How the Milwaukee Bucks Are Embracing the Small Ball Trend

How the Milwaukee Bucks Are Embracing the Small Ball Trend

Small ball is the big thing in today's NBA, and the Bucks could possibly be the perfect team for it.
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Hope In Milwaukee Again

After a long wandering period of hopelessness, it is finally a great time to be a basketball fan in Milwaukee. The acquisition of all-star player Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is referred to as just Giannis or the “Greek Freak,” in 2013 gave Milwaukee Bucks fans hope yet again.

The year which he was drafted to the Bucks was most definitely a low point for the team, but since then, the Bucks have made an impressive comeback. Giannis, along with other key players on the team, have built up an impressive lineup which is well suited for the current biggest trend in the National Basketball Association (NBA): small ball.

Small Ball: The Trend

Small ball is an innovative style of play where a coach takes traditional centers, otherwise known as big men, out of their lineup and replaces them with players who have quickness and better technical skills such as handling the ball and shooting. These favored players are usually smaller—hence the term “small ball”—so essentially this lineup sacrifices size for skill, speed, and athleticism. Typically, a small ball lineup uses more guards outside the perimeter and less traditional big men inside the free throw lane.

Going small was once ridiculed, but when the Golden State Warriors won the championship in the 2015 NBA Finals, they proved just how well this style of play can work. The Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr showed everyone how successful it can be.

Draymond Green, who barely reaches 6’ 7” (if he’s standing on his toes), was moved to the center position during the finals and it worked out excellently for them. Since then, small ball has been consistently growing in popularity and all teams in the league now have to learn either how to use the lineup or how to defend the lineup in order to be successful.

The Advantages of Playing Small

Going small speeds up the pace of the game, spaces out the court, and places a lot of emphasis on the three-point shot. The opposing team's defense is forced to expand itself out in order to protect the three-point line (or perimeter), which then leaves a lot of open space on the floor to create other possibilities offensively.

“It’s hard for five guys to maintain integrity when they are so far from each other,” wrote sportswriter Zach Lowe on Grantland. “The string eventually breaks, and when it does, Golden State can produce all kinds of looks—drive-and-kick three-pointers and jaunts to the rim ahead of scrambling defenders. The right combination of speed and shooting can beat size.”

Slow big men often lack the ability to effectively guard the perimeter, and smaller guys often have the necessary ball handling skills to dribble or pass right through a defense, or the ability to step back and shoot a three-pointer. Smaller players are playing taller positions now, and believe it or not, it’s working out for some teams.

Three-point shooters pull defenders away from the post which creates clear paths for layups, or it creates an open shot from behind the arc (the three-point line) which is often easier than attempting to create a shot from closer in. When a big man is forced to defend outside of his comfort zone, small ball works.

“Four guys out there around a rim-runner–that’s just hard to defend,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens to ESPN.

The center, whose job is normally to protect the rim, has to make the decision to either stay there at the rim or come out to protect the three. Also, three points is obviously greater than two points, and it is easier to score many points in a short amount of time with this style of play.

Essentially, the small ball lineup works so well for the Warriors because it spaces out the other team defensively and increases the fast tempo offensively.

The Disadvantages of Playing Small

Small ball certainly has plenty of weaknesses, though, which is why many teams don’t find the same success with it that Golden State did. It is often considered an offense-for-defense tradeoff because going small sacrifices size, which means it also sacrifices defense and rebounding.

Taking the big man out of this situation usually means allowing the other teams more points, but the tradeoff proved to work out for Golden State. The Warriors compensate for the extra allowed points with their unique roster, because their defenders are smart and Andrew Bogut protected the rim well during the finals.

How Players Are Adapting: Big Becoming Small

Because of small ball’s rise in popularity, big players are now working on being able to go small. Size is less valuable nowadays than skill or shooting. It’s not that big men are changing—they’re just as big as they’ve been, if not a little taller.

In fact, the length of this ellipsis …. is the amount that the average NBA player’s height has changed in the past ten years. (The average height has gone up just .4 inches since 2006-2007, to be exact.)

The difference is that big men just aren’t being utilized in the same way that they used to be. Taller players are adapting by working on their ball-handling skills and ability to shoot from farther out to be more of a perimeter player if needed.

Big players that have the versatility to step out and make jump shots are a type of hybrid player that is arguably the most desirable type of player in basketball right now. Having a 7’0” player who can do what a 6’5” player can do is extremely valuable, because it allows a player to play small ball without sacrificing defense.

Why The Bucks Can Go Small: New Additions

These crucial hybrids are the reason the Milwaukee Bucks can find success with small ball in the same way that the Warriors did. Milwaukee’s roster has made some recent changes that make the team perfectly suited for this style of play, though this was not widely recognized right away.

“The way the roster is currently constructed suggests that the Bucks front office has, perhaps unknowingly, bought into the notion of small ball already,” wrote sportswriter Adam Coffman on Fansided.

Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, Tony Snell, and Malcolm Brogdon are all important role players who have been acquired by the Bucks in the past year. Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker, and Giannis are all also important contributors who are relatively new to the team as well.

