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Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up

Taking tabs at the halfway point of the season

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Charlotte Hornets Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

One of the great pleasures of basking in post-Championship Milwaukee Bucks existence is shrugging off mid-January losses like water off a duck’s back. Where previously a deflating home defeat at the hands of a six-win (but suddenly frisky!) Detroit Pistons team might’ve caused consternation, now it’s merely “ah, shucks” and moving along. There are still reasons to be disappointed, but it feels like folly to read all that much into any games right now given lazy susan that is this roster plus a general amping up that I expect come Plaoyff time. A down week won’t keep us down here at the wrap-up factory, that Nets win is keeping us fat and happy. Let’s wrap-up.

The Week That Was

You know in college basketball how some players seem like they’ve played for years and years? Robbie Hummel at Purdue was like that for me, Brad Davison at Wisconsin is now. Well, Fred VanVleet is the pro equivalent of that at the moment. Every Bucks game, I expect full well that he’ll lay waste to Mike Budenholzer, and I think he may be doing that for years to come. His 4-year, $85M contract seems like a bargain. Thankfully, his memory was washed away by the Bucks bombing away against a surprisingly disengaged Brooklyn Nets team. Those good vibes didn’t soar south to Charlotte unfortunately, as the Hornets played pickup against the Bucks grinding teeth offensive execution, sending Milwaukee home packing with two straight losses.

Weekly Wondering

Last week’s wrap-up touched extensively on Grayson Allen staying in the starting lineup, and he promptly found himself out of it due to entering the health and safety protocols. Thankfully, I’m not zeroing in on any one player this week, so no jinxing this time around. In fact, since we’re just past the halfway point of the season, it actually seemed like a good chance to zoom out and take a broader look at the team’s performance so far, particularly in comparison to last year’s regular season. We’ll be using the four factors (offensive/defensive rating, turnovers, rebounding and free throws) as our guideposts, with all data per Cleaning The Glass. First, here’s your general statistics comparing last year to this year.

Offensive Four Factors

Year Pts/Poss. Pts/Poss. Rank eFG% eFG% Rank TOV% TOV% Rank OREB% OREB% Rank FT Rate FT Rate Rank
Year Pts/Poss. Pts/Poss. Rank eFG% eFG% Rank TOV% TOV% Rank OREB% OREB% Rank FT Rate FT Rate Rank
21-22 112.6 8 53.80% 8 13.90% 13 26.10% 15 18.2 18
20-21 117.5 7 56.70% 5 13.40% 12 25.70% 12 17.8 23

And then here’s how they’ve stacked up defensively, with all the marks below being related to opponents, so points/possession allowed, eFG% of opponents, etc.

Defensive Four Factors

Year Diff Rank Diff Pts/Poss. Pts/Poss. Rank eFG% eFG% Rank TOV% TOV% Rank DREB% DREB% Rank FT Rate FT Rate Rank
Year Diff Rank Diff Pts/Poss. Pts/Poss. Rank eFG% eFG% Rank TOV% TOV% Rank DREB% DREB% Rank FT Rate FT Rate Rank
21-22 5 +4.3 108.3 9 52.30% 11 14.00% 17 75.40% 7 15.9 4
20-21 5 +5.5 112.1 10 54.20% 16 12.80% 23 77.00% 3 15.2 2

What stands out most is how similar this team has been to last year. Given the ins-and-outs and perceived somewhat sleepwalking through this season thus far, it’s impressive that Bud has this team humming at a level commensurate with last year. Now, let’s take a deeper look into how that’s been the case.

Offensive/Defensive Rating

The raw offensive numbers may look weaker than last year, but they’re still ranked top ten in the league by virtue of the fact offense is down across the league. Same story defensively, where there’s a cluster of teams ranked near them, but generally they’ve remained stingy enough to hover around top-ten after ranking in the bottom half to start the season.

How they’re putting up stats hasn’t dramatically changed either, although they’re more reliant on the three this season. Here is their offensive shot frequency by location.

