While recapping the Bucks-Pelicans game from Thursday night for today’s Locked on Bucks podcast, we talked about Matthew Dellavedova’s 12-assist performance and I commented on just how much Dellavedova has seemingly had the ball thus far this season.
And, to be clear, Dellavedova has had the ball plenty this season. He currently leads the Bucks in time of possession at 4.6 minutes per game, which happens to be roughly 10-12 seconds more than Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is also averaging roughly a second longer and 1.5 dribbles more per touch than Antetokounmpo. Those numbers are all about the same as they were in Cleveland last year for Dellavedova and tend to reflect a point guard, which is curious considering what we heard about the Bucks’ plan for prominently featuring Point Giannis. Some people at this site were even stupidly convinced that we needed to call Antetokounmpo a point guard because of his new role.
In particular, I’ve been fascinated with one set the Bucks have started to use regularly this season. You’ve seen it a lot in crunch time (back door alley-oop in the Pacers game) and it is a set they lean on to get Parker and Antetokounmpo involved throughout the game.
(Editor’s note: Thanks to Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles) for the clip. The clip first appears in his wonderful breakdown of Jabari Parker’s offensive potential. Go read that.)
At times, the Bucks will enter to Parker or Antetokounmpo at the left elbow, but much of the time they lean on the set shown above. In the play, the Bucks have cleared out the left side of floor and brought Dellavedova across the floor to his right with a double ball screen. The Bucks will then use Parker or Antetokounmpo as the first screener on the double ball screen, so that their defender is the only helper on the backside of the floor for a Dellavedova-Plumlee pick and roll. It’s a creative way to give Parker and Antetokounmpo a head start on their defender, but I’m curious as to why Dellavedova has been the one to regularly handle the ball in this double ball screen.
After the Bucks’ preseason finale, Jason Kidd gushed about Dellavedova’s ability to attack from the second side.
“Being able to play with him on the second side - not having him start the play, but having him finish the play - he’s making a lot of the right reads. Getting guys some easy shots and he understands how to play the game the right way.”
Yet throughout this season, they’ve seemed to prefer using Dellavedova at the start of the action and instead allow Parker or Antetokounmpo to attack the second side. Surely, it’s great for Parker and Antetokounmpo to attack a defender who is recovering to them from helpside responsibilities, but using them in that way has led to Dellavedova taking a more primary role and has to be at least partially responsible for the 12-assist night against the Pelicans and two five-turnover games in the last week.
Thus far, Dellavedova has been a bit more involved than expected, which has allowed him to show off his entire skillset rather than just his spot-up shooting, but it will be interesting to see if his playmaking role is reduced as the season moves forward. A career 40% shooter from deep, Delly is shooting a more modest 32% from three thus far, and, perhaps more concerning, the Bucks have been dramatically better with him on the bench. Milwaukee is +7.0 points/100 possessions when he’s off the court compared to -4.3 on the court, and the Bucks’ offense has posted a dreadful 97.9 rating overall with him playing — only John Henson’s marks are worse. Could playing Dellavedova more regularly off the ball help kickstart both the Aussie and his teammates? Stay tuned.