Is drop coverage dead?
Drop coverage has never been flawless. Mid-range shooters have been an issue for the Bucks for a while now, but this style is becoming less effective and it looks now that this team cannot be a reliable defense anymore. Why is that?
First of all, the floater is a weapon most guards use pretty effectively nowadays. And that’s a shot that the drop coverage kind of wants to live with, which you can’t anymore. And this isn't the case just against elite guards. A player like Tyus Jones has been a problem the two times Milwaukee has faced Washington this year, so imagine how a player like Tyrese Maxey could hurt this system.
This becomes more of a problem when your exterior defense gets weaker, as it’s the case. Jrue Holiday was great fighting screens and chasing players through them, giving the attacker less space to go with the floater or the mid-range, something that Beasly struggles with. So, if the Bucks don’t have a player that can shine in that specific task, Lopez is most times fighting a one versus two possession he just has no chance to stop. And then we’re back to the previous problem. Can you get that kind of player without trading Lopez? It's not easy.
That takes us to the current state of Lopez's defense. He’s shined as a rim protector in recent years, but while this season he is contesting more shots at the rim than he has ever done, he’s also doing it less effectively than ever. According to NBA.com, he contests 9.2 shots less than six feet away from the rim per game, beating his former record by a sizable number (the previous one was 8.1). But, at the same time, he’s just making those shots 8.5 percent less effective than they usually are, dropping under 10 percent from the first time since he got to Milwaukee, which is a pretty huge drop.
That gets even worse if we move further from the rim, where his impact is barely noticeable if it is at all.
How’s that? Well, he’s just being forced into harder situations. He doesn’t have the help he used to and he’s facing players who have mastered the kind of shot he struggles to defend. And again, this is not entirely his fault, probably not even mainly his fault. But this is the kind of defense that you have to play if you want Lopez to be your starting center. So if it's not working as well as it used to, maybe it’s time to get rid of it.