Bucks’ Dictionary is a means to help you understand the Milwaukee Bucks on a deeper level. We’ll explore different terms, schemes and sets the Bucks run and define them in the simplest terms possible.
Before we move on to different offensive sets the Milwaukee Bucks run, I wanted to start with the essentials and describe the basic principles of their offense. This will ensure we all have the same foundational knowledge in place before moving on to the more advanced sets the team runs. “Five-out” is a term used to characterize the general positioning of the players in the Bucks’ primary offense.
Definition: The Bucks offense in its simplest, most basic form. It refers to the alignment when all five offensive players are spacing the court in specific spots (the two corners, the two angles and the top of the key).
As Khris Middleton brought the ball up the court, all five offensive players evenly spaced themselves to fill the five pre-designated areas on the court. Tim Frazier and Pat Connaughton fill the corners, Middleton and D.J. Wilson occupy the angles or wings and Brook Lopez trots down the floor to settle in the final spot at the top of the key. For the most part, these five spots are interchangeable with any of the players on the court. For example, Lopez is able to fill any of the other four spots-he’s just not assigned the top of the arc. However, the alignment of players will often dictate the type of set Mike Budenholzer calls for his team. More on that in a different article.
Here’s another example:
The Bucks’ “five-out” offense serves a couple of primary purposes for the team:
- To create decisive driving lanes for the ball-handler.
- To pull all five defenders out of the lane.
- To allow all five offensive players on the court a near-equal opportunity to score the basketball.
The “five-out” system allows the Bucks to generate a number of good shot attempts just by using their natural abilities and playing within the flow of the game. On this play, we see all three purposes of their offense come into play.
Middleton dribbled the ball up the court and occupied the left angle slot. As he did so, his teammates filled in around him-Ersan Ilyasova took the left corner and Connaughton trotted into the right. Eric Bledsoe and Lopez bring up the rear by settling in at the top of the key and the right wing respectively.
With all five offensive players spaced across the three-point line, the defense is forced to gravitate toward them as well. With Ilyasova’s man tight to him in the corner, Middleton had the option to try a baseline drive. Instead, he shot-faked and passed it to the trailing Bledsoe at the top of the key.
This is where the natural basketball instinct takes place. Bledsoe, one of the strongest and best-finishing point guards in the NBA, took advantage of the quick ball-rotation and immediately hit of one of those open driving lanes.
Middleton’s man was basically attached to his hip which gave Bledsoe all the room he needed to attack the paint. All defenses have a primary goal of keeping the ball as far away from the hoop as possible. It’s basketball in its simplest form. Even though Bledsoe’s defender did a decent job of recovering, he was able to use his brute strength to knock him out of position. This penetration sent the rest of the Cavaliers into a frenzy and forced Connaughton’s man to abandon his post in the corner and stop a potential layup.
When this happened, Bledsoe kicked the ball to Connaughton for an open three. Instead of taking the shot, however, he continued to rotate the ball and found another open teammate in Lopez in the right angle. It was equal opportunity basketball at its finest, as Lopez calmly splashed the shot. Yak yak!
Although the “five-out” offense does force all five defenders on the court to guard their man at all times, it can come at a cost for the offense. Sometimes it can take opportunities away from a generational talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo and give them to a Connaughton or Sterling Brown. We saw this at times throughout the regular season and again against the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for the coaching staff to combat this downfall. They’re able to dial up specific sets and play calls that put Antetokounmpo, and his more advanced teammates, in advantageous positions to score. As this series goes on, we’ll get into more of the specifics of the offense and what some of the basic play calls are.