Playing the Milwaukee Bucks has been a bit of a nightmare for opposing teams. This, obviously, is evident in the fact that the team sits atop the NBA at its All-Star break, boasting a 43-14 record. It’s one win below where the team found itself in 2018 before making the postseason and getting bounced in a grueling seven-game series against the Boston Celtics in round one.
The team made some major changes during the offseason, bringing in ex-Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer to modernize the way they play. The Bucks have responded by skyrocketing from 20th in the NBA in pace last season to fifth in the league in 2018-19. Their shot chart is the platonic ideal of what a shot chart should look like in the modern NBA, one that largely eschews midrange jumpers and focuses on threes and attacking the rim.
Milwaukee is second in the league in three-point field goal attempts and 27th in the league in two-point field goal attempts. Despite being 18th in three-point field goal percentage and tops at shooting from inside the arc, the Bucks have an identity, and it works. Because of it, Milwaukee is a legitimate contender for a championship.
“I think we’re just trying to encourage everybody to play unselfishly, to move the ball, move each other, player movement, stuff like that,” Budenholzer said during All-Star Media Day. “If you’re open, take advantage of it, and everybody play with a lot of confidence. I think all up and down our roster, everyone understands how we want to play and I think everybody’s reaping the benefits of it.”
As Budenholzer mentioned, this would not be possible if there wasn’t a complete, top-down buy-in by the players. For Milwaukee, that starts with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who in his sixth year keeps finding ways to improve his game and terrorize opposing defenses with his uncanny mix of size, strength, agility, and skill. Antetokounmpo is constantly analyzing his game, looking for areas where he can take steps forward when the season comes to an end.
“You gotta take it piece by piece,” Antetokounmpo told Dime during All-Star Weekend. “I know there’s a lot of parts of my game where I have to improve and that I can get better one. Most of the offseason, I just keep some notes during the regular season so at the summer, I know exactly what I have to go back and work on. I take it piece-by-piece, and hopefully a year from now, two years from now, go down the road three, four, five, six years from now, you can have the final product.”