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Original Issue


Coaching against GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO is hard. But so is coaching him. How do you maximize the talents of a player with tools no one has seen before? If you're MIKE BUDENHOLZER, you take your principles—be spontaneous, create space, launch threes—and double down on them. Then you watch the W's pile up

IMAGINE BEING offered the chance to try out a car that won't be available for another five years—a car that can do crazy, Jetsons-level stuff. Or say it's an iPhone. Not the newest one but, like, five iPhones from now. What do you do?

Last May, Mike Budenholzer got a call from his agent: The Bucks were looking for a new coach. Did he want to interview?

At the time, they were coming off a first-round, seven-game loss to the Celtics. Milwaukee's roster included promising young players like Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon. But that's not why Budenholzer—and any other sentient coach on the planet—considered the job so intriguing.

Only so many transformative athletes come along in any sport. In the NBA they emerge maybe twice a decade, players whose unique talents rip holes in the fabric of the game, forcing the rest of the league to react, adjust and evolve. Think of Wilt ratcheting the game above 10 feet, of Magic contorting defenses into unnatural alignments, of Dirk blazing a path to the arc for 7-footers and of Steph elongating the boundaries of the half-court offense.

And now here was a chance to mold—or at the very least unleash—the next one, a 24-year-old from Athens who stands 6'11", with arms that spread wider than he is tall, who can play all five positions and conjures comparisons as disparate as Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O'Neal. Better yet, this unicorn—whose name the rest of the league was finally learning to pronounce (YAHN-iss an-tay-to-KOON-poh)—was just entering his prime, his talents not yet fully exploited, the league still unsure how to best adapt.

Not being an idiot, Budenholzer said yes. "I mean, it's Giannis," he says.

After a meeting with management and ownership Budenholzer, a 49-year-old with a matter-of-fact manner and a deep, crackly voice, returned to Milwaukee for a breakfast with Giannis and Middleton. Over eggs and Iberian ham at a Spanish restaurant, the place closed but for the three of them, the new coach laid out his vision: Play faster. Shoot more threes. Create space.

Giannis listened. Then he reached into his leather backpack and pulled out a small black Nike notebook, opening it to a page where, in careful script, he'd written half a dozen things to ask about: how practice would be run, who'd initiate the offense, the philosophy on defense.

If the two men were going to build a future together, Giannis wanted to know what he was getting into.

ONE OF their origin stories is familiar by now. How Charles and Veronica Antetokounmpo came from Nigeria to Greece in 1991 and raised four sons, hawking handbags on the street and constantly fearing deportation. How Giannis, the second oldest, kept growing, signed with a semipro team at 16 and went 15th to the Bucks in the 2013 draft. How he agreed to stay only after he was assured that his family would be able join him. How he arrived in Milwaukee at 18, joyous and disbelieving, reveling in every cheeseburger and convenience store and tweeting things like, "I just taste for the first time a smothie. MAN GOD BLESS AMERICA" [sic]. How he became a regular starter in his second season and made the All-Star team in his fourth. How he became a hero, the best kind of immigrant story (one Disney is said to be making into a movie).

Budenholzer grew up in a railroad town of 5,000 in eastern Arizona, the seventh of seven siblings. In Holbrook the Buds—as everyone called them—were an institution. Libby served on the city council and, briefly, as mayor. Vince, a former New Mexico State guard, taught history and coached Holbrook High to a state championship, using a relentless full-court press suited to the wiry boys from the nearby Fort Apache reservation. Mike played quarterback, captained the golf team and set the school scoring record as a point guard. He dreamed of playing at Arizona, but 6'1" kids who can't dunk aren't hot recruits. Plan B: Pomona College, a Division III liberal arts school on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where older brothers Joe and Jim had gone. The coach was Gregg Popovich. After watching Mike's grainy VHS highlights, he phoned Joe. "I like him," Joe recalls Pop—who would shortly depart for a job as an assistant at Kansas—saying. "But I'm looking at a list of the top 500 players in the country, and he's not on it. What little sway I have, I can't afford to use on him. But if he gets in, tell him to come out for the team."

Mike got in. An obstacle remained: After sending six kids to college, the Budenholzers couldn't afford another private-school tuition. So the siblings banded together and chipped in. Pomona was where, in the fall of 1992, I first met Bud. He was a senior and the starting point guard; I was a sophomore transfer trying to make varsity. Two decades later one memory stands out: a preseason pickup game at Rains Center, the two of us matched up, no coaches, no stakes beyond nexts. His team scored, we inbounded. I caught the ball, turned and there was Mike, already in his defensive stance, butt down, arms wide, looking then much as he does now: big eyes, wispy blond hair, not particularly tall or muscular. He was, and I suppose remains, easy to underestimate.

