BUCKS LINEUP ANALYSIS: A Season Long Blueprint For The Bucks Crowded Front Court

 
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TIGER ANALYSIS INTRODUCTION

The good ol' Bucks McGrucks have a little front court dilemma heading into the new 2018 season that most Bucks fans may not quite realize yet.  That problem is that Milwaukee actually has more bodies than maybe they know what to do with yet at the center position and coach Budenholzer is going to have to be creative and calculative on how to maximize all the options we have now after the off season roster additions.  One thing I know for fact is that it's going to require a couple of our big men to get more minutes at power forward because we have too many players that we need to give minutes to this season at center and can't afford to just stash any of them on the bench for long stretches of games and for multiple reasons.  Let me explain.  Here we go!

 
 

 

TIGER ANALYSIS SUMMARY

When you think you are strong at a position (or at least have depth or a lot bodies to cover a specific position) suddenly out of no where you can become weak and visa versa when you factor in injuries or if players are under or over performing.  Duh.  Right?  I'm not a rocket scientist and I can guarantee you that I wasn't trying to sound smart with that opening statement.  But the reality is that as cliche as that was it's entirely true and it's reality.  If injuries occur heavily to the Bucks big men throughout the season well then we will need all these bodies right?  What if some guys are just not worth playing because their production doesn't merit minutes?  Or what if you just can't play a guy because doesn't fit well with your other guys?  As you can see there are a lot of ongoing variables that a coaching staff always as to be mindful of so can't just take a bird's eye view and say we have too many guys at this position and this is a problem.  Instead it may be an opportunity to create unique lineups that might be effective and but wouldn't have the opportunity to experiment with if you were thin at the position.  With that said let's dive into all the big men on the roster and see what positions they can all lineup at so we can figure out what kind of lineup combinations we can get out of them and also figure out how they can all get minutes this season and who should get the most at each position.

 

 

Player Name

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Thon Maker

Ersan Illyasova

DJ Wilson

Brook Lopez

John Henson

Tyler Zeller

pg

X

sf

X

X

X

X

 

 

 

pf

X

X

X

X

 

 

 

c

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

 

 

Ok so you may think I'm crazy listing so many of the Bucks big man being capable of playing the 3 position but it's actually realistic and it makes a lot of sense really.  Obviously we know that Giannis can basically play every position except that pointing him at the 2 doesn't really make sense because he's not a long range shooter but still we don't really have to talk about him since we all know exactly what he can do.  I will mention this though, I think Giannis should be used creatively all season long and I think coach Bud should build lots of lineups around him as focal point at all 4 positions above.  It just makes it really hard for other teams to game plan around and it means the pieces around Giannis will give teams fits too.  Moving on.

Let's talk about the small forward versatility three of our big men have which you probably don't realize.  Thon, Ersan, and DJ all share one core playing style element in their game: they play outside in (not inside out!).  None of these guys are prolific rebounders and really two of them are absolute trash rebounders (Thon and DJ) so why should they be hovering around down low near the rim trying to out muscle other men much stronger than them for rebounds when they can be spacing the floor and use their superior agility and shooting range to pull bigs out of the paint, open up cutting lanes, and create space for Giannis to work?  Floor spacing is key this season and the Bucks have so many tweeners who can lineup at multiple positions to create mismatches for other teams.  We have seen two playoffs in a row that Thon Maker is really effective playing outside where he can be spotting up for threes and even anticipate rebounds from a far vs. trying to box out these huge centers and power forwards.  Same goes with DJ Wilson.  He'll get mulled this season just like Thon does.  These guys have guard skills and Budenholzer should line them up at the 3 often.  Forward heavy lineups is the way to go this season!  Oh there we go...that's a great article idea!  BOOM!  That a TIGER...

