One Team, Three Stats: Milwaukee Bucks build around Giannis Antetokounmpo
Before training camp opened, the Milwaukee Bucks lost their best player for six months, a tough blow to a young team that was looking to take a step forward after a year of regression.
But a new best player has emerged in Milwaukee. The development of Giannis Antetokounmpo has helped make up for the loss of Khris Middleton and the Bucks surprised some people with an 11-9 start to their season and a somewhat decent offense.
The defense has had issues as the Bucks have lost three straight to fall under .500 and out of a playoff spot. But even in 10th place, they’re just two games out of third in the Eastern Conference.
The Basics – Milwaukee Bucks (11-12)
Pace: 99.2 (12th)
OffRtg: 104.6 (13th)
DefRtg: 103.7 (12th)
NetRtg: +0.9 (12th)
Bucks links: Team stats | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups
The Bucks’ next six games are a trio of home-and-home series with the the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards. That stretch tips off when they host the Bulls in the first game of TNT’s Thursday double-header (8 p.m. ET).
Here are a few numbers to know about the Bucks so far …
Giannis Antetokounmpo has an effective field-goal percentage of 33.8 percent on shots from outside the paint.
That’s the second lowest mark among 185 players who have attempted at least 75 shots from the outside. It’s also the lowest mark of Antetokounmpo’s career. In his fourth season, he’s still a bad shooter.
But this season, that hasn’t mattered as much. Antetokounmpo leads the league with 278 points in the restricted area. He’s one of five guys who have shot at least 70 percent in the restricted area on at least 100 attempts, and he has a lot more attempts than any of the other four. He also ranks 11th in free throw rate among 126 players who have taken at least 200 total shots, attempting 44 free throws for every 100 shots from the field.
And, despite the absence of Middleton, Antetokounmpo has decent enough shooters (Mirza Teletovic and Malcolm Brogdon being the best) around him that the Bucks rank 12th (though slightly below the league average) with a team effective field-goal percentage of 46.9 percent from outside the paint. Combine that with the eighth best field goal percentage in the paint and they’re a top-10 shooting team.
According to Synergy, Antetokounmpo has the third best field-goal percentage in transition (67.1 percent) among 62 guys with at least 40 attempts. According to SportVU, Antetokounmpo has shot 72 percent in the first six seconds of the shot clock and 42 percent thereafter.
So the first key to beat the Bucks is getting back in transition.
The Bucks’ offense has scored 12.1 more points per 100 possessions at home than it has on the road.
That’s the biggest home-road OffRtg differential in the league. The Home Bucks would be the league’s sixth best offense, while the Road Bucks would rank 30th.
Transition offense is a part of the differential. According to SportVU, the Bucks have taken 15 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock at home, but only nine percent on the road. They’ve also shot worse in transition on the road.
John Henson and Teletovic are the only players in the Bucks’ rotation who have shot better on the road than at home. The biggest home-road discrepancy belongs to Matthew Dellavedova, who has an effective field goal percentage of 51.8 percent at the Bradley Center and 37.7 percent elsewhere. Amazingly, Dellavedova has shot better on threes on the road, but is 8-for-39 (21 percent) on 2-point shots on the road.
Shooting hasn’t been the only problem on the road. The Bucks have committed 2.7 more turnovers per 100 possessions on the road (16.4) than they have at home (13.7) and they’ve also gotten to the line far less often. They have the eighth highest free throw rate (FTA/FGA) at home (.304) and the second lowest on the road (.205).
Of the Bucks’ nine road games thus far, only two have been against teams that currently rank in the top 10 defensively. But four of those nine road games have been the second night of a back-to-back. They’ve played five top-10 defenses at home, but they’ve been off the day before each of their 14 home games.
Bucks opponents have taken 35.6 percent of their shots from 3-point range, the highest rate in the league.
Three is greater than two, but the Bucks rank sixth in effective field goal percentage defense, because their opponents have shot just 33.0 percent from 3-point range, the third lowest mark in the league.
But it has helped that the Bucks have played seven of their 23 games against the teams – Brooklyn, New Orleans and Atlanta – that rank 27th, 28th and 29th in 3-point percentage, as many games as they’ve played against teams that rank in the top 10.
That 3-point defense could regress to the mean and the high volume of threes that the Bucks allow could hurt them down the line. Just maybe not in their next two games, because the Bulls rank 30th in 3-point percentage.
The good news is that the increase in 3-point attempts the Bucks have allowed has come with a reduction in layups and dunks from their opponents. While the percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come from 3-point range has increased by 3.8 percent from last season, the percentage that have come from the restricted area has decreased by 4.5 percent.
The Bucks could only improve in that regard, but no team has seen a bigger reduction in opponent shots near the basket.
Since restricted area shots (1.21 points per attempt) are worth more than threes (1.06 points per attempt), that’s a good sacrifice to make.
The Bucks have been on a defensive roller coaster over the last few years, from 29th in defensive efficiency in 2013-14 to second in 2014-15 and then back down to 22nd last season. This year, they’re back to being better than the league average and they’re the only team in the league that is at least two points per 100 possessions better on both ends of the floor than they were last season.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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