Milwaukee Bucks: Lack of driving could cause problems in playoffs

The Milwaukee Bucks are driving to the hoop less frequently than last season. Is it a big deal?

As we wrap up the All-Star break, the Milwaukee Bucks sit atop the league with an absurd record of 46-8. It’s quite incredible to think that this team started the season 2-2, and 50 games later, they’ve only suffered six more losses.

Looking back on those first few games, I remember noticing something quite troubling with the Bucks’ offense that has continued throughout the season; the Bucks were attacking the hoop far less than they had last season.

In those first few games in October, it was clear they were missing their third attacker, Malcolm Brogdon. When the Bucks decided to part with Brogdon, they also decided to part with the 10.1 drives per game he provided, and it showed.

The Bucks struggled to get easy baskets at the rim and instead opted to shoot tons of threes. As is known to happen in those situations with the Bucks, they went on quite a few cold spells from downtown, leading to their 2-2 start.

Milwaukee clearly righted the ship after that by going 44-6 to get to where they are now, but their lack of drives still exists.

Wes Matthews stepped into Brogdon’s spot in the starting lineup and has done an admirable job, but he definitely hasn’t provided anything close to Brogdon’s driving ability. I assumed that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe would pick up the slack, but that actually hasn’t been the case.

Both Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe are driving to the hoop at about the same rate as last season, and the rest of the roster hasn’t picked up the slack either.  Unable to make up for Brogdon’s drives, the Bucks currently sit at 38.6 drives per game, down from 48.5 last season.

The 38.6 mark puts the Bucks at 27th in the league in that category. Last year’s mark ranked 7th in the league. That drop-off has resulted in the Bucks scoring only 22.2 points per game on drives; 7.5 fewer points per game than last season.

Despite that, the Bucks haven’t missed a beat offensively. They rank 1st in points per game, 3rd in offensive rating, and 1st in true shooting percentage. Clearly their decrease in drives hasn’t hindered them in the regular season, but it could be a major issue in the playoffs.

In the playoffs, defenses tighten up, the game slows down, and the importance of half-court offense increases dramatically. With the Bucks’ lack of drivers and their knack for going cold from downtown, I’m very nervous about their offense in the later rounds of the playoffs.

We all saw what happened in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. The Raptors did a remarkable job keeping the Bucks out of the lane and daring Bucks shooters to make them pay. The result: Bucks lost four straight games after jumping out to a 2-0 series lead.

Every possession is crucial in a playoff series of that magnitude. Since the team is driving so much less, the importance of making threes goes through the roof. Missed threes killed them last year, and that was the difference between getting knocked out or becoming NBA champions.

With teams as solid defensively as the Raptors, Sixers, and Heat, Milwaukee’s lack of driving could be exposed. Even worse, they’ll have to get it done this year without Brogdon, who was far and away their second-best player in the decisive round last year.

Based on the roster the Bucks have assembled, it seems like they aren’t worried about this issue too much. Although the team is older and less athletic this season, they believe they can make up for it with experience and shooting.

With the additions of Wes Matthews, Kyle Korver, and now Marvin Williams, the Bucks may be sufficiently well-equipped to avoid going cold in the definitive moments this time around.

Next: Grading Pat Connaughton’s Dunk Contest showing

Let’s hope those guys step up huge in the playoffs or the Bucks are going to have quite the challenge on their hands.

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