The recent changes made to the Bucks’ roster as of late shows that, whether this was intentional or unintentional, Milwaukee has the perfect opportunity to take what Golden State perfected and run with it.

Why The Bucks Can Go Small: Size and Length

The Bucks have the distinctive ability to play small ball without using small players, which is what makes this lineup work out so well for them. They are able to use a small ball lineup with four out of their five starters standing above 6’7”, and all of them having a wingspan greater than 6’10”, so they aren’t actually going small.

With Giannis and their centers, it is clear that this team is dominant in the NBA regarding length. Because of the team’s size, many naturally assume that Milwaukee is not equipped to play small ball, but that is simply not true. Milwaukee’s small ball is certainly unique, but that’s what makes it work for them.

This team can speed up the pace of the game by using the fundamental principles of small ball without sacrificing anything on defense, because their roster has the size it needs to be equipped to do that. Giannis, Maker, and Khris Middleton all have the potential to be elite-level defenders, and they can all effectively shoot as well.

Though Giannis doesn’t have the skill to shoot three-pointers just yet, deep shooters are able to open up a lane for Giannis to bound through the paint (the free throw lane) in two or three steps in his typical Greek Freak style.

Milwaukee does tend to struggle with rebounding, but this will happen regardless of however the lineup is set up. Not all hope is lost in the rebounding category, though.

Giannis is a solid team leader in rebounds, as the sixteenth best rebounder in the NBA. Monroe is also a consistently strong rebounder as the backup center, averaging 10.6 rebounds per every thirty-six minutes.

Head coach Jason Kidd can build around this by letting Giannis and Monroe (or another big man) shine as the primary and secondary rebounders when Milwaukee plays small.

Why The Bucks Can Go Small: Versatility

What truly makes this team successful in going small is versatility. Milwaukee’s starters and role players ability to adapt to new positions and become more well-rounded is essential in this league, which is why Kidd is able to utilize this in a small ball lineup.

Easily the most important component of this unique and versatile roster is Giannis, and for good reason. He isn’t called the Greek Freak for nothing, and that is because he is nearly seven feet tall but he has the speed, athleticism, and ball-handling ability of a player who is 6’4”.

This, along with the fact that he is an elite defender, is why he can be played at every position and cause a lot of mismatches for the other teams defensively. He is every small ball lineup’s dream.

Monroe is a player whose addition to the team made small ball a viable possibility, and this was partly made possible by his ability to adapt to a new position. Monroe started his career as a power forward, but has now been made into a dependable center.

Maker, a rookie big man, has been another key part of the Bucks’ success in going small. The 20-year-old australian is already over seven feet tall, and shoots three-pointers at 37.8 percent which is astonishing for someone of his age and height.

Currently, the team’s second best player is Middleton, who was out for the first three months on the season with a torn hamstring but is now back and leading the teams to important wins. His well-roundedness makes him able to fit in any lineup and make his teammates around him better.

When Giannis is out, Middleton runs the show. He posts impressive stats all-around, but his shooting percentage—41.7 percent from three—is extremely good, especially for a man his size.

Parker is the ultimate complement to Giannis. His polished offense pairs well with the unruly offense which Giannis is known for, and he shoots nearly 40 percent from deep which is impressive.

Defensively, he struggles, but Giannis, Middleton, Brogdon, and even Henson are all strong enough defensive players to easily pick up where he lacks defensively. Kidd has found that Parker actually can contribute on defense so long as he stays engaged by making it his task to guard the ball.

Parker tore his ACL on February 8 in a game against Miami Heat, so the team has had to manage without him, but he is confident that he will be back and better than ever next season.

"I don't want to be the same player," said Parker in a post-practice interview with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I wouldn't be myself if I don't challenge myself to do better things, bigger things. I know I can be better."

With Parker and Middleton both being the same height and weight, it is easy for them to switch between small forward and power forward, adding to the team’s flexibility.

Middleton, Parker, and Giannis are all crucial to the team, because they are all very tall wing players who transition quickly in offense but are also very dependable on defense.

A wing player is typically a leading scorer and also an important line of defense, and these three players all do this well because they can defend other forwards and guards while also handling the ball and running an offense. They also cause mismatches in their positions because they are effective in guarding other players, but other players struggle to guard them.

Running an offense through Middleton and Giannis also opens up the opportunity for Rookie of the Year nominee Malcolm Brogdon to play as a point guard rather than a shooting guard. Brogdon is bigger than many point guards and effective in shooting field goals and three-pointers, but he isn’t the best ball handler.

That’s an okay problem with this lineup, though. Instead of Brogdon being the primary ball handler, the wings are then able to handle the ball and run the offense. Kidd no longer has the need for traditional point guards or power forwards on this team, and his roster is far from traditional.

The freedom that Kidd has in being able to switch around the majority of his players without losing any size regardless of position is rare and valuable. This unique and wing-heavy small ball lineup is precisely what makes the Bucks so tricky for teams that rely heavily on their power forwards and/or point guards to match up against.

Dellavedova, Snell, and Jason Terry are also all important role players in this lineup. Dellavedova is a versatile defender who is able to play multiple positions.

