The Milwaukee Bucks wrapped up their preseason with a 3-1 record under head coach Mike Budenholzer. Albeit preseason, there were a lot of positives from across Milwaukee’s roster and it could be a preview of what’s in store for the regular season. Here are three key takeaways from those contests.
The Milwaukee Bucks will fire at will from three
The Bucks offensive game plan under Mike Budenholzer has been crystal clear this preseason: everyone has the neon-green light from downtown. In four preseason games, Milwaukee’s tentative starting 5 of Bledsoe, Brogdon, Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Lopez launched 69 (nice) three pointers, which is very encouraging to see.
Coveted small forward Khris Middleton paced Milwaukee with 5.7 3PA this preseason while shooting 52.9%. Considering Middleton is a career 39.1% shooter from three, the more attempts per game, the better. Furthermore, PG Eric Bledsoe hoisted up 3.7 attempts from three in the preseason, and shot it at an impressive 54.5% clip. Granted, it won’t be that high at the end of the season given his career 33.7% mark, but Bledsoe will find himself wide open from three frequently with how willingly the Bucks have moved the basketball.
MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo displayed a willingness to shoot it from three without hesitation, and the difference in his stroke was evident. He looks confident when he lets it fly. Although the Greek Freak hoisted up only 10 threes, he sank four of them, good for 40% from deep. Even though he’s only a career 28.4% shooter from three, if he can creep that percentage up into the low-to-mid 30’s this season, he very well could reach those MVP levels.
The President, Malcolm Brogdon also showed off his stroke from deep this preseason. We all knew he could shoot the lights out, but he was one Buck that really stood out this preseason. He shot 41.2% from deep on 4.2 attempts per game, which is exactly what the Milwaukee Bucks need him to do. His ability to stretch the defense with his shot will be very crucial for the Bucks this season.
Although Brook Lopez shot 28.6% from three, expect him to still let it fly. He’s a much better three-point shooter from the corners, which draws opposing big men away from the hoop to allow Giannis and company to attack the basket with menace.
When Mike Budenholzer was still the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, they always ranked in the upper half of the NBA in terms of 3-point frequency rate. In his first year in Atlanta, they finished 2nd in the NBA in 2013-2014, then the Hawks finished 3rd in 2014-2015. Their three point frequency dipped just a little from 2015-2017, but last season the Hawks finished 6th in the NBA.
These numbers are appealing, especially when you compare them to the Milwaukee Bucks three point frequency under former head coach Jason Kidd. The Bucks constantly finished in the bottom of the NBA in terms of dialing it up from three under Kidd. They were dead last in 2015-2016, and last season they finished the year 25th. The Milwaukee Bucks will make it rain from three this year.
I know the games don't count, but Bucks final preseason team stats...— Frank (@fmaddenNBA) October 13, 2018
ORTG: 115.0 (1st)
DRTG: 98.6 (10th)
Diff: 16.4 (3rd)
3FGM: 15.2 (3rd)
3FGA: 37.1/g (3rd)
ORB%: 28.1% (13th)
DRB%: 70.1% (27th) pic.twitter.com/C6uN3ZIS14
*heart eyes emoji*
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Yes, the Milwaukee Bucks ability to make it rain from deep was impressive, but their ball movement was special to watch.
The Bucks displayed excellent chemistry across their roster, and each player showed their willingness to pass up a good shot for a better one.
This might not look like anything out of the ordinary, but notice how the spacing makes everything happen. With Malcolm Brogdon camping in the corner, and Brook Lopez on the wing opposing defenses must respect their abilities to shoot the ball. This allows for a beautiful give and go between Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe that results in a Giannis flush. Having shooters matters, folks.
The Bucks averaged 22 assists per game this preseason, which is better than the 21.2 assists they average per game last season. We should expect that number to rise sharply when the season gets underway and the starters are playing their typical minutes.
I mean, just look at this beautiful possession.
Not only is the ball movement fantastic, but the player movement in this possession stands out as well. There were about three shots that were passed up in that possession alone, very unselfish.
Now, in this position, we see Giannis surrounded by 4 shooters, which leaves him a bevy of options since they are using him on the handoff to make something happen out of the short roll.
It resulted in a wide open look for Brook Lopez from the corner, and even though he missed the shot, it was still an effective possession. Also, look at how much space Eric Bledsoe had in the corner as well as Ersan Ilyasova on the wing. This is definitely a new niche for the Bucks, something they failed to utilize last season.
Be sound defensively
It’s no secret how piss poor the Milwaukee Bucks were defensively under Jason Kidd’s tenure, and head coach Mike Budenholzer plans on flipping the script.
A big part of being successful on the defensive end of the floor is limiting your opponents possessions that have positive outcomes. Sounds simple, right? However, the Milwaukee Bucks failed to do so last season due in large part because of their ridiculously high foul rate. Time and time again we saw the Bucks be completely undisciplined defensively and bail out their opponents with silly fouls, often times deep in the shot clock. Those things come back to bite you.
Furthermore, Budenholzer’s Atlanta Hawks teams generally ranked towards the bottom in the NBA in fouls committed per game. His Hawks teams finished in the top 5 in terms of defensive efficiency three out of the five years he was their head coach. Limiting opponent free-throws is crucial because those are essentially free points with the clock stopped.
The Milwaukee Bucks best offense is often times their defense when they can get stops and get out in the open floor for transition baskets. It’s safe to assume that the Bucks offense will be top-10 in the NBA, but a top-15 defense could totally unlock the potential of this Milwaukee Bucks team under Budenholzer.