Milwaukee Bucks: Assist to turnover ratio leaves room to improve

BOSTON, MA - MAY 6: (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 6: (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Following an outstanding season last year, the Milwaukee Bucks still have room to improve in terms of taking care of the ball, and creating efficiently.

As the Milwaukee Bucks ramp up their preparations for the new NBA season, Mike Budenholzer and his staff will undoubtedly have their eye on areas where the team take further steps forward in their development.

On that note, there’s no real doubt that the offensive side of the ball represents an obvious area of potential improvement for Milwaukee in 2019-20.

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That’s not to suggest that the Bucks were bad offensively, as by most objective measures they were one of the better teams in the NBA in that department last season. Still, relative to just how locked in, dominant, and consistent Milwaukee was on defense across both the regular season and playoffs, offense was certainly the lesser of what may both have been strengths.

That was most apparent, and most painful, in the Eastern Conference Finals. As the Bucks crumbled to lose four consecutive games against the Toronto Raptors, it was the team’s offense rather the defense that failed them.

Part of that was simply Milwaukee’s inability to knock down the majority of the high-quality three-point looks they created for themselves. Beyond that, though, there was also the fact that the Bucks’ offense ground to a halt in terms of its usual fluidity.

In attempting to address that this year, two elements become incredibly important. Firstly, the Bucks will need to work on honing a more varied offense that essentially gives them a plan B in those high pressure scenarios. Secondly, though, is simply improving in terms of ball movement, ball security, and creating efficient offense.

A measure that is particularly instructive in that context is assist to turnover ratio. Last year, Milwaukee ranked 10th in the NBA during the regular season with an assist to turnover ratio of 1.88.

That mark is by definition above average, but not quite in the elite category that the Bucks managed to push into in so many other areas of their game. The problem with simply being above average is it leaves significantly reduced margin for error when the playoffs come around.

At that time of the year, the Bucks remained among the better teams left playing in that particular category, actually managing to improve to a 1.92 assist to turnover ratio for he postseason in its entirety.

In those pivotal four losses against the Raptors, though, that number came in at just 1.76 to coincide with the far from ideal combination of their assist rate falling and their turnover rate rising.

All around, the difference in those numbers may appear to marginal, but that is essentially what the Bucks will need to focus on as they aim to get over the line this year. Last season represented countless large strides forward, and now it’s time to further improve around the fringes of their game.

There’s no reason why the Bucks shouldn’t be aspiring toward an assist to turnover ratio of 2.0 or above this season, which would have been good enough for top-5 last year.

The nature of the stat means the influence of your higher usage players has an outsized influence on the team’s overall rating. From a Bucks’ context, therefore, the prospect is a simple one. If the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton can cut down on turnovers relative to their assists, the Bucks will become a much more potent offensive team on the whole.

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The Bucks likely don’t need too much to change this year to find themselves with a lot more to celebrate. Focusing on greater ball movement, more incisive passing, and limiting careless errors would put a lot closer to achieving those goals.