Milwaukee Bucks: Regaining defensive discipline a must for season restart

Standing as one of the most disciplined teams defensively, the Milwaukee Bucks will certainly look to lean on that when the NBA season restarts in Orlando late next month.

When Mike Budenholzer came to town more than two years ago, his arrival sparked a complete turnaround in how the Milwaukee Bucks would play moving forward.

Some of those changes, whether it’s embracing the 3-pointer, were more obvious than others and the Bucks’ end-to-end dominance has been apparent over the last two seasons. But at the heart of their play and behest of Budenholzer, the Bucks are a team that plays within themselves and relies on their collective discipline to race past the competition.

There’s no better example of this than how the Bucks have risen to the top of the league in being able to craft elite defenses and do so without fouling their opponents.

Having come from the coaching tree of legendary San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, a staple of Budenholzer’s teams both in Atlanta and Milwaukee have relied on playing fundamental defense.

In fact, the lowest mark a Budenholzer-led team has had in opponent free throw attempt rate was during the 2017-18 season where a rebuilding Hawks squad finished 10th in that department, per NBA.com/stats.

With the level of defensive personnel the Bucks have, headlined by elite defenders such as superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, and Brook Lopez, the Bucks have taken on many of the core principles that Budenholzer has long practiced since getting the step up to the head coaching chair in the summer of 2013.

Over the last two seasons, only the Orlando Magic and the Golden State Warriors have committed fewer shooting fouls than the Bucks, per pbpstats.com. And as the Bucks have stood first in defensive efficiency in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, they have ranked first and fourth in opponent free throw attempt rate, respectively.

Considering the Bucks are two seasons removed from having the third-worst opponent free throw attempt rate for the 2017-18 campaign, the welcome change in how they have been resolute and imposing has been an underlying key to their defensive turnaround under the reigning NBA Coach of the Year.

Now, as it relates to this season being restarted in Orlando as the NBA plans to do next month at Walt Disney World, the Bucks’ mission to regain that level of defensive discipline may not come to them as easy as one would think necessarily.

Just as is the case with trying to resume their league-leading pace, the lengthy layoff between games due to the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the season has obviously thrown a wrench into the rhythm the Bucks were in for the vast majority of the year.

A number of unknowns obviously exist just to get back on to the court itself and the same obviously applies to all Bucks players being able to click back into the standard that Budenholzer has held them to over his reign.

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That certainly won’t be an easy task by any means and as the Bucks and 21 other NBA teams slowly ramp back up into what can be something as close to a normal routine, continuing to adhere to the core tenets that have got them where they stand today will be of the utmost importance.