The Milwaukee Bucks have been trying to get too cute with their lineup combinations and head coach Joe Prunty must learn to lean heavily on the starters.
Milwaukee Bucks‘ head coach Joe Prunty is in way over his head in these NBA playoffs and to make matters worse, he’s matched up with one of the best coaches in the NBA in Brad Stevens. Because of this, Prunty has tried to get too complex when the situation has called for simplicity.
Prunty has been trying to mix and match the Bucks’ lineups in order to find the right one. This often time ends in a hodgepodge of players on the court who don’t necessarily fit well together. I’m specifically talking about some of the lineups where Giannis Antetokounmpo is moved to center.
The national media called for this lineup all throughout the season and especially in this matchup. Play Giannis at the 5 they said. It will be great they said. The Bucks will have tremendous success they said. It turns out they were unsurprisingly wrong on all accounts.
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In the regular season, the most used Antetokounmpo at center lineup consisted of Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Midleton and Tony Snell. Or, in other words, their four best shooters. This is exactly the type of spacing experts envisioned around the Greek Freak when talking about this arrangement.
Unfortunately, it completely bombed. The group registered a -12.6 rating in 33 minutes on the floor together and absolutely could not gather a rebound, bringing in only 41.7 percent of chances.
What continued the train down this track was the incorrectly perceived success this same group had at the end of the fourth quarter and overtime in Game 1. It was like the overconfident shooter who makes his first shot of the game and then keeps shooting the rest of the day despite clanking brick after brick.
The group appeared to close the gap down the stretch, but their advanced numbers are not nearly impressive. In seven minutes their defensive rating was 141.8 and that was mostly due to only being able to grab a third of available defensive rebounds. In case you can’t figure it out, that’s horse poop. Their overall net rating was a -0.7.
In Game 2, Prunty rolled out two different variations of the lineup and they both got killed. One included Bledsoe, Middleton, Snell and Shabazz Muhammad for three minutes. That grouping registered a -33.3 net rating. The second one included Malcolm Brogdon, Middleton, Snell and Jabari Parker and racked up a -133.3 net rating in two minutes.
Stevens did a great job of planning for and countering this lineup, as he ensured he had Al Horford, Greg Monroe and Marcus Morris on the floor at the same time. This forced Middleton to defend Monroe which is a complete mismatch inside. Monroe dominated the lineup and forced Prunty to pull the plug, even if it was a little to slow.
Meanwhile, the starting unit has racked up a net rating of 10.3 in 25 minutes of play. Their defense has been terrific while their offense has been serviceable. Also, they grab enough rebounds to keep their team in contention which has been one of the biggest struggles in this series. This is a group he has to rely on despite Bledsoe and Snell’s offensive struggles.
When he needs to bring guys in off the bench, he should stick to the old saying; “Keep it simple, stupid.” When he’s substituted Brogdon for Snell, his teams have been lethal offensively posting a 136.6 offensive rating.
He can also use Tyler Zeller and Parker for limited stretches. Other than that, he should take a page out of Tom Thibodeau’s playbook and play his starter near 40 minutes every game. At this point in the season, it’s absolutely insane everyone on the bench appeared in Game 2 when it was still competitive.
Long story short, Prunty should stick to the basics and not out think himself Ride the starters plus Brogdon for large minutes and he’ll find the success he’s looking for.