Fact Check: What’s Happening with the New Look Bucks?

The Bucks have made some big changes since the All-Star Break, so what do we make of the results? We check the facts on what some have been saying.

We are in the middle of an election year, which means facts need to be checked. So, while the veracity of a post-game comment might not be as important to the country as the truthfulness in the stump speeches of a presidential candidate, it is considerably more important in this space. So, let’s fact check the post-All-Star Break version of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks play faster with Point Giannis.

Statement Accuracy: 70 percent true.

The Bucks are certainly playing faster (25th to 14th in pace) since Giannis Antetokounmpo took over at the point guard position on Feb. 9 against the Boston Celtics. So, while it seems strange to say that the above statement is anything except 100 percent true, it is necessary to consider the Bucks opponents in this time. Since the change, the Bucks have played just a single team in the league’s bottom 10 in pace (Miami) and seven of their 13 games have been against the league’s ten fastest teams.

So, yes, it is factual to say that the Bucks are playing at a faster pace with Antetokounmpo at point guard, but it may have more to do with their opponents than an actual change in their style of play.

Inserting Miles Plumlee into the lineup for Greg Monroe makes the Bucks — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, in particular — better. 

Statement Accuracy: 50 percent true.

The Bucks have played 634 minutes since the lineup change. In the 380 minutes Greg Monroe has played, the Bucks are +3.8 points per 100 possessions. In the 254 minutes Miles Plumlee has played, they are -1.4 points per 100 possessions. So, from a purely performance-based perspective, the Bucks have been more effective with Monroe on the floor than with Plumlee on the floor.

Though that number would seem of the utmost importance, it is one Bucks fans don’t really care about at this moment because of the need for Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker to develop. While both Antetokounmpo and Parker score more efficiently with Monroe on the floor, both see their assist and usage rate decline.

And those assists are a major reason why Plumlee is viewed as being so effective for the Bucks. When he is on the floor, Parker and Antetokounmpo are able to use another weapon, the aerial attack. While Monroe can work in the post, Plumlee can soar through the air to grab lobs and slam home missed shots.

Even though the Bucks have been more effective with Monroe on the floor, Monroe’s on-court presence has lessened the responsibility and freedom of Antetokounmpo and Parker, which certainly can be seen as negative and thus, we find ourselves with a half-truth.

The Bucks are using Antetokounmpo and Parker in new and exciting ways. 

Statement Accuracy: 100 percent true

When I first wrote about Parker and Antetokounmpo in their new featured roles two weeks ago, I mentioned that both players were simply accentuating things that they had already done rather than doing brand new things. That has changed.

Jason Kidd has exposed both young players to new looks every game. For the first time all season, Parker has been the ball handler in pick and rolls. On Wednesday against Miami, he anchored a unit with four bench players for the first time all season.

Since the change, the Bucks have been setting an ever-increasing number of ball screens for Antetokounmpo and they’ve been going about it in different ways each game. It started with ball screens from Plumlee, but now they’ve been using Middleton and Bayless to set screens for him to give opponents different looks.

The Bucks have undoubtedly been using their two young stars in new and exciting ways and it has been very fun to watch. That’s a fact.

Clip of the Week

In these Antetokounmpo highlights from the Bucks game against the Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggiins, and Zach LaVine all attempted to defend him and none of them could really do it. After the game, I asked Antetokounmpo how all of those different defensive looks affect him and how he deals with the pressure. He responded with a very confident answer:

“Doing what I’m doing right now, bringing the ball up the floor, no one can give me pressure. Because if they pressure me, I’m just going to go by them. If it’s a bigger guy, he’s not going to pressure me. If it’s a smaller guy, I’m just going to throw the ball ahead and go to the post. So, right now, I’m not going to lie, I don’t feel no pressure. I know guys are changing and different guys are guarding me every game, but right now I feel no pressure. I’m just out there playing my game.”

What to Read: Giannis Edition

“Point Forward” more than a novelty for Antetokounmpo – Veteran NBA scribe Steve Aschburner hung out around the Bucks for a week, which allowed him to write a wonderful piece about the development of Antetokounmpo at the point guard position. He also included some fantastic quotes from Marques Johnson, who played a little point forward back in the day for the Don Nelson-coached Milwaukee Bucks.

The Extraordinary Measures of Giannis Antetokounmpo – ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz took a look at Antetokounmpo’s incredible measurables and attempted to explain why his body can help explain his amazing exploits on the floor.

To the point: Giannis Antetokounmpo blossoming with the ball – At Sports Illustrated, Jake Fischer examined Antetokounmpo’s time at point guard and included a number of great quotes from Antetokounmpo and Kidd.

Do the Bucks need a “real” point guard? – Brew Hoop newcomer Brett Abramczyk took the discussions of #PointGiannis a step further and asked if his development as a ball handler and playmaker means the Bucks don’t actually need to find a “real” point guard to play alongside Antetokounmpo.

Week in Review

Friday – Antetokounmpo guarded Timberwolves rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns. He brought the ball up the floor while being guarded by Rubio, Wiggins, and LaVine. He finished just a rebound short of a triple-double with 27 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds. The Bucks beat the Timberwolves 116-101.

Sunday – The Bucks trailed 22-4 just a matter of minutes into their game against the Thunder, but were able to come back and made the game close for a majority of the fourth quarter. They ultimately fell 104-96, but it didn’t feel much like a loss with Antetokounmpo’s third career-triple double (26 points, 12 rebounds, ten assists) and a solid 26-point performance from Parker.

Monday – Jimmy Butler was out with an injury, the Bulls still beat the Bucks 100-90. Antetokounmpo (12 points, ten assists) and Parker (18 points, 11 rebounds) managed to record double-doubles, but their numbers were a bit more modest than they were in the Bucks’ loss to the Thunder the day before.

Wednesday – After losing both games in their back-to-back, the Bucks were able to pull out a 114-108 win against the Heat, who are currently the fourth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference. The big news was Monroe’s move back into the starting lineup, but Antetokounmpo, Parker, and Middleton stole the headlines once again with all three scoring 20 or more points.

Next Week’s Preview

Saturday – The Pelicans’ season started off poorly and seemed to stay that way with seemingly constant injuries to their entire roster. They have lost six of their last eight games and their season really can’t come to an end soon enough.

Sunday – It wouldn’t be a NBA week without a road back-to-back and that’s exactly what the Bucks will have when they travel to Brooklyn to take on the Nets a day after hosting the Pelicans. The Nets recently bought out veteran Joe Johnson and remain one of the league’s worst teams.

Tuesday – Since the All-Star Break, the Raptors have won seven of their ten games and generally played like one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams. It will be a tough test for the Bucks as Toronto has beat the Bucks by 13 or more point in each of their previous three meetings this season.

Stats of the Week

103.5 – Since the lineup change, the Bucks have been the league’s tenth best defense, holding teams to 103.5 points per 100 possessions.

1,098 – As you could see in Week in Review above, Antetokounmpo recorded ten or more assists in three straight games. It was the first time in 1,098 days (just over 3 years) that a Bucks player threw 10 or more assists in three straight games. Brandon Jennings actually did it in four straight games in the beginning of March 2013.

.212 –Before Wednesday night, Jabari Parker’s free throw rate (free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts) was at just .212, a low number for someone looking to be a great NBA scorer. It’s something I will keep an eye on the rest of the season. Attempting 11 free throws in a game like he did on Wednesday is an encouraging sight.

Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine’s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can also find his work at SBNation’s Brew Hoop or you can find him on Twitter @eric_nehm and tell him about your best idea for a nickname for Jabari Parker.