Chart per CleaningTheGlass.com

The decreased reliance upon the rim has been a continued trend during Bud’s tenure, and it’s little surprise given Holiday is less reliant upon the paint as Eric Bledsoe was, plus Brook Lopez hasn’t been around for even the token hook shot. The team is almost uniformly shooting worse across the floor this year compared to last year, but again, that’s explained in the raw offensive points/100 possessions figure being lower. One promising development is that they’re generating more shots from the corner, where three pointers rain down at a higher clip.

Offensively, they’re also running off live rebounds (32.1%) and steals (56.6%) at the lowest rate in Bud’s era, although the live rebound figure is just marginally lower than last year and still ranks top ten in the league. Their overall transition frequency, 16.5% vs. 17.8% last year, is lower (still 8th) after ranking tops in the league the last two years. On top of that, they’re not converting as frequently, which could be a product of missing Giannis occasionally thus far, less chemistry between players on the break and potentially some marginal impact of take fouls.

All in all, I’ve been more impressed with their stability defensively. Bud has experimented with flat hedges on pick-and-rolls, Giannis has been thrust into both switching and drop coverage, along with more frequent zone implementation. I can’t say the eye test has necessarily demonstrated to me this defense is anywhere near the same level as last postseason, but they’re also missing one of the key pieces of their base scheme in Brook Lopez. The linchpin thus far has been Giannis of course, who is holding opponents to 47.7% shooting at the rim on 5.1 attempts per game. That being said, we should give Bobby Portis credit where it’s due. He’s been deployed far more on the perimeter this season through hedging, but when he is stuck contesting at the rim, he’s held opponents to 52.6% shooting on 4.5 attempts per game. As a point of comparison, Kristaps Porzingis is allowing 51.3% shooting on nearly identical number of attempts.

Rebounding

Bucks Rebounding Data

Year OREB% OREB% Rank DREB% DREB% Rank
Year OREB% OREB% Rank DREB% DREB% Rank
21-22 26.10% 15 75.40% 7
20-21 25.70% 12 77.00% 3

Remember all that hand-wringing over defensive rebounding early in the season? Bud shaped this team up real quick and now has them ranked seventh in the league in terms of defensive rebounding percentage at 75.4%. It’s an impressive feat given he’s been missing his box out king all season long, but it also shows the stability of his scheme in that it can exist independent of Brook Lopez. With Boogie gone, I’ll be curious to see if it can maintain at this level while Bud leans more into smaller lineups.

I mentioned before one of the stats most worth monitoring this season is offensive rebounding percentage, which helped push this team to a championship last year. Second chances made up for abysmal shooting. So far, they’ve posted an even better OREB% than last year’s regular season team, helping buoy the team at times during their shooting slumps. That’s a promising sign they’ve put those numbers up and continued a trend that propelled them last postseason.

Turnovers

Bucks Turnover Data

Year TOV% TOV% Rank OPP. TOV% TOV% Rank
Year TOV% TOV% Rank OPP. TOV% TOV% Rank
21-22 13.90% 13 14.00% 17
20-21 13.40% 12 12.80% 23

It’s Bud business as usual here. They’re turning it over around the same rate as last year, albeit only a bit more, which I’d consider a win given the roster flux they’ve faced this season. Defensively, it is a bit intriguing to see they’re forcing turnovers at the highest rate of the Bud era. Part of that I’d venture stems from the lack of drop coverage they’re running, with the hard hedges and doubles that both Bobby Portis and Demarcus Cousins employed resulting in a few more runouts.

Unfortunately, it’s not translating to transition opportunities on the other end, the team is running in transition off steals just 56.6% of the time, ranked 29th in the league. That’s by far the worst mark of the Bud era, the previous low was 2019-20 at 62.1%. All in all though, I’d say it’s par for the course.

Free Throws

Bucks FT Data

Year FT Rate FT Rate Rank OPP. FT Rate FT Rate Rank
Year FT Rate FT Rate Rank OPP. FT Rate FT Rate Rank
21-22 18.2 18 15.9 4
20-21 17.8 23 15.2 2

Not fouling opponents has been a staple of Bud’s tenure, and that staple is firmly entrenched once more this season. Even with a revolving door of players up and down the roster, he’s instilled in them a predilection to avoid giving the other team open looks at the charity stripe. That’s a credit to his coaching staff, and something we all could’ve expected this season.

