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 examining how Milwaukee’s scheme creates turnovers.
5 days to tipoff: Milwaukee ranked 5th in opponent turnover percentage
Turnovers are one of those things that drives fans and coaches crazy. It’s an element of the game that can end a run, make a player look foolish, or make someone pull their hair out. Sometimes it’s just a simple travel call, other times it could be a defender jumping a passing lane. Turnovers are also associated with risk, attempting a risky pass will more often lead to the team stealing the ball or that ball sailing out of bounds, but could also get you the vital pass you need to find an open player. Take, for instance, the risk of getting a steal or forcing the trap, which could cause the other team to make a mistake but can also leave other players in no man’s land or open a lane to the hoop. Creating turnovers is always helpful to jump start your offense and create fast break opportunities, and while it’s always a risk, turnovers can impact a game and a team’s fortune.
Since Jason Kidd has been Milwaukee’s head coach, the Bucks have finished in the top ten of opponent turnover % (1st in 2014-2015 17.7%, 6th in 2015-2016 15.8%, and 5th last season 15.1%.). The Atlanta Hawks are the only other team in the league to accomplish this feat. Despite its flaws, Milwaukee’s defense has been one where it wants to overwhelm their opponents and force them to make the mistake. Milwaukee use their length to cut off the passing lanes as best as they can and with players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker, and Khris Middleton. In those three along with Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, D.J. Wilson, and John Henson, you have guys who can use those limbs for the betterment of the team and make the court seem smaller than it actually is. Think of the many times you saw lesser teams like Sacramento or Phoenix struggle to connect passes against the Bucks’ length or the playoff series against Toronto. Milwaukee was able to force 8.1 steals per game which put them 10th in the league and was a primary factor for their high rank in opponent turnovers. This is on the backing of an aggressive defensive scheme where the Bucks can overload a side of the court hoping that the help defender can take a chance to jump the passing lane, steal the ball and it leads to some easy fast break points.
Does creating a lot of turnovers necessarily mean overall success? Not necessarily, since the teams to finish ahead of the Bucks were the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, and the Indiana Pacers. While three of those teams did reach the playoffs, none of them were true title contenders and only one of those teams, Atlanta, finished in the Top Ten in defensive rating while the others finished in the bottom half of the league. Turnovers are a factor in how good a teams’ defense can be; but as Bucks fans, we know that for every steal and Giannis breakaway dunk, there was an open three in the corner immediately afterwards.