It has become cliche to say that no one in the NBA plays defense. It is the lynchpin of every argument made by former players to explain why today’s league is weaker than the era in which they played. The reality is that in a league that features more skilled players than ever before where you can no longer hand check, playing defense has never been more difficult. Teams have adjusted by playing more switchable lineups and sagging back on pick and rolls rather than blitzing ball handlers. One team that has yet to adopt this strategy is the Milwaukee Bucks.
Known around the league as one longest and most athletic teams, the Bucks on paper project as a top flight defensive team. Part of the reason they rank 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency (106.8 per NBA.com) is because they play an antiquated style defensively. Jason Kidd is hell bent on playing an aggressive scheme that traps ball handlers in pick and roll, to take advantage of the length they have across many positions. The issue with that is that is if the trap is neutralized, the offense has essentially a four on three situation which leads to a healthy amount of open triples for the opposition. In a recent trip to Utah, a team that makes just a hair over 11 threes a game, they allowed the Jazz to can 18 shots from beyond the arc. The Bucks continued to trap Utah point guard Ricky Rubio throughout the game, despite the fact that he is shooting a whopping 28.8% from beyond the arc.
This is just the latest example of Jason Kidd’s reluctance to deviate from a defensive system that has been proven ineffective. Despite starting five plus defenders, the Bucks are among the worst defensive teams in basketball, which is something that feels impossible. Kidd has received criticism from the media about his unwillingness to adjust, and tension is starting to boil over amongst the players. The normally jovial Giannis Antetokounmpo lost his cool on the bench during the loss to Utah, something that is not completely out of place across the NBA, but may be a manifestation of a team that is becoming increasingly frustrated. The Bucks have dropped three of their last four, including an embarrassing loss to woeful Dallas by 32 points.
Coaching defense in the NBA has never been harder, but Jason Kidd is not making it any easier on himself by continuing to play an outdated scheme. It is hard to say that Kidd should be removed as head coach considering the job he has done in player development, but if he refuses to adjust his defensive tactics, he may find himself without a job sooner rather than later.