Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks’ offense needs more screens

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 18: Giannis Antetokounmpo
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 18: Giannis Antetokounmpo /

The Milwaukee Bucks’ offense could take some steps in the right direction if the team sets some more screens next season.

The Milwaukee Bucks had a pretty good offense in the 2016-17 regular season. The Bucks scored 106.9 points per 100 possessions, good enough for 13th in the NBA. Milwaukee’s offense needed to be good, considering the Bucks had a bottom-half defense last season.

The defense is an issue, and one that will need to be solved, but that doesn’t mean Milwaukee shouldn’t try to get better on the other end too. The Bucks need to get better on that end, and they can without much trouble, honestly.

Milwaukee’s offense tends to be basic. Prehistoric, even, compared to other teams in the NBA. It’s generally good to do things like the Golden State Warriors, who are in position to solidify one of the NBA’s most impressive dynasties ever.

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The Warriors, for example, hardly ever run isolation plays with their offensive possessions, even though the team has deadly scorers like Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. The Dubs are one of the best teams at isolation scoring, but since they’re even more efficient at other ways of getting buckets they choose not to go that route.

The Bucks, on the other hand, were the worst team in the NBA in terms of isolation efficiency. Milwaukee ran over 100 more isolations than the Warriors did last season. That’s a failure on the Bucks’ part, there’s no other way to honestly put it.

Those are wasted possessions, which can’t happen often on a team that doesn’t outscore its opponents by wide margins on average.

Back to the Warriors, then. What the Dubs do more than any other team is run players off of screens. Over 13 percent of Golden State’s offense came off screens, which represents 400 more plays off screens than the second-closest team.

The Warriors scored 1.04 points per possession on those plays, far and away better than the 0.94 points per possession they managed in isolation. The Bucks, for their part, averaged 0.94 points per possession coming off of screens and a ghastly 0.74 points per possession in isolation.

Even though the team was obviously better in plays involving a screen and some movement on offense, the Bucks ran nearly 300 more isolation plays than plays coming off of screens. Milwaukee ranked second-to-last in terms of screen assists per game last season.

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The Warriors, of course, were near the top of the NBA, with only the extremely well-coached Charlotte Hornets recording more screen assists per game. This is not rocket science, or even the NBA equivalent of rocket science. It’s obvious. It’s hard for defenses to handle ball screens, or at least harder than it is for defenders to stand next to their cover while someone is dribbling somewhere else.

The Bucks are ironically a perfect team to set lots of screens. Giannis Antetokounmpo being able to both handle the ball and play like a big man makes him an impossible matchup for either a small guard or a slow-footed big man.

That means a point guard having Giannis set a screen could force a switch that puts a player nearly a foot shorter on him, or Giannis having a center set a screen could get a plodding center on him. In either situation, Giannis clearly has the advantage.

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That’s assuming the screen doesn’t open up an easy shot or a path to the rim that results in instant offense, too. Screens are good. The Milwaukee Bucks should set some more of them next season, and throw as many unfit defenders as possible into the torture chamber of trying to guard Giannis.