Scouting Report: Young Bucks


The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the more exciting teams in the NBA last season. Led by first time All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, they returned to the playoffs following a one-year absence. Milwaukee has retained their core, and seem poised to take the next step. Here’s how they match up against the Detroit Pistons.

A team’s slogan doesn’t mean much. It’s a cute, catchy phrase that’s used to sell merchandise. The Milwaukee Bucks’ slogan is “Fear the Deer”, which is as clever as it is true. Opposing teams (such as your Detroit Pistons) shouldn’t look past the boys of Brew City.

They’re returning all of their starters from last season. Milwaukee’s second leading scorer, Jabari Parker, is expected to see the floor in the coming months. Inserting him back into the starting lineup will provide another potent scoring threat.

Chris Barnewall of CBS Sports ranked the Bucks No. 1 on his League Pass watch-ability list, and for good reason. Milwaukee has one of the NBA’s most explosive players in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee’s best

The 22-year-old had a break out season in 2016-17. Antetokounmpo led the Bucks in all five of the major statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

Few players in the league offer that kind of versatility. But he’s the kind of guy who can excel at multiple positions. Since his arrival in 2013, Antetokounmpo has played point guard, shooting guard and small forward. Oh and by the way, he’s 6’11”.

Related Story: The Bulls offseason and how they match up with the Pistons

That particular skill set in that particular frame is a rarity. He’s basically a younger Kevin Durant, except he can serve as the primary ball handler. Antetokounmpo has the speed of a guard, the scoring ability of a forward, and the height of a center.

So, how do you stop him? Well that’s what Pistons’ head coach Stan Van Gundy is trying to figure out. In four games against Detroit last year, Antetokounmpo averaged 19.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 1.5 blocks per contest. Milwaukee won the season series 3-1.

Gritty Greek

Most players with his amount of offensive production tend to be a liability on defense. Well that’s not the case here. Antetokounmpo is a scrappy defender, who adjusts his strategy based on the man he’s guarding.

If his job is to cover the point guard, then he’ll lower his body and widen his stance. This isn’t easy to do for a player of his size. Players that tall struggle to stay in front of the smaller guys. But Antetokounmpo’s awareness and athleticism allow him to defend more conventional guards.

More from PistonPowered

His hands are always active, which helps him average nearly two steals per game. Playing the passing lanes isn’t easy. It takes patience and precision.

Antetokounmpo, even at 22, has the necessary discipline. It’s one of the many reasons he was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2017.

Two-way players are hard to come by in this day and age. With a majority of those guys in the Western Conference, Milwaukee has found a diamond in the rough.

Triple threat

Aside from having a transcendent NBA talent, the Bucks also have another key weapon that the Pistons’ lack: consistent three-point shooting.

Milwaukee was 10th in the league last season when it came to three-point percentage, as they shot 37 percent from deep. A total of eight Bucks shot 35 percent or better on the season. Five of them shot over 40 percent.

None of those eight players were the Greek Freak. They’ve surrounded their most prolific scorer with plenty of outside shooting, and he’s not hesitant to go to them.

Perhaps that’s why Milwaukee can be so dangerous. Simply put, they share the basketball. They were fifth in the NBA in total assists last season with 1,984, or an average of 24.2 per game.

The Pistons on the other hand, really struggle from beyond the arc. Detroit was 28th in the NBA when it came to three-point percentage, shooting just 33 percent. Not a single Pistons shot over 40 percent. If you want to compete in the modern NBA, that can’t happen.

But the additions of Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard should help in that department. When it comes to three-point shooting, the Pistons have nowhere to go but up.

Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons /

Detroit Pistons

The Bucks stop here

If there’s one area where Milwaukee struggles, it’s rebounding the basketball. They ranked 29th in rebounds per game as they finished with an average of 40.4. Antetokounmpo grabbed 8.8 boards per contest last season. While that’s a respectable average, it’s shouldn’t be enough to lead a team.

This is where the Pistons have the upper hand. Last season, they ranked 4th in the NBA in rebounds per game with 45.7. To be fair, that was due in large part to one man. Detroit center Andre Drummond is arguably the best in the business when it comes to controlling the glass.

He averaged 13.8 rebounds per game in 2016-17, good enough for second in the NBA. While he barely missed out on his second straight rebounding title, Drummond did lead the league in total rebounds with 1,115.

While it’s true that he experienced a down year in scoring, his impact on the glass shouldn’t be overlooked. Drummond led the NBA in offensive (15.1) and defensive (36.2) rebounding percentage last season.

Regardless of what you think of Drummond, it’s likely that without him, Detroit would be one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA. Power forward Jon Leuer was second on the team with 5.4 boards per game. That’s a considerable drop-off after the big fella.

Bottom line

The Pistons and Bucks are built very differently. Their styles contrast, and yet they both find themselves in a similar position. The Eastern Conference is weak. Playoff spots are there for the taking.

Division rivals such as the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers have each taken a step back. Jimmy Butler and Paul George are headed west. Those departures alone have provided Detroit and Milwaukee with wonderful opportunities.

It’s hard to say which team has the advantage. Health has been an issue for Milwaukee and Detroit as of late. Sometimes one injury can derail an entire season, as we saw with Reggie Jackson and the Pistons last year.

Next: Andre Drummond's season outlook for the Pistons

But NBA fans should be looking forward to the four meeting between the Pistons and Bucks. Different styles of play usually lead to competitive basketball. In a watered down Eastern Conference, this matchup could be a real treat.