previous head coach, Mike Budenholzer.

Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers must avoid this Mike Budenholzer-esque mistake

Since taking over, Rivers has primarily relied on veterans when crafting his rotations. The one young player who has broken through that mold is sophomore two-guard AJ Green, who has played quality basketball under the new regime, as evidenced by scoring outputs of 15 and 14 points in two of his last four games.

Green has shown that he can not only be a flamethrower off the bench with his perimeter shooting but that he can also bring some defense. The second-year guard won’t have any All-Defense chatter backing him up, but it’s clear that he’s taken strides on that side of the floor this season. Essentially, he brings a lot of things to the table that this Milwaukee team needs.

Yet, Green’s role in Milwaukee’s rotation is far from set in stone. Here is a look at his minutes in each appearance in March: 9, 22, 13, 17, 28, 15, 8, 14. Some nights, he will see a big role, while others, he will get off the bench only briefly. When Green is not playing, a big reason why is that Rivers has opted to utilize Danilo Gallinari ahead of him in the rotation.


Gallinari signed with the Bucks via a buyout, and it was expected that he would be an insurance policy in the frontcourt. However, he’s seen some legitimate time for the Bucks, largely due to the fact that he has a prior history playing alongside Rivers, as the two were together with the LA Clippers back in the day. Familiarity is big in the NBA, and Rivers is not shy about using the big man frequently.

The only problem with that decision is that Gallinari has struggled mightily with the Milwaukee Bucks. In 12 games, he’s averaged 2.3 points while shooting 9-of-25 from the floor, including just 1-of-12 on his 3-point looks. On top of that, he’s struggled mightily to stick defensively. Outside of size, he’s not bringing a ton when he steps on the floor, eating up minutes that could go to Green.

Of course, Green and Gallinari are two different players. Gallinari is much taller at 6-foot-10, while the 6-foot-4 Green is a guard. Rivers explained that this size was the prominent reason behind Gallinari got 18 and a half minutes against the Boston Celtics, while Green received just eight. In a game where the Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo, it made some sense to replace the height lost.

To his credit, Gallinari truly wasn’t too bad in that contest vs. Boston, given the workload he took on.

Yet, moving forward, when the Bucks are healthy, if it’s between Green and Gallinari as to why should get minutes, it has to be Green. Although he doesn’t have the height, he’s proven to be a sparkplug off the bench on both sides of the floor. For a team that has needed an infusion of youth, Green has basically been gift-wrapped and placed on their doorstep just waiting for an opportunity to play.

This entire conversation about minutes distribution feels rather similar to one that Milwaukee Bucks fans had in 2022 when former coach Mike Budenholzer opted to play George Hill over Jevon Carter, particularly in the playoffs. It was clear that Carter was the better option for Milwaukee, but Hill took those minutes despite very clearly being banged up after dealing with serious injuries that season.

Against the Boston Celtics, Hill’s play was not the lone factor that led to Milwaukee’s downfall during that seven-game series, but it undoubtedly played a part. Fans pleaded for Carter to get minutes, as it was obvious he could have helped, but that day never came. It would be gut-wrenching once more to see that same fate unfold with Gallinari and Green.

This situation is a bit trickier since these two do not play the same position, but the point still stands. When healthy, the Bucks have just enough versatility to make it so Green gets minutes over Gallinari. The guard has all of the attributes to be an X-factor for this team, but he needs to be on the court to do so.

Stay tuned for more Milwaukee Bucks analysis.



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