I took two dribbles right; Mike mirrored me perfectly. I veered left; annoyingly, he was still there. I tried to use speed; Mike cut me off. Finally, I gave up and passed, bewildered. I mean, what kind of lunatic picks you up full court in a meaningless preseason pickup game?

"We all took it seriously, but not like Mike," says Bill Cover, Pomona's all-time leading scorer. Cover tells stories of Mike corralling him at practice—showing him how to move into space and seal in the pick-and-roll—and spending summers working hoops camps and crashing on couches, leaving a trail of thank-you notes in his wake. ("My mom still talks about the one he wrote.")

After a year playing and coaching in Denmark, Bud ended up back in Arizona with no job. He placed a cold call to the coach he never got to play under.

By then Popovich had become an assistant at Golden State. Feeling that he should help a Pomona kid, Pop offered an unpaid gig in the Warriors' film room, "Just so long as I never see you or hear from you." Not being an idiot, Mike said yes. When Pop got the Spurs' GM job in 1994, he called Bud, who headed to Texas, where he spent long hours in a dark room, hand-splicing VHS tape and relying on coupons for his diet of Subway sandwiches. He couldn't have been happier.

Then: the Spurs years. In 1996, Pop, having taken over as coach, made Bud, at 26, the youngest assistant in the league. Marriage, four kids. Duncan, Parker and Ginóbili. Four rings. Bud telling friends no job could be better—best mentor in the league, no pressure. Theoretically, he was next in line. Then again, who knew if Pop would ever retire? In the summer of 2011, an opportunity, the kind that comes along once every decade: a new Warriors owner wanted to unlock the talents of 23-year-old Steph Curry and rookie Klay Thompson. Budenholzer got the call. Only he pushed his vision too hard. "I thought he was really smart, but it wasn't going to fit," Joe Lacob says. Bud deems that too kind.

He learned from the experience and, in 2013, after 19 years in San Antonio, left for Atlanta. In five seasons Budenholzer led the Hawks to four playoffs, won a franchise-record 60 games and was named 2015 Coach of the Year. By last spring, however, the Hawks were in rebuild mode. Budenholzer, who had two years left on his contract, was ready to move on. The breakup was mutual. A week later the Bucks called, and a day after the breakfast meeting, GM Jon Horst introduced Bud, declaring him the best choice to tap Antetokounmpo's talents.

Now all Budenholzer had to do was figure out how to do that.

THE POTENTIAL of Giannis is also the challenge. Since he has no analogs, no precedent exists. Which means, as Bud says, "There's nobody to call." Before, he'd leaned on Pop at times, if never about X's and O's, and he was not the type to reach out to other coaches. (He deems it "one of my weaknesses.") So he watched video and imagined possibilities: while in the car, while waiting for his tea at Starbucks, while avoiding the workout he knew he should be doing.

The challenge was marrying his democratic Hawks system with such a singular player. Bud preferred to initiate his offense through the wing; Giannis attacked best from the top, where he could take advantage of space. Bud wanted to shoot as many threes as possible; Giannis was a terrible three-point shooter. Bud envisioned making Giannis his primary playmaker; the Bucks' secondary scorers—Middleton, Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe—excelled with the ball in their hands.

His staff couldn't even agree on what position Giannis played. In Atlanta, Bud's lead assistant, Darvin Ham, handled the Bucks' scouting report. "O.K., who's the point guard?" Bud would ask. To which Ham would reply, "Giannis." Which annoyed Bud, because Atlanta's point guard wasn't going to match up with a 6'11" guy. So he'd ask again and Ham would reply, again: Giannis. "We would have these knockdown arguments," says Budenholzer. "And now I get the job and it's like, How can we get the ball in his hands?"

First, to play faster and shoot more threes the Bucks needed more reinforcements. So in the summer Horst signed center Brook Lopez and forward Ersan Ilyasova. Next, Bud watched Giannis play for four days—without direction, constraints or expectations—in team-initiated pickup games at a New York City health club. ("It was soooo hard not to jump in and start coaching," Budenholzer says.) Then he and his assistants assembled in Lake Geneva, Wis., at the end of August. In between golf and dinners, they brainstormed. "The word that kept coming up," says assistant Ben Sullivan, "was space."

