If there’s one thing we know about training camp, it’s that all NBA teams are remarkably similar.
Every team is undefeated, and every coach is intent on playing faster, making defense a priority, and playing along with whatever buzzwords the media seems to want to hear (Three pointers are a big deal now? MOAR PLZ!).
The Bucks have been no different in their first week of camp, with Jason Kidd talking up the Bucks intent to shoot more threes and Miles Plumlee suggesting the Bucks have opened camp looking to push the pace and run more pick-and-rolls. Via Charles Gardner:
“Guys obviously have worked in the off-season,” Plumlee said after the lengthy session at the Nicholas-Johnson Pavilion. “We’ve got more shooters. It’s a different-looking team, and you can tell by the offense we’re running.
“It’s definitely geared to a more up-and-down tempo. There are a lot of pick-and-rolls. We’re going to put a lot of pressure on the defense, so it’s been exciting to watch."
Sounds great, but do we think it’s actually going to happen? WE DISCUSS:
Fast & the Freakiest. The Bucks didn’t play fast in terms of pace last season, ranking 22nd overall. But pace isn’t necessarily the best proxy for whether a team is getting easy buckets, and despite their pace remaining steady throughout the season, the Bucks scored 3.3 more transition points per game after Giannis Antetokounmpo took over the reins of the offense (12.7 to 16.0), all while conceding fewer fast break points to their opponents (from 13.1 to 12.9). That’s a decidedly encouraging sign for a team that just lost its most consistent halfcourt offensive weapon, though it’s also not to say Khris Middleton’s shooting will only be missed in the halfcourt. As we discuss on the podcast, playing fast isn’t just about having athletes who can dribble and dunk — having guys who shoot, defensive rebound, and force turnovers are often just as critical. So losing Middleton hurts the Bucks’ ability to play fast while simultaneously putting even more pressure on them to get easy buckets outside the halfcourt. Translation: RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, BUCKS!
Pick-and-rollin’. Relative to the rest of the NBA, Jason Kidd’s offense has always been less dependent on the pick-and-roll: Milwaukee ranked 27th in frequency of plays finished by pick-and-roll ballhandlers (12.5%) and 29th in plays finished by roll men (5.0%), though perhaps that wasn’t the worst thing in the world. After all, the Bucks also ranked an ugly 28th in ball handler efficiency (0.74 points per play) and middle of the pack in roll man efficiency (1.02 PPP).
But the rise of Point Giannis and an increased role for Plumlee might make a more P&R-centric offense worth considering. Giannis led the Bucks in P&R ballhandler efficiency (0.81 PPP), while Plumlee led all major-minute players in roll man efficiency (a whopping 1.44 PPP). Though he’s still decidedly raw as a point guard, Giannis’ size, vision and dynamic finishing ability make P&R seem like an ideal means of forcing defenses to react and provide playmaking options, with Plumlee often the beneficiary of Antetokounmpo (and Jabari Parker) lob passes last spring. Still, that approach would represent a departure from the Kidd offense we’ve seen the past couple years, which — for better and often worse — saw a major emphasis on sets that began with passes to Greg Monroe at the elbow or wing (typically called push, elbow, or corner series).