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Bucks Offense 101: Introduction

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Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Bucks’ offense has certainly not suffered the same amount of scrutiny as their defense during the 2017-2018 season, and the basic and advanced metrics would tell you that there is nothing to be worried about.

The Bucks (as of 12/31/2017) ranked 8th in Offensive Rating per nba.com; closer to being a top-5 offense than being an average one.

However, there are a few questions that need to be answered before we can evaluate if their offensive efficiency is indicative of their true ability, or if there are factors that swing the metrics one way or the other.

The purpose of the “Bucks Offense 101” series is to explore the different variables that constitute a team’s offense, and with these articles, we’ll take a look at all the factors that influence the team’s ability to score consistently, as well as try to answer some of the questions that arise from analysis.

Shot Selection and Roster Depth

Recently, I created a metric that evaluates the percentage of efficient shots (heavily weighed by field goal attempts in the restricted area and behind the 3P-line) taken by all players in a team’s roster. This means that we’re looking at how many players take a greater amount of high efficiency shots, which would be a way of evaluating how much a team’s offensive system and principles provide equal opportunity for all players to create positive value.

The Bucks rank 18th (as of 12/24/2017) according to this metric.

Next, let’s have a look at the points generated per shot on average by every player on the team. Similar to the previous metric, PGV only takes into account the number of players that can score efficiently on a roster, regardless of their FGAs’ shot location.

The Bucks rank 20th, which signifies a team with a smaller number of players who can generate points.

Both of these metrics point to the fact that the Milwaukee Bucks are a top-heavy scoring team.

Individual Scoring Ability and Shot Selection

Taking a look at the Points-per-Shot average for each Bucks’ rotation player, it’s a pleasant surprise to see that all of the starters are generating points at a higher-than-average clip for their respective position; however, noted offensive negatives such as DeAndre Liggins and Thon Maker rank near the bottom of their respective position lists.

When it comes to shot selection, most of the players hover around the average value for their position, with two notable exceptions: Giannis Antetokounmpo taking a high number of efficient shots and Khris Middleton taking a high number of inefficient shots. As shown in the “Differential” column, Giannis is actually scoring a bit less efficiently than his shot profile would dictate for the Forward position, and Khris is making quite a few more shots than expected.

The 4th Quarter Conundrum and Giannis

Taking a deeper look into the Bucks’ offense during the Bledsoe era, there is a clear weakness that needs to be addressed: The 4th Quarter.

Bucks Offensive Rating per Quarter

As we can see in the table, Milwaukee is one of the most productive offensive teams during the first 3 quarters of their games. When the fourth quarter rolls on, the offense comes to a halt, leading to a high number of leads evaporating.

Let’s have a look at one more interesting statistic, and maybe we’ll be able to understand what could be at fault.

Here is the Offensive Rating for the team with Antetokounmpo On and Antetokounmpo Off the court:

Giannis On/Off Metrics

Out of the 69 line-ups without Giannis used since Bledsoe joined the team (261 minutes total), only 24 of them have an above average OffRtg (84 minutes).

Nevertheless, setting the OffRtg in 8-game samples to match the previous table, we can see that the Bucks have actually started to perform quite well on offense when Giannis is resting on the bench, almost closing the gap from earlier in the season.

Giannis On/Off OffRtg per 8-game Sample

However, if we isolate the 4th Quarter Offensive Rating, the story is entirely different. The Giannis-less roster has been consistently scoring less than 90 points per 100 possessions during the 4Q, a difference that fluctuates between 20-30 points per 100 possessions compared to when Giannis is playing.

Giannis On/Off 4th Quarter OffRtg per 8-game Sample

Why are the Bucks unable to score points when Giannis sits in the 4th Quarter? Why is there such a big difference compared to other points during the game, when Milwaukee is able to sustain a degree of success on the offensive end? Can we find an explanation that would lead to possible solutions?

Exploring and Understanding

So far, we’ve noted a few problems that affect the offensive output of the Bucks. Gradually, we’ll hopefully reach some conclusions that paint a comprehensive image of what works well and what needs improvement for the team.

Stay tuned for the next article, which will be about spacing, and how the Bucks can improve the way they’re positioned on the floor.