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Milwaukee Bucks Weekly Wednesday Wrap-up

It’s good to be back...

Houston Rockets v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Some may argue that two games is simply too paltry a number to warrant a wrap-up, and to those people I politely smile and wag my two fingers in your mug. It’s no foul to want a wrap-up after months and months away, so I won’t waste another word. Let’s wrap up.

The Week that Was

Sure Milwaukee put up one of the least efficient scoring nights in the league thus far while outlasting Philadelphia, but the Sixers were even worse! Joel Embiid was already running on fumes in the fourth quarter two games into the season, and Brook Lopez’s virtuoso defensive performance held him to 6-21 while Milwaukee funneled Jim Harden inside the arc. You couldn’t ask for a 1-3 start to happen to a better group of guys. On the other hand, the Rockets young guns looked overmatch from jump against Giannis Antetokounmpo. This game may as well have been sponsored by AND1, because Antetokounmpo took up residence inside the paint and pummeled Garuba, Eason, Uncle Buck Jr... The list goes on and on, but they never stood a chance. It was a tidy way to start before the schedule stiffens up the next week.

Weekly Wondering

Defense may get all the headlines to start this season, but I’m keeping my eye on the offense this year. Yes, many issues will be solved when Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton return, but the Bucks halfcourt performance still bears watching given its Yelich-esque collapse come postseason play. With that in mind, I was just generally curious how the Bucks play types may have changed with shifting personnel due to injuries. Here’s a charting of their play type frequency over two (small sample size, I get it) games this year, last year’s Playoffs (most of which came without Middleton) and last regular season, per

Bucks by Play Type Frequency (

Play type 2022-23 (2 games LOL) 2022 Playoffs 2021-22 Regular Season
Play type 2022-23 (2 games LOL) 2022 Playoffs 2021-22 Regular Season
Isolation 5.70% 13.20% 8.80%
Transition 20.10% 18.20% 19.00%
PnR Ball Handler 17.70% 13.20% 13.60%
PnR Roll Man 6.20% 5.20% 5.80%
Post up 5.30% 7.80% 6.90%
Spot up 22.50% 18.20% 22.30%
Handoff 6.20% 5.00% 4.10%
Cut 4.80% 6.20% 6.40%
Off Screen 2.90% 3.10% 3.10%
Putback 3.30% 5.20% 5.10%

One thing that’s stood out to me, both from the eye test and the minor statistical change, are dribble hand-offs (DHO’s). It’s a small increase, but they’re up to 6.2% of their possessions this year (9th in NBA) vs. a bottom-ten team in terms of percentage last year (4.1%). Interestingly enough, they were tied for last in the league at 0.81 points per possession in 2021; thus far, they’re at 1.15 PPP. Again, these are only around 4-6 possessions per game, but in their shorthanded state, any play types that generate above average offense are welcome. Grayson has been the most prominent player I’ve seen involved in these actions. Here’s one example y’all may remember:

I’m not reading anything definitive into this year’s numbers, but it’s still interesting to see the points of comparison. In last year’s playoffs, the team devolved into iso-ball at about 150% the rate they did in the regular season; partially a product of Playoff basketball and also the Celtics’ stingy, switchy scheme. The same could be said for their dropoff in spot-up plays, where Boston ran them off the line time and time again.

This year, we haven’t had to see the “pound your head into the wall” concept employed yet. Could it have been helpful against a Philly team that is lacking in positive defenders among their starters? Perhaps, but they’ve been making a conscious effort to try and involve more of their players based on the stats thus far. Interestingly, despite missing one of their primary pick-and-roll ball handlers, the Bucks have ran it more than ever thus far this season, albeit at a less efficient rate. Jrue Holiday was rough against Philly, but he dribbled through the Rockets defense like traffic cones multiple times for finishes. Regardless, I’m curious whether the PnR rate continues at a higher tick than year’s past under Bud, when Milwaukee has ranked near the bottom of the league.

They haven’t shifted all too much from their overall strategy though; run in transition as much as possible (or more than ever in the case of this season so far) and find spot-up shooters off penetration. That’s their bread and butter; now we have 80 more games this season to see what jams Bud may want to try spreading on.

Plays of the Week

Defense. Offense. This first week had it all, by which I mean, it had basketball. Even with one anemic offensive output, the Bucks had a number of standout sequences on that end of the floor to go alongside some highlight Brook blocks. Here are the plays that stood out to me this week.

No Giannis. No Problem.

In keeping an eye on offensive output, here’s another example of the Grayson Allen handoffs paying dividends. Here, he floats around while Holiday cuts to the basket. The latter is open, but Allen doesn’t have the ability to rifle a pass through four Sixer defenders, so he preemptively passes to the right blue square spot where Jevon Carter is moving to from the corner. After switching the floor, James Harden and Joel Embiid call this possession a wash and just let Lopez get a wide open jumper. Splash.

Giannis the Facilitator

Ironically enough, the play that best encapsulated Giannis in “facilitation mode” against Philly for me was one where he scored. He sets the screen for Holiday, who arcs the pass into him at the free throw line over two defenders. Giannis calmly collects himself inside the paint against a double team, looks to a baseline-cutting Wes Matthews to draw the eyes of De’Anthony Melton, then whirls a pass to Grayson Allen in the corner.

As the Sixers scramble back to their men from the chaos Giannis created, Allen takes advantage with a baseline drive and dish to Antetokounmpo. Watch his subtle toe-tap outside the arc before he dives back in for a dunk. 2.9ing at its finest and split-second processing speed.

Follow Your Lead Blocker

In keeping with the “manufacturing offense” theme of this week’s wrap-up, here’s another example of Milwaukee trying to snag points in the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Holiday had it going against Houston, and he knows Sengun is a sieve, so as he sags Brook has plenty of room to sprint after fleeing from the initial pick-and-roll. For a split second it looks like Holiday may try a bounce pass, but Eason is tagging Lopez and fleeing Portis.

Instead of Jrue going for the kickout, he takes advantage of Lopez still rolling hard through his action and slivers through the space Eason abandons when he tries to get back to Portis. Lopez shields off his original man, Sengin, and Holiday follows his lead blocker like a running back through the hole. Fun stuff.

Brook. Block. Battlestar Galactica.

Brook Lopez is a size 20. The Rockets are ants. This blockfest speaks for itself.

K.I.S.S. Off the Glass

Sometimes you don’t need to draw up intricate screens upon horn sets upon flare screens upon spain pick-and-rolls to snag a bucket. Sometimes, especially against an undisciplined young team, you just need to set up some beef and block a defensive line. After Allen plops the ball in to Jrue around the free throw line, he screams for the corner while Portis blocks his man, Jalen Green. As he tries to fight through that, he pushes his teammate Tari Eason to pick up the slack, only to be greeted by beefy Brook in the corner for another screen. Sengun is content to watch. Allen misses the triple but Portis gets paid off for starting it all off with a putback. Keep it simple.


Oct. 26: The Play of the Week is...

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    No Giannis. No Problem.
    (8 votes)
  • 21%
    Giannis the Facilitator
    (13 votes)
  • 11%
    Follow Your Lead Blocker
    (7 votes)
  • 51%
    Brook. Block. Battlestar Galactica.
    (31 votes)
  • 1%
    K.I.S.S. Off the Glass
    (1 vote)
60 votes total Vote Now

And so concludes our first weekly wrap-up of the season. I’m always looking for new ideas to dive deep into, or other ways to improve this column as the year goes along. Thanks for any ideas or feedback in the comments below.