The Risks and Rewards of Malcolm Brogdon’s one-handed passes

Milwaukee Bucks’ guard Malcolm Brogdon often uses the one-handed pass. While it has it’s advantages, it can also lead to unnecessary sloppiness.

Milwaukee Bucks‘ guard Malcolm Brogdon has been highly criticized by those on Twitter for his lack of ball movement and penchant for over-dribbling. However, an even bigger question mark arises; his one-handed passing.

Far too often, Brogdon will pass the ball with one hand in order to hit his teammates on time. And although it works in certain situations, it also has it’s disadvantages including inaccurate passes and sloppiness. Check out the video above to get a full breakdown.

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Milwaukee Bucks first play vs Chicago Bulls

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer scripts the first play of every game. Here’s how he drew it up against the Chicago Bulls.

The Milwaukee Bucks love to generate some easy points at the beginning of every game. In order to do so, head coach Mike Budenholzer scripts the first set. 

Against the Chicago Bulls, Budenholzer began the set with the Bucks traditional five-out offense where each player fills one of the five spots along the perimeter (two corners, two wings and the top of the key).

On the bottom of the screen, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton perform a dribble handoff. While they’re doing that, Malcolm Brogdon curls off a Giannis Antetokounmpo screen.

Following the curl, Brogdon and Middleton run past one another in the paint, with Brogdon cutting to the opposite corner. It’s unclear if one was supposed to set a screen for the other, but no action happened there.

As Brogdon was cutting to the corner, Bledsoe faked as if he was looking to pass him the ball. Meanwhile, Middleton was coming off a double-stagger screen by Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez.

By this time, Bledsoe was dribbling back toward that side of the floor and was too close to Middleton. When the pass was made, Bledsoe’s defender was able to slide over and help prevent an open catch-and-shoot opportunity by Middleton. As a result, the wing had to pump-fake and take one dribble to his right for a pull-up three as his guy flew by.

Even though the shot didn’t go in, it was still a fairly well drawn up play. The execution just left a little to be desired.

In an attempt to track any trends, I’ve been breaking down the first play of the game with this being the fifth straight games. You can find the other four by clicking on “Film Room” in the tab above and going to the playlist labeled “Scripted first play of the game.”

Should Milwaukee Bucks’ fans Be Worried About their First Quarter Struggles?

The Milwaukee Bucks always seem to get behind the eight-ball at the beginning of the game.

On November 16th, the Milwaukee Bucks played the Chicago Bulls at home for the first of four matchups between the two teams this season. There were several storylines attached to the game: Jabari Parker in his revenge game, Parker versus Giannis, Antetokounmpo and the Lopez brothers pitted against one another.

All of those stories were fun at the time, but one storyline from the game has a lasting impact: the Bucks’ tale of two halves.

The Bucks were outscored 63-45 in the first have and they ended up beating the Bulls 123-104. Milwaukee used a furious second-half rally to outscore the Bulls 78-41 and complete the comeback.

After the game, Coach Budenholzer bemoaned the Bucks’ effort coming out of the gate, “I think it’s fairly obvious with the difference with us between the first and second halves. I thought the competitive spirit, the competitiveness, the toughness, the energy, the effort, and the focus, all those things you have to have, were apparent in the third and fourth quarter. Hopefully, as a group, we can think about what we want to do that from the start of the game to the end of the game.”

Bucks’ star and team leader, Giannis Antetokounmpo said, “Coach came in and he let us know we weren’t putting enough effort and energy into the game and we had no pace on offense – we were trying to do it ourselves. He was mad. He was really upset. But he believes in us, he trusts us. We don’t have to have that type of half for us to pick it up. We have to be able to – from the first minute of the game – be able to set the tone and do what we do.”

