Budenholzer, Giannis giving Bucks real reasons to believe

New coach Mike Budenholzer has the Bucks flying high in the early-going.

No matter how smart any of us are, or the amount of numbers we crunch by way of analytics, inevitably, every NBA year, there are several shocking revelations, a fair number of curve-balls that force us all to admit, amazing things do happen in the NBA.

So far already, just roughly 15 games in, there have been several surprises. There’s Derrick Rose, who a short while ago looked like he might be on his way out of the NBA. Instead, he most positively is still in the NBA and putting up career-highs whilst helping Minnesota break franchise 3-point records to boot. There’s Steph Curry, playing like MVP Steph and again, just roughly 15 games in. There will undoubtedly be plenty more awe-inspiring games ahead.

Of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo has also been unbelievable.
Raising his already elite game to even higher highs. Awesomely, (especially if you’re a Milwaukee Bucks fan) Giannis is just a part of the reason why the Milwaukee Bucks just might be the best team in the NBA.

THE BUD EFFECT

Another big advantage the Bucks have is none other than their new coach, Mike Budenholzer. Thanks to Budenholzer, the Bucks are the team in the East than nobody saw coming. Although the Bucks gave an extremely good account of themselves in last year’s playoffs, the Boston Celtics with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning, as well as the Toronto Raptors with Kawhi Leonard, were expected to lead the East.

It’s feasible that few expected Budenholzer’s Bucks to hit the ground running the way they have. Yet hit the ground running is what they have done. All the way to a record of 10-3 and the second place in the Eastern Conference (through Tuesday). Antetokounmpo is playing at an MVP level, averaging 25.6 points per game, a career high (12.9 rebounds and again career high 5.7 assists per game).

Without question, the Bucks definitely seem to have bought into Budenholzer’s basketball philosophy, as Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon are also having career starts in assists and rebounding, while also scoring at near career-high levels.

The above individual developments, hint at what has been Budenholzer’s greatest achievement. He very clearly has gotten the Bucks players to buy-in to his philosophy of playing basketball.

LEARNING UNDER POP

Perhaps the NBA should have seen this coming. After all, Budenholzer is another head coach who was  strongly influenced by San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.

One of the hallmarks of Popovich’s legacy is that he has no system per sé. Popovich bases his offense on the strengths of his players — as opposed to trying to make his players conform to his offense.

Like Popovich, Budenholzer has the Bucks playing to their natural strengths, with Antetokounmpo playing like a point (power) forward, attacking the basket in the post and off the fast break. Meanwhile, the rest of the Bucks are spread out on the 3-point line, eager to punish from deep or subsequently create more havoc by passing and/or off the dribble.

On defense the Bucks are forcing more two-point shots than any other team in this early season.

All of it makes it easy to see why the Bucks are leading the league with an average scoring margin of +11.9.

Given the unparalled, consistent success of the Spurs, it’s probably a good idea to take a page from Popovich’s book. Empowering players to do what they naturally do is a virtually foolproof way of getting players to buy-in to your philosophy.

THE NUMBERS BACK BUD

With this year’s Bucks outperforming last year’s in a wide range of measurements, It’s fair to say Budenholzer has created a win-win situation.

This year’s Bucks are doing better in terms of:

Basically, the Bucks have improved across the board. That improvement has them moving up the ranks in everyone’s eyes. Monday, they were ranked third in the NBA by ESPN’s panel.

Last year, it was the Houston Rockets that took the NBA by surprise and force, arguably coming within a Chris Paul injury of winning it all. This year, the Rockets have obviously had a tough start to the season.

Meanwhile, it is the turn of the Bucks to show that the NBA is still where amazing things happen.