Milwaukee Bucks: Poised for another strong year defensively in 2021-22

The Milwaukee Bucks have been extremely consistent on the defensive end in recent seasons.

Due to a variety of reasons, the Bucks under coach Mike Budenholzer’s direction have become a team that is very sound on the defensive end. With players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday on the roster, it is no wonder why Milwaukee has been so defensive-oriented.

Both Holiday and Antetokounmpo were named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team during the 2020-21 season. With two all-star defenders and a surplus of other defensive talents, Milwaukee is poised to have another strong year defensively.

Strong defense was crucial to the Milwaukee Bucks earning their second championship

In recent seasons, Milwaukee has been held in high regard for its excellence on the defensive end. Last season, the Bucks touted a surplus of defensive talent with the likes of Antetokounmpo, Holiday, and P.J. Tucker. Each player had their own strengths, and all of them contributed defensively in Milwaukee’s run to secure an NBA championship.

In Holiday’s case, the guard brought stifling defense to some of the league’s best guards. Facing off against players such as Kendrick Nunn, Kyrie Irving, Trae Young, and Chris Paul in the playoff run, Holiday proved that he was second to none in defensive-oriented guards. Holiday produced so many defensive plays that saved Milwaukee’s hopes at a championship during the playoff run. For example, his steal at the end of game five against the Suns in the NBA Finals and a crucial steal in game three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets. Needless to say, his defense was certainly key to Milwaukee’s run to earn its second championship.

Giannis was crucial in so many situations in Milwaukee’s playoff run. Whether it be a series-saving block against DeAndre Ayton in the NBA Finals or limiting players such as Clint Capela and Bam Adebayo, Giannis provided defense on the biggest stage. After coming back from injury, Antetokounmpo proved that he was not slowed down at all and contributed timely defense throughout the series. The former Defensive Player of the Year proved once again why he belonged in the conversation for the prestigious award. Looking ahead, he should be in the conversation once again.

Tucker was perhaps one of the most important players on the defensive end for the Bucks in their championship run. Tucker showcased his ability to match up against some of the league’s best players and showed a tremendous ability to switch on the defensive end. Guarding players such as Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Jimmy Butler, Tucker never backed down and used his strong stature to his advantage. Tucker didn’t contribute much on the offensive end, but his defense was absolutely crucial to Milwaukee’s eventual victory in the NBA Finals.

While each player contributed in their own way, Holiday, Antetokounmpo, and Tucker were crucial in Milwaukee’s championship run on the defensive end. If it wasn’t for their strong and timely defense, Milwaukee may have not reached the ultimate prize.

With Holiday and Antetokounmpo at the helm, the Milwaukee Bucks are poised to have another strong year on the defensive end.

Shifting to next season, the Bucks should be one of the NBA’s best defensive teams once again. Bringing back Holiday and Antetokounmpo already give Milwaukee a huge boost on the defensive end, and their supporting pieces should also be able to contribute. However, a question remains: Will Tucker’s departure be a knock against Milwaukee’s excellent defense?

With a new face in Semi Ojeleye, a big-bodied and defensive-oriented player, the Bucks have excellent depth in their defenders. Ojeleye, a former Boston Celtic, has received comparisons to Tucker, and it is no wonder why. With low scoring numbers on the offensive end and formidable defense, Ojeleye seems like a carbon copy of Tucker. While the 26-year-old certainly has some of the same attributes as Tucker, it will be hard to match his level of defense. Tucker was able to match up with excellent scorers such as Durant and Booker. While Tucker’s ability to guard these players could be chalked up to experience, it does take a special defender to guard these players. Ojeleye has the tools to contribute in a role such as Tucker’s, but it will be difficult to live up to that level of defensive intensity.

However, this isn’t to say that Milwaukee will not be one of the NBA’s best defensive teams. Holiday and Antetokounmpo will always bring a high level of defense, that is certain. Yet, players such as Donte DiVincenzo, Pat Connaughton, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez should all bring solid defense as well. DiVincenzo’s return from injury will be one to watch, as the guard produced a solid season on the defensive end in 2020-21. Connaughton and Thanasis are known for their high-intensity defense as both players are able to be all over the court and match up against whoever they can. Lopez’s role as a rim protector will be important, and the veteran center should be able to contribute on the defensive end once again.

In a variety of ways, the Bucks will be a strong team defensively. With a defensive-minded coach in Budenholzer, strong defensive talent in Holiday and Antetokounmpo, and a surplus of depth of solid defenders, Milwaukee is poised to have another strong year on the defensive end.

Heading into the 2021-22 season, keep an eye on some of Milwaukee’s best defenders are they look to defend their NBA title.