The Bucks seem to always put themselves in an uphill battle at the beginning of the game. Let’s take a look at the Bucks’ splits quarter-by-quarter:

Quarter 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Net Rating -0.5 20.1 11.0 12.2
Pace 105.1 104.9 106.2 100.4
Point Differential 0.1 5.0 2.6 3.4
Ranking 17th 1st 4th 1st

The first quarter is the Bucks main problem. The second takeaway is a question actually: Does it really matter if the Bucks lag in the first quarter while they are demolishing teams in the other three quarters?

The Bucks are currently 15-6, which ranks them second in the Eastern Conference. Most teams would be more than thrilled to have the issues the Buck are having at the moment. Also, isn’t it better to start off slow than tail off late at the end of games?

Nevertheless, there is always room to improve. Coach Bud certainly would agree with that mentality, but that raises another question. How do the Bucks manufacture better first quarters? The Bucks offensive rating and defensive rating overall is 115.6 and 105.1 respectively. In first quarters, their offensive rating is 111.2 and their defensive rating is 111.7; the Bucks struggle on both sides of the ball to start. Therefore, the Bucks’ poor opening quarters do not have one clear manifestation. It could be an issue with the Bucks’ mindset beginning the game, and they generally need to settle into their rhythm and play style. It is hard to say that Coach Bud needs to make some changes to the defense because the scheme works in the rest of the quarters. On offense, Budenholzer designs the first play of each game to jump start the offense. Perhaps he could run more designed plays in the first quarter, but the beauty of the Bucks offense is the space and free-flowing nature of off-ball movement centered around Giannis.

The first quarter woes is a perplexing issue given the Bucks’ early season success, especially with the number of blow-outs the Bucks have put together. The coaching staff probably should not make any drastic changes as of this moment; if this issue continues late into the season, perhaps they should fiddle with some schemes or plays. Hopefully, the Bucks can organically produce better opening quarters and continue their success.

Following the Herd

As the NBA season has begun to unravel and with a clearer picture of the Milwaukee Bucks success, let’s take a quick look at their G-League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd.

Thus far, the Wisconsin Herd are 1-7 and haven’t performed to expectations. However, there are some bright spots to be taken away. Currently under two-way contracts are Jaylen Morris and  19-year-old former Duke point guard Trevon Duval. Sterling Brown was most recently recalled to the Bucks due to injuries, depleting the Herd of one of its most talented players.

The G-League associate has emphasized they want the team culture to be beneficial to the other young Bucks, such as Donte DiVincenzo and D.J. Wilson, who could potentially make appearances in Oshkosh.

While you enjoy this Trevon Duval highlight reel, take notice of the Herd’s offensive scheme. Typically, the team has two bigs on the block, two wing players and a guard on the top of the key. From an effectiveness standpoint, 37 percent of the team’s field goal attempts have come from the 3-point line, but they are only canning a low 29.5 percent of those shots. Similarly, they have only made about 70 percent of their free throw attempts, and have performed on the bottom side of the league average in categories such as assists, points per game and are dead last with a +/- of -12.6. We should expect to see improvement throughout the season from an efficiency standpoint while the players continue to mesh together.

On defense, you can see man-to-man with occasional switching. Throughout the film, you can see the players losing their assignments and being baited too easily, and thus they have surrendered 974 points through eight games (equal to 122 points per game). The Herd still seem to be figuring it all out and we should expect to see some growth throughout the season.

The Herd is led by Jordan Brady, a young head coach with G-League experience dating back to 2012. At only 34-years-old with previous playing and successful assistant coaching experience, he and Wisconsin Herd GM Dave Dean have assembled a roster full of young talent that looks to not only win, but also develop chemistry and continuously improve every day.

Bucks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer has a strong history of utilizing his G-League partners, and this works perfectly as Jordan Brady also worked with the Bucks during their playoff run as well as during the Summer League.

Building a well-rounded organization from top to bottom is a high standard and we will continue to see how the team develops throughout the season. Don’t forget to look out for potential roster moves and highlights!

The Milwaukee Bucks’ Best Chance to Get Bradley Beal

If the Milwaukee Bucks have any chance to acquire shooting guard Bradley Beal, this might be it.

