According to Synergy play-type tracking, only 12.3 percent of the Bucks’ opponent possessions, the lowest rate in the league, were in transition last season. And according to Second Spectrum tracking, they forced their opponents to take 20 percent of their shots, the highest rate in the league, in the last six seconds of the shot clock (when league-wide effective field goal percentage is lowest).
If you’re forcing your opponents to play in the half court and late into the clock, you should be doing a better job of preventing layups and dunks. But that wasn’t the case for the Bucks, who allowed a league high 38.9 points per game in the restricted area.
The Bucks prevented restricted-area shots better with John Henson at center than they did with Thon Maker at center. With Maker on the floor, opponents took 39 percent of their shots in the restricted area. That was the highest rate (by a pretty wide margin) among 255 players that were on the floor for at least 2,000 opponent field goal attempts last season. Henson had the third highest mark (36 percent – still would have ranked last on a team level) among big men.
Last season, opponents took 32 percent of their shots in the restricted area against the Los Angeles Lakers when new Bucks center Brook Lopez was on the floor. That mark was a little higher than the league average, but was significantly lower than the mark of Lakers opponents when Lopez was off the floor (35 percent).
More important than the personnel is the scheme, which is where new head coach Mike Budenholzer comes in. Budenholzer had the benefit of having Al Horford or Dwight Howard as his starting center in his first four seasons in Atlanta, but with neither last season, the Hawks still ranked in the top six in regard to preventing shots in the restricted area.
Though he’s probably best known for his egalitarian offense that turned heads and ranked sixth four years ago, its on defense where Budenholzer ranked in the top 10 in three of his five seasons in Atlanta and where he most needs to make an impact in Milwaukee.
Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).