Milwaukee Bucks: Feasting on second effort opportunities

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - NOVEMBER 04: (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - NOVEMBER 04: (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

While they have largely abandoned chasing down offensive rebounds in recent years, the Milwaukee Bucks have capitalized on second effort plays this season.

Over the last two years, everything for the Milwaukee Bucks starts on the defensive end.

Stemming from the San Antonio Spurs background of Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee has framed all facets of their identity through the defensive side of the ball and it subsequently permeates everything they do moving forward down the court.

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There are countless examples that point to these tenets the Bucks live by, but none greater than largely forgoing chasing down offensive rebounds in favor of getting back and setting up their defense.

By raw counting numbers, the Bucks have ranked 25th in pulling down offensive rebounds for both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

And the advanced numbers tell a similar story after the Bucks have ranked 26th and 28th in offensive rebounding percentage over that same span, per

Living by their defense-first philosophy may influence their disinterest in wanting to extend offensive possessions and that’s largely true. But while their identity has influenced that, it hasn’t affected the Bucks’ ability to capitalize on second chance plays and do so incredibly efficiently.

In spite of prioritizing defensive shape over crashing the glass, the Milwaukee Bucks feast on their fair share of second chance opportunities.

The Bucks’ 1.17 points per possession on putback opportunities ranks fourth in the league this season, standing behind the likes of the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and the league-leading Memphis Grizzlies. That figure is up from the 1.10 points per putback possession the Bucks tallied last season.

While there is some luck involved with that uptick, particularly with a largely static change in the frequency of putback opportunities, there are a few reasons why the Bucks stand near the top of the NBA in this department.

For starters, reserve Bucks wing Pat Connaughton holds the highest points per putback possession (1.67) of all players throughout the league this season, even while it’s only on 21 possessions.

Clearly, Connaughton’s incredible athleticism and leaping ability makes him well suited to climbing the ladder and throwing down a highlight-worthy putback dunk. But more importantly, the 27-year-old’s timing and tracking ability to simultaneously corral a missed shot attempt and slam it home makes these feats all the more impressive.

Behind Connaughton, Khris Middleton ranks in the 97th percentile after recording 1.47 points per putback possession. And superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has converted 1.35 points per putback possession, a number that places him in the 89th percentile of players around the league.

The reigning MVP holds the highest volume on such plays of all Bucks players by a wide margin and that is definitely due to his relentless motor and ability to follow through and extend possessions, especially after missed finishes at the cup.

But Antetokounmpo remains an outlier in this regard and the Bucks’ collective timing and persistence in pulling down offensive rebounds like how Connaughton has shown throughout his time in Milwaukee is more indicative of how the team can selectively crash the boards. And do so while having numbers get back in transition and set up their defensive structure.

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All of these hustle and high-effort plays have a way of galvanizing teams and go a long way in shaping games in the long run. And as the Bucks have made a point on trying to specialize in making those energy plays in big moments, they have found a way to seize second chance opportunities when they present themselves.