Milwaukee Bucks newcomers
The Milwaukee Bucks are experiencing a renaissance of sorts as they enter the 2018-2019 season.
The BMO Harris Bradley Center has seen its last game, and the Bucks now reside in the Fiserv Forum, revamping the team brand.
Accompanying the change in setting are substantial changes to personnel. Of course, LeBron James leaving the East to go make movies in LA helps the Bucks odds of a deep postseason run, but the new additions and play-style should add depth to an already solid Bucks team.
Head Coach Mike Budenholzer
Hiring Mike Budenholzer as head coach is the biggest addition the Bucks have made this offseason. He hopes to revitalize Milwaukee’s play-style and unleash Giannis Antetokounmpo’s full potential.
Advanced analytics have proven teams should take more three pointers because … three points is worth more than two.
Over the last three years, the Bucks have ranked 30th, 24th, and 25th in three pointers attempted per game (3PA).
The Atlanta Hawks were consistently in the top ten in 3PA under the leadership of Budenholzer.
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In their first preseason game, the Bucks took 45 threes, a huge uptick from their usual past production.
In their second game Sunday night, the Bucks took 36. Those 36 3PA would have still ranked 2nd in the league last season. Anything closer to league average should lead to a better offense.
Fans should expect an increased number of pick-and-roll plays from Antetokounmpo this season. Antetokounmpo was in the 80th percentile in points per possession when running a pick-and-roll last season, but he ran just under three per game. LeBron James and Ben Simmons — two players with a similar play style to Antetokounmpo — ran about five.
Antetokounmpo currently has the third best odds to win MVP because many expect his play-making to increase under Budenholzer.
During the 2014-2015 season, Jason Kidd introduced a defensive strategy that was ultra-aggressive. The Bucks trapped every pick-and-roll and overloaded the ball-side more than any other team in the league. It was successful at first, but during the last three seasons, the Bucks were consistently below average in defensive rating.
Other teams started to figure them out. They would “short the pick-and-roll” (introduce a third player to relieve the ball handler running the pick-and-roll) when the Bucks trapped. Teams started shooting threes more quickly instead of moving the ball, giving the Bucks less of a chance to get a steal.
During each of Budenholzer’s first four seasons as Atlanta’s head coach, they were rated in the top five for defense. Expect the Bucks to ease up their aggression defensively, embodying a more measured defensive scheme where they contest more shots.
Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez
The two big men will be playing similar roles this season for the Bucks (even though their contracts may not suggest that) and bring much needed depth. Thon Maker didn’t play in the first two of last season’s playoff games versus the Celtics because while he was playing great in the playoffs, he was horrible during the season.
Not to mention — the fewer John Henson hook shots the better.
Last season, the Bucks ranked 28th in the NBA in defensive rebounding. Lopez has never put up big rebounding numbers, but his teams have had a better rebound percentage when he is on the court. He improves the overall team rebounding by boxing out well, and allows his teammates to get to the ball.
Both Ilyasova and Lopez have a 3PA percentage above league average over the last two seasons. They can space the floor and allow Antetokounmpo to exploit more driving lanes. They may have trouble defending the best teams, but Ilyasova and Lopez will be effective veterans to help the Bucks frontcourt rotation during the regular season.
If you only watched DiVincenzo during the NCAA National Championship game last season, you may be shocked that he fell to the Bucks in the draft. Theoretically, he will fit perfectly with Antetokounmpo. In college, he shot well from three, attacked close-outs, was a good cutter and a sneaky great offensive rebounder (he had the highest vertical at the combine).
That all sounds great … but rookie guards are almost always bad. Steve Nash, John Wall and probably any guard you name struggled their rookie season. As he joins this playoff team, don’t expect too much from DiVincenzo this season. Let’s just hope the Bucks can get anything out of a first round pick. (Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon was a second round pick).
Connaughton is a small forward that can jump out of the gym. He got solid minutes on a playoff team last year and shot a respectable percentage from three. He’ll be competing with Tony Snell and Sterling Brown for backup shooting guard and small forward minutes.
The advanced numbers in Portland last season were similar regardless of if he was on or off the court, and expect the same for the Bucks. You can never have enough wings in today’s NBA, so this was still a solid signing.