The Bucks new offense under head coach Mike Budenhozler has been turning heads all season long. Budenholzer has suddenly and violently turned the Bucks into one of the most lethal teams from downtown. The Bucks’ five-out offense has done wonders for Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates. It’s maximized the spacing and has ensured every player has a spot to fill on the perimeter.
Out of the five positions (two in the corner, two in the angles and one at the top of the key), Milwaukee has a plethora of actions to run. Even though it may appear prescribed, Budenholzer calls the sets depending on how the defensive coverage lines up. Even then, there’s an amount of flexibility only professionals whose full-time job is basketball are allowed.
The “strong” series is one of the most commonly run actions by the Bucks. It begins with the five players spread on the perimeter. From there, strong is initiated with a swing pass or two to the other side of the floor in order to get the defense moving:
Here, Snell is bringing the ball up the floor, Budenholzer is typically right in his ear calling out “strong” so all five players on the floor know what’s expected. Then, Snell rotates the ball back to the middle of the floor to begin the series. Giannis Antetokounmpo keeps the ball moving and swings it to the weak-side angle and into Eric Bledsoe’s hands. Then, the real action begins.
As soon as Bledsoe receives the pass, Snell begins to set a down screen for Thon Maker.
Antetokounmpo also goes to set a down screen as well, but Maker reads his man and curls off Snell instead. Maker does a great job here of curling extremely tight to Snell and literally rubbing shoulders with him. That’s just how the coaches teach it:
As soon as Maker curls, he will replace himself in the corner. As he’s doing so, Antetokounmpo recalibrates and aims set a pick on his new target; Snell’s defender. Because Snell’s man has sunk into the lane to help on Maker’s curl, he’s completely out of position to pop out and defend the screen:
From there, it’s easy sailing. Antetokounmpo does a great job of again reading the situation and actually screens his own man instead of Snell’s, as he’s the one trying to pop out and defend the shot. That’s two split-second decisions Antetokounmpo made in a seamless fashion. As a final result, Snell gets an open look and buries the three.
It seems easier than it actually is, but let’s rewind just a little bit. One of the most important aspects to this whole play is Snell’s screen on Maker’s man. One of the oldest adages in basketball says the best way to get open is to set a screen for someone else. Snell does just that and sets such a good pick that his man has no choice but to believe that’s the real action the offense is looking for. Instead, he quickly pops out to the wing and buries the open look.
It’s small details that separate good teams from bad teams. The New Orleans Pelicans have certainly scouted this look in their preparation for the game. However, because of the certainty Snell set the screen with, they were forced to adapt on the fly and respect Maker’s cut. The devil is in the details and the Bucks are well on their way this season.