The Milwaukee Bucks have boasted the league’s best defense in each of the previous two seasons, but they have switched up the formula this year.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer has adopted a more mindful approach when it comes to orchestrating the team’s defensive beliefs, and it has been hit or miss at times throughout the year. Still, that is part of the growing pains that come along with trying new things and the Bucks have looked to be a more versatile team because of it.
This newfound ability to experiment has been a hot topic of discussion since the team acquired veteran forward P.J. Tucker from the Houston Rockets in March. Tucker is one of the best switchable defenders in the association, and the team has been switching more than ever before since they brought him in.
It remains to be seen whether or not all of these schematic adjustments on defense can lead to an ideal end result for the Bucks. Still, despite the learning process that has been this season, Milwaukee’s starters have been active on defense all season.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ starters are thriving when making hustle plays
Brook Lopez has become more expendable in Milwaukee’s lineups as they continue experimenting with rotations. However, when he is on the floor, there is no doubt that the former All-Defensive honoree will make his presence felt.
Per NBA.com/stats, the big man has the most contested shots in the association among players of any position this season with 1,025 total. He sits alone at the top of that mountain as the next closet player is Rudy Gobert, who is arguably the frontrunner for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award, with 928 contests. Lopez has provided the Bucks with a threatening presence down low to protect that paint, and his efforts have not gone unnoticed.
One paring that has also caught the attention of many is Milwaukee’s backcourt and just how impactful they have been when it comes to making the hustle plays. Jrue Holiday needs little introduction when it comes to his impact defensively as he is oftentimes regarded as the best defender in the association by his peers and fans alike.
He has been showing that prowess for the Bucks all season as he appears to be a lock for his third All-Defensive nod this season. Averaging a career-best 1.8 steals per game, Holiday has been keeping active defensively and creating those opportunities by racking up 3.3 deflections per game, the fifth-most in the association. In addition to those deflections, the guard has been hustling for loose balls by ranking first in the league with 1.3 recoveries per game (67 total), one spot ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who racks up 1.2 per contest.
The other half of Milwaukee’s backcourt is occupied by the budding Donte DiVincenzo. While the third-year guard has been hit or miss with his bigger opportunity in the starting lineup this season, he has been impactful when he has to get his hands dirty. For reference, he can often be found diving on the floor for a loose ball, as he ranks right up there with Holiday by recovering 1.1 per game (65 total).
While these numbers will not tell the entire story, they do showcase the resiliency displayed by Milwaukee’s starters this season. The Bucks’ starting unit has proven to be pesky on the defensive end for opposing teams, and that stature will be pivotal down the stretch.