The One Thing Missing from the Bucks’ Defense

A closer look reveals what’s been missing on the defensive end for the Bucks. Plus: attendance numbers at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, a look ahead to Saturday’s matchup vs. LeBron and the Cavs, and much more.

The Bucks defense has been very bad this season. By just about any measurement, they have been one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. It would be easy to go break down the film and show each of the technical mistakes the Bucks are making on defense. The Bucks game broadcast pointed out one of the many specific problems last night. Eventually though, it comes down to one thing.

On defense, the Bucks will do the first thing correctly and sometimes the second thing correctly and think their work is done.

This is a problem. Let’s take a look at the final play of the game against the Nuggets on Wednesday night to explore this issue.

On this play, you’ll see Greg Monroe on the weak side of the play. He perfectly talks with Greivis Vasquez to cover Kenneth Faried before moving to the other side of the lane to show his help towards Danilo Gallinari on the strong side. Upon seeing Monroe’s help, Gallinari picks up his dribble.

Perfect execution.

Gallinari is dead in the water with no dribble and the Bucks’ best defender (Khris Middleton) all over him. Monroe has perfectly executed his job and he can recover back to his original assignment. Instead of recovering back to his assignment though, Monroe only sort of recovers back to his defender before taking a few steps towards Gallinari as the shot is released.

Monroe thinks his work is done and doesn’t finish the possession. He’s out of position. Faried rebounds. Bucks lose.

Let’s take a look at the Nuggets’ final possession of the third quarter.

We’ll focus on new addition Greivis Vasquez this time. Vasquez does a nice job defending Will Barton when he catches the ball and moves to the right positions after he passes it away. The action has moved to the other side of the court and he’s helping on the back side of the play.

Perfect execution.

Unfortunately, there are ten seconds left on the shot clock and Vasquez thinks his work is done. After standing still on the back side for five seconds, Vasquez sprints out towards Gallinari a second or two too late and Gallanari hits a three.

These two plays serve as perfect examples of new Bucks players thinking that their work was done too soon defensively.

During the offseason, I argued that this Bucks team would regress defensively and struggle to replace Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley. I was regularly rebuffed by people saying, “Other players can pick up the Bucks defensive system. It’s not that complicated,” which has been true for the most part.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the part of understanding the Bucks defensive system that is difficult. The difficulty comes in understanding the mental, emotional, and physical strength that is needed to execute those roles for 24 seconds every time down the floor.

The Bucks haven’t had that strength yet this season and will continue to struggle defensively until they find it.

What to Read

Greivis Vasquez: I’m struggling with my shot, but it’ll come – Before shooting the lights out in the first half of Wednesday’s game against the Nuggets, Greivis Vasquez was mired in one of the worst shooting slumps of his life. After a 0-10 shooting performance on Saturday, Brew Hoop’s Aron Yohannes talked with Vasquez about how he planned on getting back on track.

Milwaukee hoping to be a great NBA town again – Gary D’Amato of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel took in the scene at the Bucks outdoor tailgate on Saturday and discussed the possibility of NBA becoming a great NBA town again with Bucks legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson.

Carter-Williams and Henson sustain rare injuries – Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times reports that Henson and Michael Carter-Williams have sustained injuries to their plantaris tendon, rather than the injuries that they have been reported to sustain. Injuries to that tendon are relatively rare in the NBA.

Clip of the Week

At this point, I shouldn’t be surprised when Jerryd Bayless throws down a vicious two-handed dunk off of two feet, but I am. Vasquez has been looking for Bayless on this alley-oop all season long, but they finally got it right on Wednesday with Bayless hammering it home.

Week in Review

Friday – After falling to them in the season opener, the Bucks were able to exact a little revenge against the Knicks with a 99-92 victory in New York. The Bucks were led by John Henson, who put up 22 points, five rebounds, and three blocks in his first action since the first time the Bucks played the Knicks.

Saturday – The Bucks were able to knock off the Brooklyn Nets for the second time in less than a week with a 94-86 in Milwaukee. Greg Monroe was solid with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Jerryd Bayless added 19 points and 10 assists from the bench.

Tuesday – After a four game winning streak over some of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks warts magically reappeared in their 99-83 loss to the Celtics. The game was close until an 18-2 run helped the Celtics close out the third quarter and the game.

Wednesday – The second game of a back-to-back in Denver is not where you want to find yourself after having your coach call you out for your effort, but that was the Bucks situation on Wednesday. Despite the tough scenario, the Bucks fought back valiantly (after blowing a huge lead) to tie the game late before ultimately losing 103-102 to the Nuggets.

Next Week’s Preview

Saturday – The Bucks will have a few days to think about the problems they’ve had this week before welcoming the Eastern Conference best Cleveland Cavaliers to Milwaukee. Despite playing without the injured Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers have started off the season with a 7-1 record and have been absolutely terrifying with LeBron James leading the way.

Tuesday – Instead of taking pictures of monuments during the trip to the nation’s capitol, the Bucks will be forced to see if they have any answers for John Wall and Brad Beal, who dismantled the Bucks in the fourth quarter of a 118-113 victory in the second game of this season.

Stats of the Week

77 – The BMO Harris Bradley Center has been 77 percent full for the Bucks’ five home games this season. Those games have been the following: season opener against New York, Friday night vs. Washington, Jabari Parker’s return against Philadelphia, Saturday night vs. the Nets, and Tuesday night against Boston. Only one of the games resembled an “excuse” for poor attendance. Do better, Milwaukee. THE BUCKS ARE LITERALLY GIVING AWAY TICKETS.

14.24 – NBA Stats has started keeping track of potential assists, which they define as “passes by a player to a teammate in which the teammate attempts a shot, and if made, would be an assist”. Though many have chastised Greivis Vasquez for the way he has played thus far this season, he has recorded 91 potential assists, which comes out to 14.24 potential assists per 36 minutes. That number is the 14th best mark in the league.

105.9 – The Bucks are giving up 105.9 points per 100 possessions this season, which is the fifth highest number in the NBA. They were 2nd in that same statistical category (Defensive Rating) last season.

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, where he would love to know which Greivis Vasquez shimmy GIF you prefer, Maryland or Toronto.