On Monday afternoon, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Washington Wizards are willing to trade any of their players. That’s a change because previously, the Wizards were not willing to trade their two stars; Bradley Beal and John Wall. After receiving little interest in players like Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre, in addition to their continued chemistry issues on and off the court, the Wizards opened up trade talks to everyone on their roster.

Wall doesn’t draw too much interest because of his 4 year/$170 million extension that begins next season. The gargantuan contract includes a 15 percent trade kicker that the acquiring team would have to pay. The Bucks would likely have little interest in John Wall based on this contract and the concerns about his long-term success with knee issues.

On the other hand, the Bucks probably have significant interest in Bradley Beal: a creative playmaker in the pick and roll and solid individual defender.

The Wizards’ guard is averaging 21.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists this season. Beal could slot in perfectly at the two-guard position next to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton at the forward positions. Beal’s contract is much more of a bargain as he’ll be paid $25 million, $27 million, and $28 million over the next three years respectively. It sounds like Beal could take the Bucks to the next level for the coming few years; so how could the Bucks get Beal?

The Trade Idea

Note: the Bucks would also trade a 2021 top-three protected first-round pick and a 2020 unprotected second-round which is not shown above.

The Theory

The only reason the Wizards would do this trade is if they wanted to get off some salary to get below the tax line. The Wizards have been paying the luxury tax this season and last season. Most team owners are willing to spend the luxury tax when their teams are contending in the Finals or Conference Finals, but the Wizards have not and will not be close to either in the foreseeable future. This is why the Bucks would trade Eric Bledsoe, who has an expiring contract so the Wizards can lower their salary payment.

Beyond Bledsoe, the Bucks still have to match salary within $5 million of Beal’s annual salary. That is why the Bucks would trade Thon Maker and Donte DiVincenzo, two prospects the Wizards may find intriguing for their long-term potential.

Finally, the Bucks would have to add a top-three protected first-round pick and an unprotected second-round pick to sweeten the deal. The Bucks’ 2019 first round pick is locked up with the Suns from the Bledsoe trade, which is projected to defer to 2020. Therefore, the earliest first-rounder Milwaukee can trade is in 2022 because NBA teams can’t trade first-round picks in back to back years. The value in the pick is in the eyes of the Wizards’ front office. If the Wizards’ management believes the Bucks will struggle in 2022, then they will be more attracted to the trade idea. The first-round pick is top-three protected just in case of an unforeseeable disaster (i.e. serious injury).

Reality

In all honesty, the Wizards’ front office is doubtful to seriously consider this trade idea. Every team was alerted to the possibility of a trade by the Adrian Wojnarowski report, and many other teams have more assets in terms of draft capital and valuable contracts. Teams like the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers are more willing and able to satisfy their cornerstone stars (Anthony Davis and LeBron James) in the short-term.

John Henson’s Injury and the Center Rotation

With John Henson expected to miss time, the Milwaukee Bucks will have to search for options to replace him.

On Friday morning, the Milwaukee Bucks announced John Henson will be undergoing wrist surgery. The injury dates back to the November 6th game at the Portland Trail Blazers. Even though Henson played in the following games, he was experiencing discomfort. Eventually, the longest-tenured Buck was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his left wrist and the timetable for his recovery is undetermined, but should be clearer after the operation.

The recent news creates an interesting dilemma for the Bucks in regards to their center rotation. Not many Bucks’ fans think that Henson’s presence in the rotation will be missed, but that could be the case until the Bucks find a stopgap internally or externally. Henson has totaled 5.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in 13.4 minutes per game through 14 games. Most notably, the big man is spacing the floor after never shooting more than seven shots beyond the arc in a season.  Henson is a threat outside by shooting 35.5 percent on 2.2 three-point attempts a game, an oddity Bucks fans everywhere love.

Who can the Bucks install into Henson’s playing time? Brook Lopez is the one constant at center, but at 30-years-old, the coaching staff will likely not burden Lopez with more minutes early in the regular season.

