The Three Amigos of the Milwaukee Bucks

I am really interested in how successful NBA teams are built. Since the 2015-2016 season I have been tracking a few key stats for the Bucks, and comparing them to elite (60+ win) teams dating back to the 1993-1994 Seattle Supersonics. The stats are: ORtg (both rating and NBA rank), DRtg (both rating and NBA rank), and the USG% rates for the key rotation players (defined as 20+ mpg). My last fan post on the topic was the 2016-2017 team being built around Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. Needless to say, quite a few things have changed since then! Goodbye to Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe, John Hammond, and Jason Kidd. Hello to Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, Jon Horst, and Mike Budenholzer. What effect has that had on the stats?

Team Ratings

The elite historical teams had an average ORtg of 111.3, good for 5th in the NBA. The Bucks have improved from 109.1 (13th in the NBA) to 114.1 (2nd in the NBA).

The elite historical teams had an average DRtg of 103.1, good for 6th in the NBA. The Bucks have improved from 109.3 (19th in the NBA) to 104.9 (1st in the NBA).

Elite teams tend to be good on both sides of the ball, and the Bucks are no exception to this. The best thing to note: that 2017 team won 42 games and a 6 seed in the playoffs, but it also allowed more points than it scored. The current 2020 team is on pace for 70 wins and a 1 seed in the playoffs, and outscores its opponents by 11.8 points per 100 possessions. This is better than the 2016 Golden State Warriors who won 73 games, and better than any team since the 1996 Chicago Bulls won 72 games.

Player Ratings

Elite teams tend to have a clear pecking order for USG%. There are one or two really high level star players the team plays thru. These are guys like Steph Curry and Michael Jordan. The teams also have a few really low USG% players to balance that out. Guys like Andrew Bogut or Dennis Rodman.

When I first started looking at this, the Bucks USG% distribution was nearly flat. Everyone got an equal opportunity to score. By the 2017 season, the Bucks were starting to resemble a more traditional team design. Giannis and Jabari dominated the shot attempts, and that was balanced by low USG% players like Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson. The current 2020 team is extremely top heavy, with a clear division between the top 3 USG% players and the rest of the roster. For players with at least 20 mpg:


1994 – 2019 Avg USG%

1996 Bulls


2016 Warriors USG%

2020 Bucks USG%

#1 Option


33.3 (Michael Jordan)

32.6 (Steph Curry)

38.0 (Giannis Antentokounmpo)

#2 Option


24.4 (Scottie Pippen)

26.3 (Klay Thompson)

25.7 (Khris Middleton)

#3 Option


21.4 (Toni Kukoc)

18.8 (Draymond Green)

23.8 (Eric Bledsoe)

#4 Option


17.8 (Luc Longley)

15.9 (Harrison Barnes)

16.9 (Donte DiVincenzo)

#5 Option


14.9 (Ron Harper)

12.1 (Andre Iguodala)

16.6 (Brook Lopez)

#6 Option


12.9 (Steve Kerr)

11.4 (Andrew Bogut)

15.8 (George Hill)

#7 Option


10.3 (Dennis Rodman)


12.3 (Wes Matthews)

The thing that should immediately jump out to everyone is Giannis. The Bucks offense runs thru him, more than the Bulls with Jordan or the Warriors with Steph. Eric Bledsoe is also an outlier, playing more like a #2 option than the #3 role he fills for the Bucks. The Bucks are able to accommodate this top heavy USG% distribution because they play a large rotation with reduced minutes for the starters (unlike the Bulls), and the entire bench is low USG players (unlike the Warriors).

One final thing to consider: all of this information is for the regular season only. When the playoffs arrive, this will almost certainly change. Based on last season, Bud will likely shorten his rotation and play the starters more. Last season the main effect was on KM, dropping from 25.1 in the regular season to 21.0 in the playoffs, while the rest of the team remained essentially the same. If the rotation shortens up again this season, the USG distribution will also change. Will Giannis see his USG drop as teams commit to building a wall in the paint? Will KM again see his USG drop as man defense tightens up? Will Bledsoe take on more of a defer role? Do the supporting role players cut their already low USG? It will be fascinating to watch it play out.

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