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Calculated Countdown: 7 Days to Tipoff

The Bucks defense is often scrutinized, but let’s see where it excels, in transition

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s nearly the regular season folks, which means it’s time to start contrived “countdown to tipoff” pieces. Our series will be called the Calculated Countdown, where we take a particular statistic from last season that corresponds to the number of days left till tipoff and analyze it in the context of this upcoming year. Today we’re taking a peek at how the Bucks transition defense was in the Top 10 of the NBA in points allowed.

7 Days to Tipoff: The Bucks finished 7th in fast break points allowed per game

Where the Bucks transition defense earns its keep is after a missed shot. The Bucks finished tied for fifth in points allowed per possession after giving up a defensive rebound. The ability of the defense to slow the initial offensive outburst is what kept their opponents to just 11.7 fast break points per game.

A direct way to eliminate opponent fast break points is to just not turn the ball over since a majority of fast break points are scored off of turnovers. The Bucks allowed their opponents 16.2 points per game off of those turnovers (tied for 15th with the Indiana Pacers). Unfortunately turnovers are a part of basketball and the Bucks coughed it up 14 times a game last year (18th in the league).

The point guards, Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon, coughed the ball up 1.8 and 1.5 times per game, respectively (Delly’s was a career high). Getting those numbers down would be great, however, Giannis Antetokounmpo turned it over a team high 2.9 time per game (albeit with a decent 10.7% turnover percentage) and seeing as he can also play the 1, his turnovers have to come down as well.

Luckily he happens to be the Bucks’ best transition defender. Obviously nobody wants to see the Bucks defense have to scramble back after a turnover, but the presence of Antetokounmpo helps mitigate some of the worry. By himself he can frustrate the opposing team’s fast break and force a shot that becomes more difficult than the average fast break attempt:

We also know that he can do more than disrupt the flow of a fast break, he can make it wish it never even started:

I love how Brogdon comes to a stop once he realizes he doesn’t want to be any where near the carnage that is about to fell Brian Roberts.

Fast break points off of turnovers are going to happen and the defensive prowess of Giannis can only help out so much. As I was getting lost in Giannis transition defense videos, I kept seeing Jabari Parker getting back with his hands up and not allowing the offense an easier chance to avoid the Greek Freak. Parker’s defensive struggles have been documented but his willingness to get back will certainly be missed. Even when he does come back from his second ACL injury, I would be skeptical if he’ll have the same ability to get back on defense effectively.

I find it difficult to say that the Bucks will regress in this department. Over the past few seasons they have seen their fast break points allowed fluctuate from 10.7 to 13 and then back down to 11.7.

Cutting down on offensive turnovers will help, but physically they are still long, Brogdon and Thon Maker have another off-season to improve their defensive awareness, and Khris Middleton appears to be fully healed. I’ll take a stab at some prognostication and say the final tally for this season will be closer to 10.7 than to 13. It will be interesting to see if the rangy Bucks can continue to stifle teams on the fast break.