We’re eight games into the Bucks 2018-2019 campaign and the historic seven consecutive wins the team piled up under first year head coach Mike Budenholzer has the Milwaukee fan base very optimistic. The roster is very similar to what it was a year ago, so what is behind the drastic change in fortune? The answers lie in the new style of play that is lighting up the Fiserv Forum.
The most obvious element of the new look Bucks is the crazy jump in scoring. The key behind the massive amounts of points the Bucks put up night in and night out is the number of threes the team shoots per game and their fast pace. So far, the Bucks are averaging 40.6 three pointers attempted per game, up from 24.7 a year ago (second in the NBA behind the Rockets). The team’s pace this year is also up dramatically from 97.16 possessions per game to 106.07 possessions per game. Behind Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s fast breaks, and the Khris Middleton led deadeye three-point shooting (38.4%) the Bucks possess, there is no reason to grind out possessions like they did under Jason Kidd.
However, the Bucks aren’t just shooting well, they’re shooting smart shots. Along with having the highest number of attempted threes in recent years, their points in the paint per game are up 6 points from last year. The Bucks are making smart passes, spreading the floor, and making sure every shot is either high percentage or high value threes. The Bucks are fourth in the NBA in assists and fourth in points per game, a lethal offense indeed.
This is a reflection of how the NBA is trending in the previous years. More threes, more layups, and more possessions. The Bucks are getting on the trend late, but seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to success. The Rockets proved that this style could lead to wins last year, and it is very possible the Bucks could do the same this season by dominating the East. Outshooting some of the slower teams in the East like Detroit and Indiana while using their physicality to torment the young, developing teams like Atlanta and Orlando.
The most surprising part about Milwaukee’s start is the fact that they are not just outscoring their opponents, they are also locking down on the defensive end. The Bucks are second in the NBA in defensive rating (behind Boston), first in opponent field goal percentage, and fourth in opponent points per game. Another surprising stat: The Bucks are second in fast break points allowed per game, not allowing the other teams to run as much as they do, and in true control of the game’s pace.
Clearly the sample size is small, just seven games, but the style of play that Mike Budenholzer is trying to install in Milwaukee is already in full force, and that is very inspiring. Sometimes it can take years for a coach to get the proper personnel in place to run a system to success, but Budenholzer has taken a squad that ran one of the slowest styles of play in the NBA, and transformed them into a fast-paced, three-point shooting powerhouse with a great defense that can control the game in any way needed.
(All stats from NBA.com)