Two young big men, Thon Maker and Christian Wood, have barely seen the floor yet; Maker recently powered a comeback in the close loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite his energy and length off the bench, Maker shows plenty of flaws that will expose him on both ends of the floor.

The summer league standout, Wood, has most recently played for the Wisconsin Herd, playing 30 minutes with 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 7 turnovers.

One option the Bucks could use was probably generally reserved for the playoffs: Giannis Antetokounmpo-at-center lineups. Out of 425 minutes, Antetokounmpo has played this season, 35 of those came in with him potentially at center. An important caveat to note is that all of those lineups had Antetokounmpo and Ersan Ilyasova in the frontcourt.

In those limited minutes, the lineups scored 2.74 more points than their opponents. This may seem like the perfect panacea for the Bucks’ center deficit, but the coaching staff will likely not want to employ Antetokounmpo at center until the playoffs so they do not give opponents a lot of tape to watch and scheme around these lineups.

The last option would be to sign or trade for another big guy. The problem with signing someone is that they would have to open up a roster spot, which could prove to be costlier than the Bucks’ front office would feel comfortable with.

There is one guy that Budenholzer and the coaching staff have no intention of playing: Matthew Dellavedova. The Aussie point guard is making $9.6 million the next two seasons each, which is a tough contract to move. The Bucks would have to forfeit draft picks or a valuable contract to trade for a solid center. The front office should not give up draft assets or take on more salary as Khris Middleton and other Bucks are set to hit free agency this summer.

The best option is to give Maker a chance at the backup center minutes, perhaps the flashes of defensive instinct can come together, and he can become a more disciplined player. If Maker fails to show why the Bucks drafted him 10th overall in 2016, then the Bucks front office may feel ready to move on from him after this season.

Regardless of how well Maker and the rest of the Bucks fill in for Henson, nobody can replace the reason for “The Hook’s” namesake:

Khris Middleton’s Scoring Renaissance

Khris Middleton’s style of play and shot distribution is the best representation of the Milwaukee Bucks’ 3-point revolution.

Mike Budenholzer and his coaching staff have created a whole new offensive system for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks utilize floor-spacing and off-ball movement to create efficient shots at the rim and from downtown. Per NBA.com, 45.2 percent of the Bucks’ shots are 3-pointers, second only to the Houston Rockets. This figure is a massive increase from the prior season when the Bucks only took 31.2 percent of their shots from downtown. The Bucks’ playmakers, like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, create gravity because of the help defense they demand, leading to the Bucks ranked second in assists and points per game.

The best representation of the Bucks’ 3-point revolution is Middleton’s style of play and shot distribution adjustment. In the 2017-2018 season, Middleton attempted 32.0 percent of his shots beyond the 3-point line, with an effective field goal percentage of 52.4 percent (effective field-goal percentage accounts for the greater value of 3-pointers). He was known as a member of a dying breed of mid-range shooters, amongst the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Durant. In addition to that, Middleton had his worst 3-point shooting season since his rookie year at 35.9 percent.


Shot Chart provided by www.austinclemens.com

In the first 12 games of the 2018-2019 season, Middleton attempted 54.4 percent of his shots beyond the arc, with a 56.4 percent effective field goal percentage. So far, Middleton has made 45.5 percent of his 3-point attempts. He has almost completely eliminated the pull-up elbow jumpers and post-up 10-footers from his game. Instead, Middleton has confidently and aggressively shot from beyond the arc, especially the top of the arc 3-pointers. In the following clip, Middleton leverages the mismatch against center Enes Kanter to score at the end of the shot clock.

This type of shot is unique, a lot of players utilize the step-back, popularized by James Harden, but not many run up on their defender. The shot Middleton uses in the clip carries his momentum towards the basket, making it an easier shot than a step-back, which shifts one’s momentum away from the basket. Also, Middleton effectively rocks Kanter back on his heels to shoot over the big man by running right at him.

