The season is barely 10 games old, but already the NBA is off to a humming start. The traditional powers are off to bumpy starts, and we are somehow living in a world where the Orlando Magic are not a complete dumpster fire offensively. It has been a weird start to the NBA year, and the Milwaukee Bucks are no exception. After coming out of the gates strong, the Bucks have floundered of late dropping four of their last five games. Part of the issue for Milwaukee stems from the fact that they have struggled to find consistent lineups that work. The starting unit has been solid posting a +4.0 net rating in 82 minutes together, but the bench units have been getting slaughtered, especially when Giannis sits. With the team in a bit of a funk, it may be time for Jason Kidd to start thinking outside the box and start going to more unorthodox lineups to maximize the talent on the roster. Until Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe come back fully healthy, Kidd might want to get weird with the five man units he throws out there. Here are two potential groupings that are off the beaten path, but might be crazy enough to work.
- Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Mirza Teletovic.
This is a variation of the what the Cavaliers do when they go with LeBron James and four shooters. All four of the non-Giannis players in this lineup are threats from beyond the arc and can open the floor up for the Greek superstar to carve his way down the lane. With this grouping, the offense goes from stagnant and paint-clogging to wide-open and trigger happy. The most obvious set they can run is to get Giannis the ball at the high post and play 4-out. There isn’t a soul alive that can consistently stop him one-on-one from that spot, and Giannis has become adept at feeling double teams and slinging passes to open shooters. Teams are so petrified of Giannis flying by them to the baseline out of a post-up, that they will over commit when the Bucks have any kind of dribble-handoff action. Tony Snell in particular has become good at reading this and flying around Giannis to free himself open for easy three-point attempts. If teams starting forcing him off his spot at the elbow, Giannis can operate a pick and pop with Teletovic, who is canning 45.9% of his triples this season. This lineup may struggle on the defensive end because either Giannis or Teletovic will be forced to brawl with the opposing center, but they can hold their own on the glass, and it will lead to transition opportunities and easy baskets, something the Bucks desperately need. This lineup is not sustainable for long stretches, but could be useful if Milwaukee is in need of an offensive spark.
- Tony Snell, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker, and John Henson.
This supersized point guard-less lineup maximizes one of Milwaukee’s greatest strengths: length. Thon Maker has made strides in his second season, but he is still a string bean and is getting bullied by opposing centers. Sliding him to the power forward slot allows the Bucks to keep his length on the court without forcing him to bang down low and pick up cheap fouls. Snell is more than capable of guarding most opposing point guards and this unit is the most switchable group defensively the Bucks can put out there. Kidd has remained steadfast in his decision to trap most pick and rolls, but this lineup allows the Bucks to scrap that plan and simply switch. It is the grouping that most closely mirrors the 2014-2015 squad that was an absolute buzzsaw defensively. Offensively they can still run most of their base sets and utilize the pick and roll with Giannis and John Henson. Henson has the size and athleticism to be a rim-running force barreling down the lane for lob dunks. Maker has shown decent touch on his outside jumper, and if teams choose to sag off him to clog Giannis’ driving lanes, he will need to make them pay. Teams are hesitant to go without a traditional point guard, but since Giannis acts as the primary ball-handler, the offense will remain on schedule even without a prototypical floor general out there.
It is easy to overreact to early season struggles and hit the panic button, especially with the level of expectations that were heaped on this team. There have been rumblings out of Milwaukee about a potential move for Phoenix point guard Eric Bledsoe, who has expressed his discount in the valley of the sun. Those talks have died for the time being, but if the Bucks continue to flounder as we get closer to Christmas day, they may heat up again. With that being said, if the Bucks maintain the roster as is, the implementation of these non-traditional lineups may help kickstart a team that has been bitten by injury and is in need of a spark.