Even Ersan used to play the 3 position.  Maximizing all three player's versatility this season I think is key.  Throwing lots of unique lineups where players skill sets are maximized could rip a lot of teams this season.  Jason Kidd tried to do this at times but none of his lineup combinations ever made sense and when one was working he'd try something different.  Coach Bud needs to line guys up at their positions of strengths this season and I have a lot of confidence that he will because I think this is probably one of his biggest strengths as a coach; in being flexible with lineups and getting the most out of role players.  If you think that some of these guys are too big to play small forward your crazy!  I'm not!  Let's look at their heigh/weight/wingspan.  Note that I'm just taking what Google gives me and understand that heights and weights for players don't get updated frequently on NBA website and even Google so don't take these measurements for granted as I can assure you that they are not accurate all!  For example Giannis has been listed 6'11" ft. and 220 lb. on Google for over 2 years now!  The dude has put on so much muscle and weight since then that you can trust he's probably at least 240lb. and maybe approaching 250lb.  Also, I wouldn't be surprised if he measured exactly at 7'0"ft tall now.

 

 

Player Name

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Thon Maker

Ersan Illyasova

DJ Wilson

Height

6' 11" (Probably 7' 0" ft now)

7' 1"

6' 10"

6' 10"

Weight

220 lb. (Actually at least 240 lb)

220 lb.

236 lb.

234 lb.

Wingspan

7' 3"

7' 3"

NA

7' 3"

 

 

Ok so isn't this interesting looking at all four of these players basic size measurables on top of each other?  I think NBA fans and analysts in general get confused on what defines your position or at least what "should" define your position.  It's simple, it's how you are used!  Look Giannis physically is built like a modern day center.  If you saw Giannis for the first time you would assume he's a center, not a small forward and not even a power forward.  He didn't come into the league built like a center, he just built himself like a center over the last four years of his career.  But Giannis can play all these different positions because he has the skill set and athleticism to do it.  Let me ask you this, are the other three guys really built to be centers right now?  Not really.  As small ball floor spacing centers absolutely but none of these guys have skill sets to bang down low (that sounded dirty!), not even Ersan!  Thon, DJ, and even Ersan all have small forward skill sets with Ersan probably being more of a combo forward skill set.  It's not even so much what positions they need to play but more about what players you need to surround them with.

Really they should all be used similarly and surrounded by similar players.  Ersan gives you a little bit more flexibility because he's a polished player and has more bulk but really Thon and DJ should be spacing the floor as much as possible when on the court regardless of where they line up.  Let them crash the boards from afar maximizing their agility and not exploiting their scrawny bodies.  They aren't bangers man...they are finesse guys (sounding dirty again!).  Coach Bud should emphasize them as pick and pop shooters and let them fire away from the arc this season.  Not only will they be more effective individually on offense but this maximizes any lineups they are in creating space for guys like Bledsoe, Giannis or even Brogdon to get to the hoop more easily knowing that they are all excellent slashers.  It comes down to creating more effective lineups regardless of the individual stats.  But with that said wouldn't you rather see these three guys I'm talking about be firing away from downtown all season vs. getting barried down low all season?  Absolutely right!?

Realize how important it is to pull centers away from the rim so that they can't rim protect and so teams cannot create walls in front of Giannis.  If you think the counter argument is that maybe DJ and Thon are actually too tall to play SF that's ribuckulous (I made that word up).  If anything that just gives them both and advantage on defense making it harder for other small forwards to shoot over them.  Yes both might be a little bit slower footed vs. many small forwards in the league but they are both completely out sized and out muscled against 4's and 5's so pick your poison!  Personally I want to see these two playing outside on the perimeter all day, well at least on offense.  On defense they are both probably best suited to rim protect and match up against 5's or 4's but I don't see why you wouldn't want to challenge them to guard three's and see how they do...at least DJ right?  We know Thon can rim protect even at his weight so having him guard 3's might be a waste because who plays down low then?

So if I haven't convinced you yet that Ersan, Thon, and DJ should all get minutes at small forward this season fine.  I'm done convincing you.  At the end of the day it doesn't really matter which positions they lineup at because they should be spacing the floor no matter what!  Moving on.