In general, Middleton is more aggressive shooting off the dribble this season, attempting 6.5 pull-up shots a game and 3.8 of those are 3-point attempts. That compares to 7.2 off the bounce attempts per game with 1.3 of those coming from downtown last season. Middleton’s scoring efficiency from pull-ups has dramatically increased from last season (47.8 percent to 55.6 percent).

Middleton’s scoring efficiency has been a major factor in the Bucks’ offensive success this season because of the respect he receives from the opposing defenders. By stretching out the defense, Middleton opens up space for other shooters around the arc or Antetokounmpo in the paint. Also, there is immense value in guys that the team can count on in key late-game situations to make a bucket.

The one key takeaway from Middleton’s changing shot profile, though, is the effect Mike Budenholzer’s offensive system has had on the Bucks’ efficiency. It is quite apparent Middleton put in a lot of hours in the gym this summer, working on his 3-point shooting, especially off the dribble. Those hours in the gym have paid off dividends already in the early portion of the season, but his individual scoring could become more valuable in the playoffs when slower isolation plays are more frequent as opposing teams shut down the normal offense.

Milwaukee Bucks mini-pod: Bucks vs Warriors-who will defend Giannis Antetokounmpo?

The Milwaukee Bucks take on the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night. Which Warriors’ player will be tasked with defending Giannis Antetokounmpo?

The Milwaukee Bucks play the Golden State Warriors in the second game of their four-game Western Conference road trip. Following a loss at the Portland Trail Blazers, life doesn’t get any easier for these Bucks.

The Warriors are playing some very good basketball right now, sitting at 10-1 and having won eight straight games. Even though Draymond Green will be out for the game, they are still a very tough task for the Bucks.

Already this season, Milwaukee has struggled with guards who can hit a pull-up three following a ball-screen. This will be another tough task as Steph Curry is the very best in the league, if not in NBA history. How Milwaukee elects to defend him will be a key point in this game.

How the Warriors defend the Bucks will also be another item worth watching. Their switching defense means a lot of different players will probably get their turns, but we will keep an eye on it throughout the game.

 

Milwaukee Bucks’ Rookie Report: Donte DiVincenzo

Despite only being a rookie, Donte DiVincenzo has been given plenty of playing time to show Mike Budenholzer and the Milwaukee Bucks what he’s got.

On October 17th, the Milwaukee Bucks tipped-off against the Charlotte Hornets in the season opener. Bucks’ fans harbored a lot of anxiety over the impact of the coaching staff on the new season.

Those cynical thoughts fans had under Jason Kidd‘s previous leadership crept back as the team gave up a 71-56 lead to the Hornets. Eventually, Charlotte tied the game 101-101 with 6:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. The drought in the first game of the new season reminded fans of seasons past under Kidd. Suddenly, it seemed so palpable that the 2018-2019 season could amount to 40 wins season and an early playoff exit.

With the first game on the line, Charlotte had the ball with 23 seconds left on the clock and the Bucks up 113-112. Milwaukee needed a stop to ensure the win and set the tone for the rest of the year. So who are the players Coach Budenholzer trusted for this critical defensive possession?

Giannis AntetokounmpoKhris MiddletonEric BledsoeJohn HensonDonte DiVincenzo

Donte DiVincenzo?

Budenholzer subbed Brogdon out for DiVincenzo for the final defensive possession. Malik Monk, who had scored 18 points and helped power Charlotte’s comeback, was the rookie’s defensive assignment. Up to this point, Coach Bud had barely seen DiVincenzo play in an NBA game, but trusted him to defend when needed most.

Divincenzo’s defense has been impressive so far: he plays with intensity and awareness, in addition to his physical traits of quickness and verticality. He does some of the subtle, savvy maneuvers on defense needed for the modern NBA. DiVincenzo has tremendous quickness (lateral or otherwise) allowing him to recover off screens or in isolation. As we are going to see in the video below, he makes a great effort to get “skinny” and get low when an opponent sets a screen on him.

