The Milwaukee Bucks returned to action on Tuesday night with a preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies, and it was certainly an interesting contest.
With most of the players sidelined due to various injury issues, coach Mike Budenholzer presented a starting lineup consisting of George Hill, Grayson Allen, Jordan Nwora, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez. In the end, Memphis led most of the way and would secure the 87-77 victory after the game was called off after three quarters due to a fire alarm, where no one was thankfully injured. While it was great to see newcomers to Hill and Allen burn themselves, the biggest takeaway from the contest was Nwora’s catchy play during her long minutes.
The former second-round pick barely played throughout his rookie season in 2020-21, but when he did, he showed signs of potential. Many believe he could be a key contributor to this team if given the chance, mainly due to his prolific shot. Still, the team needed Nwora to be more than just a shooter, as he has so far been classified as a rather one-dimensional player in college and in the NBA. However, he showed potential when opening the preseason that he could be more than announced before.
Jordan Nwora showed signs of versatility in the Milwaukee Bucks’ first preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies
What Nwora does best is shoot the basketball, which he did precisely on Tuesday night as he received his fair share of looks from the offensive side. Nwora scored a high 16 points on 7 of 15 shots on goal, including 1 in 4 from behind the arc. Dating back to his college days, the forward has always been known for his electric outside shot, but he just didn’t fall last night. In the past, Nwora may have kept throwing those shots, but he showed some distance against the Grizzlies by putting the ball on the ground several times and putting it inside, even getting a tough finish in the circulation.
Everyone knows Nwora is a confident player with basketball in his hands. He’s not shy about letting it fly, so there were few question marks in that regard last night. Another area of his attacking game that required monitoring was his passing. Nwora finished with just seven assists after playing 274 minutes in his rookie season, a far from ideal number. According to NBA.com/stats, Nwora’s seven assists were third in the entire league for a player who has played at least 250 minutes this season, placing just ahead of JaKarr Sampson and Alfonzo McKinnie. While the Bucks will never rely on Nwora to be a facilitator, it’s something many want to see him improve before year two.
Against the Grizzlies, Nwora had three assists in 22 and a half minutes, four fewer than in his 274 minutes last season. While that might not seem like much, seeing him involve other people when he didn’t have a good shot was a welcoming sight. This improvement was also visible in the Summer League as he collected eight assists in 115 minutes, which may not seem like a lot, but he’s a first striker here. Nwora’s passing ability will never dictate his playing time with the Bucks, but that doesn’t hurt his chances.
On the flip side, one area that could certainly dictate his playing time is his defensive efforts. The Bucks knew Nwora wasn’t an outstanding defenseman when they drafted him, with many scouring reports citing this as one of his pre-draft weaknesses. This was exposed during his rookie season, and given how much the Bucks are built on their defense, Nwora should improve in that regard to bolster his chances of playing. He looked proficient in that regard against the Grizzlies, making fewer mistakes than he previously could have while keeping an assortment of players. He also had three interceptions in the contest, showing his defensive conscience. Only time will tell if he can keep this game strong defensively, but there is hope.
Overall, this is only a preseason game, and while Nwora looks solid, there is still plenty of room for the 23-year-old to grow. While he doesn’t seem destined for a bigger role with the Bucks this coming season, a strong performance throughout the preseason could potentially change that. He’s someone who could no doubt help this team when he’s on the pitch due to his shooting, but if he can also bring in passing and improved defense, there’s no limit to the importance it could become. He just has to assemble everything.
Hopefully Tuesday night’s game against the Grizzlies was just the start for Nwora as there are still several pre-season games to play.