Let's talk about the real centers on this team.  It's Giannis, Lopez, Henson, and Zeller.  Remember Giannis can legitimately lineup basically anywhere and I think he should see minutes exclusively as the only center on the floor and smother him with our best shooters as a death lineup perhaps.  Beyond that I think Lopez needs 30 minutes a game this season.  The gap between him and these other two JAGs is not even close.  Henson and Zeller need to be on the trading block all season.  In fact I think you can only justify giving them minutes so you can try to build up their stock a bit and try to just move their contracts some how some way.  Neither John or Tyler will be as effective on the floor as these other guys no matter where they lineup (as long as they are used as I explained).  This is where it gets tricky though because I just don't know how to get them enough minutes to try and build up their trading value by mid season.  And what if they don't perform well during these minutes defeating the whole purpose?  Ugh.

I guess if you run on a big rotation but keep it consistent and allow Thon, DJ, and even Ersan to get minutes at the 3 it just opens up more minutes at center for all of these guys to get some run.  Even if you can get Henson and Zeller 10 minutes a game here and there that would be fine  I mean what other options do the Bucks really have?  They just gotta find some minutes for them consistently some how some way otherwise it's just dead salary rotting on the bench and their value will just keep diminishing.  I mean the guys who should get the minutes to help the team win this season are obvious to me.  There are too odd men out and it's Henson and Zeller.  Henson can be impactful at times but his skill set is still so limited there are no good reasons at this point to think he's going to be any better than he has been all these years he's been in the league now.  The centers that will benefit the most in this new system and under coach Bud are the stretch 5's who can hit three's and that is definitely not Henson or Zeller.

The main problem the Bucks really have though with their big man is that it's somewhat of a risk no matter what path you take in terms of giving your best producers the minutes or giving the guys you're trying to shop minutes.  Clearing salary space going forward is just as important as winning games this coming season.  Ultimately I think it's going to come down to whether or not Mike Budenholzer can get creative and get efficient production out of all these guys on low minutes.  If you run a big rotation then everyone is going to get jipped of minutes.  If you run a small rotation, then you have multiple guys chilling on the bench.  I'm glad I'm not the coach lol!  It's definitely going to be a dilemma this season but I think coach Bud is more than capable of solving this puzzle.  

 

 

TIGER KEY POINTS

  • The Bucks have too many big man than they have minutes for after their off season acquisitions and minute distribution is going to be a bit tricky for coach Bud.

  • If the Bucks seriously want to shop Henson and Zeller this season to move their salaries and open up the roster well they have to get regular consistent minutes because right now they are worth literally nothing!

  • Coach Budenholzer should seriously consider playing Thon, Ersan, and even DJ extensive minutes at small forward as the 3 position really fits their game (especially Thon and DJ) being outside/inside vs the other way around.

  • Giannis could become even more dangerous this season if coach Bud builds specific lineups maximizing Giannis as the 1, 3, 4, and 5 because it will require extensive lineup adjustments from other teams in order to properly adjust.

  • Brook Lopez needs to be the bell cow center on the team this season and average 30+ minutes no matter what you do with the other guys as there is a major gap between him and the other big men on the roster (not including Giannis).

  • The Bucks should emphasis floor spacing at the 5 as much as possible this season and sacrifice rebounding because the Bucks just don't have the players to compete on the boards regardless but instead they do have multiple big men who can shoot from distance respectively and ultimately this will have a much more positive impact on the overall +/- of their lineups.

  • The Bucks have quite a few unique players on the roster now and most of them are big men so hopefully coach Budenholzer will be very creative in his lineup construction this season without thinking to hard about it like we saw from our head coach tandem of Jason Kidd and Joe Prunti last season.

 

 
 

TIGER'S FINAL TAKE

At the end of the day the Bucks actually have a good problem here as I feel pretty damn comfortable with the big men currently on the roster for the upcoming season.  The Bucks were extremely thin last season and it was a major weakness.  The team will still finish near the bottom in rebounding but the opportunity to compensate with three point shooting at 5 and dramatically improve floor spacing this season is a major positive.  If the Bucks are dropping bombs all season and getting consistent great looks, their rebounding woes won't hurt the team much.  I think coach Budenholzer is more than equipped to figure all this out and I can't wait to see what kind of lineups he rolls out this season!

 
 

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