Most coaches start out mimicking their mentors. Pop ran a variation on the motion offense, and Bud did the same in Atlanta. Over time, though, he tinkered. He had long admired the triangle: how players read and reacted, how opposing defenses had no idea whom to double-team when. "F------ beautiful!" he says. He knew its era had passed, but the principles of spontaneity remained timeless. So, after years of having his big men run to the rim in transition—the hallmark of Duncan-era Spurs—he instructed Al Horford and Paul Millsap to peel off to the corners to create space. (Recalls Budenholzer, "My assistants looked at me like someone stole my brain.") The court opened up, the ball moved and everyone launched from deep. The symbolic highlight: when four Atlanta starters made the 2015 All-Star team.

Now Budenholzer envisioned what he calls "positionless motion." No bigs or wings or guards. Just five players, all interchangeable, creating a glorious "randomness." Don Nelson aspired to this 30 years ago, and George Karl preached playing in space with minimal structure. But while Nellie dreamed of a quintet of 6'9" do-everything players, Budenholzer wanted to try it with the roster at hand, which meant everyone from the 6'1" Bledsoe to the 7-foot Lopez. Five blue boxes appeared on the practice court, arrayed around the three-point line. "Basically, stand here," Bud says. Anyone could be in any box; just don't muck up the paint.

Within so much space, Budenholzer could cast Giannis in multiple roles. Grabbing the board, pushing and attacking. Or taking a dribble handoff in the half-court, drawing the D and kicking out to four shooters, not needing to look because they'd be there, in their imaginary boxes. It was the old Stan Van Gundy--Dwight Howard four-out, one-in approach, only Giannis is a hell of a lot more versatile than Dwight.

Milwaukee rolled out its new look on opening night. Everyone ran around on the perimeter. Everyone jacked from deep, even the since-departed John Henson, who had made one trey in six seasons. "My new motto is, Let it fly," Henson said.

The Bucks won their first seven games, then rolled the Warriors by 23. By early January they had beaten every legit Finals hopeful. By February, Giannis was the MVP frontrunner. A long-dormant fan base stirred, selling out the new Fiserv Forum downtown and, for the first time since Ray Allen and Big Dog roamed, dreaming of dynasties.

MUCH OF the Bucks' success isn't surprising.

For one, the system is working as Budenholzer intended. Midrange shots—the bane of the analytically minded—are down, particularly for Antetokounmpo; he has already made more buckets within five feet than anyone since such records have been kept. Last season Milwaukee was 25th in three-point attempts; now only the Rockets launch more. (Fun fact: All 24 men to wear a Bucks uniform, including Trevon Duval in his six minutes played, have hoisted at least one.) Lopez provides the most outlandish example. After spending the majority of his career as a back-to-the-basket lug—as recently as 2013--14, he had never made a three—he has morphed into a lumbering Steph Curry, taking more than six threes a game, including step-backs and 30-footers, earning the nickname Splash Mountain. Meanwhile, the supporting cast is prospering, especially Brogdon, who put up a 50/40/90 season before suffering a torn plantar fascia in March. (He is due back in May.)

But offense was never the problem under Bud's predecessor, Jason Kidd. It was defense where the Bucks faltered. And yet Horst says that of all the coaches who interviewed for the job, only Budenholzer focused on D. It made sense. In Atlanta the accolades came for his offense; quietly, he also oversaw three top five defensive seasons in a row. He is Vince's son, after all. Now he had ideas. "Watching the tape, I think Giannis had taken a step back." He wanted to challenge his star—to cover more ground, to win Defensive Player of the Year, to guard each position if needed. And so far Giannis has, swatting, swiping and lurking like a giant gargoyle atop the rim. He had never averaged more than 10 rebounds; he's now grabbing 10.3 on the defensive end alone. He may well win that DPOY award.

Still, it's Lopez—again—who's the revelation. Rather than extending on the pick-and-roll, Bud has him dropping back into something akin to a one-man zone. Opposing centers are dared to shoot while Lopez (and Giannis) loom to dissuade drivers. It's working. Milwaukee has vaulted from 30th to first in fewest field goals allowed at the rim. The scheme comes with risk, creating gaps around the arc. But context matters. While the Bucks give up the second-most threes in the league they also cede "far and away the most noncorner threes to below-average shooters," according to Ben Falk of the analytics website Cleaning the Glass. Which is to say, shots taken by the people they want shooting, in the places they want them to shoot. The upshot: Milwaukee now has the second-best offense and defense in the NBA.

