Milwaukee Bucks: Relentless shot blocking proves key to defense

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MARCH 02: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - MARCH 02: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

As the Milwaukee Bucks have built a historically good defense, the team’s ability to rack up blocks has been a key component of that success.

Since Mike Budenholzer took charge of the Milwaukee Bucks in the summer of 2018, the team has gone on a fantastic run in terms of their overall performance, but nowhere has that been more obvious than when it comes to their defense.

As my co-site expert Jordan Treske recently outlined, the Bucks’ defense over that stretch of time has been nothing short of historic, leading the league in the moment and standing up impressively when considered over a longer period of time too.

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One element of the Bucks’ defense that has been particularly crucial on that front is the team’s shot-blocking, as their rim protection is an essential cog in the design of their defensive scheme.

With the Bucks’ base defensive scheme centered around the principle of the center dropping back and essentially attempting to bait opponents into the mid-range, the quality of shot blocking as a final line of defense is a necessity to ensure that opponents instead don’t just go right to the basket for more efficient scoring opportunities.

Of course, the Bucks’ personnel is tailor-made to successfully implement this strategy as it generally results in opponents driving into either Brook Lopez or Robin Lopez, outstanding shot blockers whose athletic limitations cannot be exposed when they’re anchoring the paint. Beyond that, the luxury of having Giannis Antetokounmpo operate as something of a free safety, who can roam the paint seeking out trouble before then swatting away shots, is an undoubted game-changer too.

That combines to make up the majority of the Bucks’ impressive block totals, with Milwaukee averaging 6.0 blocks per game before the 2019-20 season was suspended.

That mark leaves them ranked third among all teams in the NBA, but perhaps more significantly represents a volume of blocked shots that Milwaukee has failed to achieve for quite some time.

You have to go back seven years to 2012-13 for the last time the Bucks surpassed that mark, when Milwaukee averaged an impressive 6.7 rejections per contest.

Undoubtedly driving the Bucks’ effort more than anyone else on that front is Brook Lopez, as his 2.4 blocks per game ranks second to just Hassan Whiteside (3.1) out of all NBA players this season.

Funneling shot attempts into Lopez’s path has proven to be an immensely successful strategy for the Bucks, and one that, without question, they will continue to turn to whenever the NBA can resume in some form.

Next. Giannis' top 3 games of the season before hiatus. dark

In that sense, playing to the strengths of their individual players has allowed Milwaukee to improve the overall cohesion and effectiveness of their team overall.