Terry, though he is nearing the end of his career at thirty-nine years old, is still valuable as a true shooter who can act as a playmaker and score off of the dribble.

Snell, though he may not rack up as many stats as his small forward counterparts Middleton and Parker, has played an important role to Milwaukee since his trade from the Bulls last year and has lessened the blow of Parker’s injury.

Though the Bucks don’t have the roster to completely take a big man out of their lineup like Golden State did, that’s no problem for them. Skilled size is needed at the big man position for the Bucks to truly pull off small ball, and they have that.

As of late, Maker has been playing more consistently and proving that he has the skill to take on that role, or Giannis and Parker can alternatively be utilized as a deadly big man combination.

Aside from Giannis, Monroe, and Henson, Milwaukee’s starters and role players are consistent at shooting three-pointers, regardless of position. All of Milwaukee’s starting lineup is primarily positionless, which is why they are becoming a real threat in the league.

Positionless wing players have become the most important players in today’s NBA, and Milwaukee can play more of them together than any team in the league besides Golden State,” wrote sportswriter Jonathan Tjarks on The Ringer.

Why The Bucks Can Go Small: It Works

Adopting what Golden State perfected is working out pretty well for the Bucks. On Saturday, November 19, the Bucks used the Warriors’ lineup against them and nearly upset them, with the final score at 124-121.

During the NBA playoff series against the Raptors this April, the Bucks proved again how successful they can be going small. When Kidd had his team play small, it worked.

They were the underdogs going into the series, but they beat the Raptors in the first game of the series without the home-court advantage or Parker.

Though they didn’t win the series, Milwaukee proved this postseason how far they’ve come and how far they are going to go with this lineup.

Why The Bucks Can Go Small: They Are Only Getting Better

The Bucks could be a major threat for a long time. The team is full of young potential, and Kidd is planning on keeping this strong roster. Giannis, Middleton, Parker, Maker, and Brogdon, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and there are strong rumors about retaining Snell since his contract just ended.

Milwaukee is also in the middle of building a new stadium, which will bring the needed revenue to keep star players and give these players added reasons to stay in the city.

Not to mention, Kidd seems to be reliably good at building on young talent. He has done this with Giannis, Maker, and Parker, just to name three.

Thon Maker will continue to craft his raw talent, Giannis will learn to consistently shoot threes, and Parker will come back from his injury ready to make an impact.

This is the beginning of an exciting era for the Bucks, and everyone ought to buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Cover Image Credit: Benny Sieu - USA TODAY Sports

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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​A Division By Division Review Of April In The MLB

The 2019 MLB season is well underway, so it may be safer to make some predictions.

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(All statistics referenced are from https://www.mlb.com/.)

Now that most teams have played at least 30 games, we are about 1/5 of the way through the 162 games for each team, which still leaves a huge amount of baseball to be played. However, a lot of predictions and inferences can be made with this large sample size of April, and while they may not hold up, they do have solid evidence behind them. So with that, let's review the pennant races after April.

NL East

The NL East is shaping out to be a competitive division this year, not because all the teams are exceptionally good, but because the teams are well-matched (excluding the MLB-worst Marlins). The Phillies got off to a hot start but cooled off for a bit and picked up steam again, winning seven of their last 10 to lead the division by 1.5 games over the Braves, who are also heating up. The Mets and Nationals are under .500 and slowing down.

NL Central

This division has been wildly competitive as of late, and going to be in my opinion the most fun to watch over the next few weeks. The red-hot Cubs have won their last 7 games, taking the top spot from the Cardinals, who have lost their last four. The Brewers and Pirates are also very close, 1.5 and 3 games back respectively, and on 3 and 2-game win streaks respectively.

NL West

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks have revived a strong rivalry and have kindled a strong battle already, playing good baseball, with both teams winning 7 out of their last 10. Both clubs already have 20 wins and are only aiming for more. The Padres are also starting to show signs of improvement, but it is likely that the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will be the ones battling for their division.

AL East

Surprisingly, Tampa Bay continues their new success atop the AL East, two games over the Yankees. No one expected the Rays to jump out and lead the division, but they have started to maintain their success and seem to be here for real. Both the Yankees and the Red Sox are finally recovering after shockingly slow starts, 19-14 and 17-18 on the year respectively, good enough for 2nd and 3rd place in the division. If Tampa Bay can play well against the Red Sox and Yanks in their matchups, the Rays can distance themselves in the race.

AL Central

Another surprise, the Twins lead the AL Central by two games, over the Cleveland Indians, who many expected to lead the division this year. While the Indians are 18-14, their expected average factoring in Runs Scored and Runs Allowed should be 15-17, and every club in the AL Central has a negative run differential except the Indians, so it may be safe to say the Twins might be leading for a while.

AL West

In the AL West, the Astros have reclaimed the top spot and look to defend their title. The Mariners, whom no one expected to get to get off to the hot start that they enjoyed, have really fallen off and gotten themselves into a slump, dropping seven of their last 10 games to fall to a 19-17 record. The Astros will likely continue their success and stay atop the AL West

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