Instead of focusing on the made basket by J.J. Redick, understand he’s one of the most lethal shooters in the league and can make high-efficiency shots while in motion at difficult angles.

As we just saw, Redick practically sprints through the screen set for him, so we have to keep that in our minds as we consider DiVincenzo’s defense on him. While DiVincenzo allowed Redick to score, he forced a long two-point shot and the Bucks’ coaching staff is perfectly comfortable with that shot.

Another interesting aspect of DiVincenzo’s defensive play is his ability to stay on his man without using his hands. With the new “freedom of movement” rule, fouls will be called on defenders for grabbing the jersey of offensive players to slow them. DiVincenzo makes a distinct point to show his hands are not on Redick. Some of the veterans of the league have been struggling with this rule and complaining about it but the rookie already understands the nuances of the NBA rules.

DiVincenzo still has room to improve on the defensive end. The downside of limiting the use of his hands to guard is he can lose his man on cuts and other quick actions. For example, Kyle Lowry shakes off DiVincenzo on a back cut.

This defensive miscue is partially because DiVincenzo guessed what Lowry was going to do so he could get the steal. Oftentimes, that is how guys get beat. If DiVincenzo had stayed physically attached to Lowry, with just a hand on his hip or arm, he would have sensed Lowry’s cut. Despite this momentary lack of awareness, his defense is relatively polished for a rookie.

DiVincenzo projects to guard the two guard positions well with his quickness and intelligence. He is well-suited to take on the difficult task of defending shooting guards who run through screens all game like Redick or Danny Green. Due to his undersized frame for a shooting guard, it will be interesting to see how he matches up against forwards and other larger players.

Another concern is his short wingspan which could prevent him from excelling in help defense. Hopefully, he can make up for his limited wingspan with his quickness and IQ. As he continues to grow his basketball intelligence, it will be interesting to see how he guards some of the elite point guards in the league like Damian Lillard or Kyrie Irving.

On the offensive end, DiVincenzo is averaging 7.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.0 turnover per game. He is shooting 46.4 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from the 3-point line, and 81.8 percent from the free-throw line.

Despite his low-efficiency, DiVincenzo is shooting confidently without hesitation. As a rookie, he has to adjust to the longer 3-point line and the quicker release needed to beat the pro-level athleticism on closeouts. However, DiVincenzo takes a diverse set of shots (some set shots, some in motion created from off-ball screens). Coming from Villanova’s pro-style offense, DiVincenzo had the unique advantage of coming out of college with an understanding of his role on an NBA roster. Here is a subtle example of DiVincenzo’s intelligence:

Brogdon assisted DiVincenzo, but DiVincenzo was actually the guy that helped out on that play. Brogdon’s initial drive ended up fruitless and he was running out of room on the baseline. DiVincenzo recognized this and took a couple steps to the left along the 3-point line to open up a passing angle for Brogdon. DiVincenzo’s man completely lost him, displaying the advantages of even the simplest off-ball movement.

Offensively, DiVincenzo still needs to gain a feel for the game with the ball in his hands, especially in transition.

DiVincenzo gave up the ball in semi-transition (transition off defensive rebound) even though Orlando’s defense is set up. He should have probably initiated the half-court offense as opposed to driving to the rim. The coaching staff is probably not encouraging him to exploit mismatches on drives and he doesn’t have the physical prowess of Antetokounmpo to create clear mismatches.

Despite only being a rookie, DiVincenzo has been given plenty of playing time to show Budenholzer what he’s got. Here, he showed some flashes of brilliance, reminiscent of his championship performance:

Overall, DiVincenzo’ energy and poise on both ends of the floor have been very impressive. He has excelled in his role on the Bucks’ roster so far, but it will be fun to watch him grow and shoulder greater responsibilities as the season progresses. It would be quite valuable to have a guy that can guard elite ball-handlers and initiate the offense with Antetokounmpo in the next few seasons, because Milwaukee’s two point guards, Brogdon and Bledsoe, are heading into free agency this summer.