On the offensive end, this team as usual is not reliant on drawing fouls, partially meaning they weren’t affected by the lack of calls that plagued some players and teams early in the year. Giannis Antetokounmpo is really the only foul magnet on this roster, and his nearly league-leading free throw attempts/game is buoying this number almost entirely on its own. One promising development is Khris Middleton, who has drawn fouls on 10.5% of his shot attempts this season, the highest mark of his career and a marked improvement from 8.2% last year. We’ll see if that holds, but it would be quite a helpful scoring moat for a player who’s still trying to find his stroke this season.


All in all, the fact this team has posted a similar point differential with their four factors ranked similarly to last year is wildly encouraging to me. It demonstrates the stability of Bud’s system as in the regular system, even as they’ve experimented most drastically on defense with different lineups and schemes. What it means for the postseason remains to be seen, but even with the recent spate of discouraging losses, this team is on solid footing with the chance to fly higher with better health in the second half of the year.

Play of the Week

Another week, another set of ho-hum games that didn’t offer all that much in the ways of highlight plays. The grinding offense against the Hornets wasn’t flashy, and as such, the options below are bereft of plays against Buzz City. Here’s what caught my eye this past week, with a special emphasis on the passing stylings of Giannis.

Nwora Slam

There isn’t all that much to this one x’s and o’s wise, but it is notable that the Bucks were able to get all of the Raptors rim protectors (Barnes, Siakam, Anunoby) caught in the muck of a pick-and-roll action atop the arc. From there, all it takes is a simple Khris swing of the ball and Nwora takes it to the house. I like seeing him aggressively take it to the rack and show off athleticism that I don’t feel is put into action as much as it could be.

Sticking With It for Giannis Slam

I wanted to highlight this one because it showcased the stick-to-itiveness from a whole host of role players that helped the Bucks pull out that Brooklyn Nets. It starts with two innocent screens by Semi and Galloway atop the arc that wind up with Giannis iso’d on KD on the left side. Everyone else flees to the right side, while every Net immediately trains their eyes on the Kaiju clash taking place. Giannis is stymied by a double team, so he kicks it back out to Semi atop the arc and they reset. A DHO to Hood turns into several seconds of isolation ball that go nowhere before KD digs in off his man (Galloway) for a steal, but Rodney sees the double and barely gets it out to Langston in time.

He swings it to Giannis, who was abandoned by Aldridge heading up for help, and he promptly sprints to the rim. Mamukelashvili finally makes his presence felt in the final seconds of the possession, as he seals off Cam Thomas and James Johnson at the rim just enough to give the superstar an easy jam.

Action, Action, Distraction, Action

This one is a treat to breakdown, even if it ends in a miss, especially given some of the stagnant offense we dealt with this past week. It starts with Khris and Nwora running screens and a subsequent cut to free up space for Middleton to get the ball back from Wes. Khris reverses the floor, with Giannis coming up to screen his man, while Bobby runs a simultaneous screen along the baseline to try and free up Nwora for an open look from three on the left side.

Harden gets caught ball watching while Khris dribbles, freeing Giannis up for a roll to the rim off an expertly tossed fly ball from Middleton. Once Antetokounmpo catches, it’s just one step and he’s at the basket so both Nic Claxton and Kevin Durant dig in to help at the rim. From there, it’s an open look for Wes on the perimeter off the Giannis kickout.

Giannis Slings to Bobby

The nonchalance. The accuracy. The one-handedness. It all adds up to one of the better impromptu Giannis passes of recent vintage.

That’ll do it for this week’s wrap-up. Vote in the poll below for your favorite play, and we’ll check in again next Wednesday!

Poll

The play of the week is...

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Nwora Slam
    (19 votes)
  • 8%
    Sticking with it for Giannis Dunk
    (8 votes)
  • 4%
    Action, Action, Distraction, Action
    (4 votes)
  • 65%
    GIannis Slings to Bobby
    (58 votes)
89 votes total Vote Now