I loved this piece from ESPN on the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision 5 years ago to focus on building the NBA’s longest and most athletic roster and the kind of reality that vision has turned into today. Really good stuff in here on Giannis’ drive, the premium the Bucks put on watching film with players, “Night School,” their “No Fastballs” philosophy, how they teach their players to read the court and Jason Kidd’s tough love early in Giannis’ career paying off. I appreciate Brandon Bailey for passing this article along. For how the Boston Celtics attacked Milwaukee’s defense, check out this post from last week.
With an opening night starting lineup whose collective wingspans could bridge Lake Michigan, the Bucks may look to have completed their mission, but if their all-in focus on length is going to result in championships, they’ll have to prove they can apply it. To do so, the Bucks have crafted an interesting, and aggressive, defense — one that routinely sends two defenders at the opposing ball handler, with pressure ready to pounce behind the blitz. This half-court scheme features a set of strategic imperatives, including a couple that borrow from other sports. “We call it ‘No fastballs,'” Kidd says. “Fastballs kill us. We talk about it all the time. ‘No one can throw a fastball. No one can throw a strike.’ If someone throws a strike, it puts us in harm’s way.” The Bucks define a fastball, or strike, as a pass delivered to an opposing player in the optimal spot at the optimal speed at the optimal moment. More than ever, the league’s best offenses subsist on a healthy diet of catch-and-shoot bombs born out of drive-and-kick attacks or quick passes within a motion offense. A defense that can reroute those passes or delay them can degrade the quality of those shots.