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Visualizing The Milwaukee Bucks' 30+ Assist Streak

The Milwaukee Bucks have 138 assists over their last four games for an average of 32.3/game. The Bucks ranked dead last in assists per game last season. This year, the Bucks are fourth in the NBA. Last year the Bucks were 27th in assist rate. This year they're 8th.

These guys clearly know the meaning of sharing.

The Bucks' offense has been a revelation this season. From the depths of last season's misery, when it was an exciting prospect to see Milwaukee crack 85 points, to the high-octane, dynamic playmaking of this season, the transformation has been shocking and entertaining in equal parts. Scott Skiles has put wings on the Bucks' shoes, turning loose a fast-paced attack well suited for what we all expected to be an offensively-challenged roster.

Those assist totals stand out perhaps more than anything. Just a few games into this season, fans quickly surmised that this team would be at it's best when the offense flowed, not through a single player, but through the entire lineup. Everybody has shown an eagerness and full capability of making the extra pass, finding the open man, and putting themselves in position to help the team succeed. The past four games (and really the current winning streak as a whole) have been a shining example of team-oriented success.

After the jump, check out a visualization of Milwaukee's current assist binge, and consider some of the trends it shows.

Click here for a full-screen version that's easier to view and interact with. Columns represent players who an individual guy has assisted. Rows are who has assisted a given player. The pie charts illustrate the shot type each assist led to, separated into dunks, layups, jumpers, and 3-pointers.

The columns and rows are arranged (more or less) in order of position, with points guards at the top/left and centers at the bottom/right. This gives, in a sense, four distinct quadrants on the chart. In the top left, we see guards assisting guards. Top right is forwards assisting guards. Bottom left is guards assisting forwards, and bottom right is forwards assisting forwards.

In practice, this visualization shows how assists tend to flow through Milwaukee's lineups. As you can see, Milwaukee's guards are assisting other guards and swingmen quite a bit, while the forwards are assisting the guards a bit, and largely ignoring each other. The exception, of course, is MVP-frontrunner Drew Gooden, who has the most assists of any Buck in the past four games. The relative lack of assists coming from the forward positions could suggest that those players are minor ball-stoppers in the Bucks' offense, but I'd imagine a similar patter would result if you checked the data for most other teams, since guards are typically the guys dominating the ball. Also keep in mind that this chart makes no consideration of minutes or adjustments in any way, it's just raw totals.

A few noteworthy observations:

  • The most prolific pairing over this stretch? Brandon Jennings and Drew Gooden, who have assisted each other 15 total times. Six of those are Gooden jumpers, likely off the pick-and-pop game with Jennings. On the other hand, Gooden has assisted on four Jennings layups. Again, these two players have played a lot of minutes over those four games, so it does make sense that they'd be racking up dimes.
  • In a strictly one-directional sense, the Udrih-Dunleavy Connection takes the crown, with 11 total assists coming in the past four games. Five of those were three-pointers by Mike.
  • 18 of Drew Gooden's 29 assists over this stretch were on layups.
  • Luc Mbah a Moute made one assisted jumper. The rest of his assisted buckets were layups or dunks. Most of those came in the Golden State game.
  • Conversely, 15 of Drew Gooden's 22 assisted buckets were jumpers. This is because Drew Gooden layups are almost always immediately preceded by an intense staredown of his defender, and also a pump fake. Official scorers tend to forget who passed the ball to him during this time.
  • Jon Brockman assisted on a Brandon Jennings three-pointer, which I most certainly do not remember.