The regular season is rapidly approaching. That means it’s time for the now-annual tradition of our Calculated Countdown series examining a particular stat that corresponds to the number of days until tipoff. Today, we take a broader look at Milwaukee’s offense and what sort of upgrades could be made under Coach Budenholzer.
7 Days to Tipoff
Milwaukee ranked 7th in offensive rating last season
It’s been a similar refrain among fans the last few seasons. Milwaukee’s offense is productive in spite of itself. Yes, Jason Kidd’s (and by extension Joe Prunty’s) system seemed limiting, backwards and often flew in the face of modern NBA trends. That didn’t preclude Milwaukee from posting decent offensive years though. Finishing 7th in offensive rating last year, per NBA.com, largely upon strength of their individual talents, the bastion that is Bud’s offense may finally weaponize this team fully.
There are simple fixes. Up the 3-point attempt rate from 25th to at least league average. Avoid logjams in the paint by getting centers around the arc. See how Giannis fares in the pick and roll with Middleton’s excellent shooting and Bledsoe’s blazing speed. All should be implemented easily with Bud’s 3-happy, pick-and-roll style attack (7.7% of Atlanta’s possessions were PnR last year, just 4.9% of Milwaukee’s were).
You could see the spacing pay dividends already in Milwaukee’s first game.
Classic Budenholzer offense. Force the close out, make the extra pass. (Also, the perils of allowing an inside ball screen to go middle). It took years, but Bucks finally got an offense to go around Giannis pic.twitter.com/nO3hXSX0fA— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) October 4, 2018
That play articulates so much of what Bud has been preaching this offseason. The much ballyhooed blue squares on the court showing where players should run to before the set flows into motion (Ersan and Bledsoe). Initiating the pick-and-roll by Lopez immediately screening for Middleton rather than sticking Brook at the elbow as so many of Milwaukee’s sets started last season. The “we need dribbling, shooting and passing on the floor” edict coming into play as Lopez’s dynamism and ability to see the floor lets him flip a pass out to Bledsoe waiting in the corner since Ersan’s man has to hug him around the arc rather than stick his mitt in to disrupt Lopez’s rhythm. Finally, the unselfishness around the arc to get Middleton, their best shooter, the prime look. Middleton starts the play, and gets the payoff thanks to the patience and trust in Bud’s system. Beautiful symmetry.
This sequence also came with an optimum lineup, five players that epitomize Bud’s philosophy. There will be fits and starts when bench players slide in. Tony Snell may have to act as a weakside spacer more often. Matthew Dellavedova needs to play within himself. Donte DiVincenzo still hasn’t shown he can make a shot. These are all wrinkles Bud has to iron out, but thankfully he’s been gifted the wondrous skills of three players used to having to work solo.
Both Middleton and Giannis spent plenty of time iso-ing against fellow players last year or posting them up around the elbow. Now, that feels like it’ll be more of a late shot clock last resort rather than a staple of their offensive flow. At least I would hope so. Capitalizing on the diversity Bud’s system provides, each can throw more looks at opponents than they previously could under Kidd’s offensive shackles. Expect them to be thrown in plenty more off-ball and on-ball actions. Expect Khris Middleton to shoot more threes. Expect Giannis and Bledsoe to finally have a lane worth driving into. The early returns are promising, pleasing to watch and delightfully free of the angst that accompanied so many half-baked possessions last year.