That doesn't mean the adjustments have been painless. Sharing the ball can lead to nights like the one at Indiana, when Giannis took only six shots, the Bucks lost by 16, and the star fumed. Then there was the game in December when Bud benched Middleton for lackluster effort on loose balls. A seventh-year guard, Middleton fought to get to the NBA, from bit player at Texas A&M to second-round pick to reserve to, finally, key cog. Before meeting Budenholzer, Middleton reached out to Kyle Korver, with whom he shares an agent. Korver told him he'd have to adjust but that Bud was a coach you loved to play for—good at X's and O's, and also available and interested in you as a person. Which was a good thing, because while Giannis may have loved what he heard at that breakfast—You get to handle the ball! And shoot threes!—the message sounded different to Middleton. Basically, Budenholzer told him the Bucks would cut down on isos (Middleton loves isos) and eliminate the midrange (Middleton lives in the midrange). "He told me he wanted me to take on a bit of a lesser role, be a team player and not rely on so many tough shots," recalls Middleton. "And when a coach tells you that the first time you're meeting them, I feel like you can't do nothing but respect that. Instead of b.s.'ing me and telling me everything I want to hear, which a lot of people tend to do, I'd rather hear the straight truth, whether it's good or bad."

Still, that didn't make it easy. Just as Budenholzer was asking Giannis—an inveterate thinker—to try to play without thinking, he was asking Middleton, a free-flowing player, to do the opposite. As the months passed, Middleton struggled to find his place in the offense. His minutes, shot attempts and field goal percentage fell. His attitude suffered. In December, Bud and Middleton sat down to talk it out. "I realized I have to meet him, if not halfway, then at least 80%," says Budenholzer. The coach sprinkled in more traditional isos, post-ups and pick-and-rolls—"those spots I don't love"—knowing it will both keep his stars comfortable and that he may need such options come playoff time.

"It's been great since then," Middleton says. No doubt it helped that he made his first All-Star Game in February, joining Giannis, who is averaging career highs in points (27.4), rebounds (12.5), assists (6.0) and field goal percentage (58.0)and finished behind only LeBron in fan votes.

I CAUGHT UP with the team two weeks later, on a West Coast road swing. At the end of an off-day practice in Sacramento, the tone is loose. On one end of the court, Lopez and three reserves engage in a loudly narrated shooting contest, three feet back from the top of the arc. On the other end, Giannis works by himself, wearing shorts and a white-ribbed tank top.

Up close, his proportions are disconcerting, like one of those flip books where the top and bottom half change with each page. A compact, muscled torso perches atop two stringy legs. When he palms the ball he does it as Connie Hawkins once did, waving it around as the rest of us might a slightly deflated balloon, swallowed in hands that measure a foot from his pinkie tip to the top of his thumb. Since entering the league Giannis has grown almost three inches. He can almost grab the rim without jumping and once blocked a shot with his elbow. Pat Connaughton, a backup guard and the Bucks' resident weight room enthusiast, recently said he and Giannis do pull-ups wearing 88-pound vests and add 66 pounds to their triceps dips. The result: Giannis can looks less like a human basketball player and more like something Pixar created; in the next Space Jam, he'd be a Monstar.

In person, Giannis is earnest, thoughtful and intense. Teammates and coaches use words like perfectionist and self-critical, citing penitent midnight shooting sessions. The phrase work ethic comes up repeatedly, modified by "unreal" and "insane." Says Budenholzer, "He craves ways to get better, craves information, he seeks out Hakeem Olajuwon, Kobe. He really believes in making those steps. He wants to be the best f------ player in the league and the world. You have to seek people out to learn and to grow. I love it because I don't think it's a strength of mine."

This season Giannis has developed a myopic focus reminiscent of a young Kobe. His agent, Alex Saratsis, tells reporters he's not doing any one-on-one interviews, lest they distract from the task at hand. At the All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo aimed for MVP from the tip, competing with an unfashionable alacrity. (He would have had it except for a late run by Team LeBron.) When Ja Rule played during a Bucks halftime, Giannis launched jumpers amid spotlights and gyrating backup dancers. To watch pregame layups is to see a bunch of players going half speed and then one—Giannis—attacking the basket and sprinting to the end of the rebound line.

The notebook is part of his process. He pulls it out to jot down thoughts and record conversations, as he did at that first meeting with Budenholzer. Explains Giannis, "I can go back and look at it—Oh, he told me this, or we talked about this, or we talked about this and this never happened."

So far, coach and star are aligned. When I tell Giannis about Bud picking me up full-court, he nods. "I am not surprised," he says. "I think he's really, really competitive. Some days we play a game and you can see him walking into the court like he wants to be out there, get a jersey and play with us. He'd probably do it."

Giannis recounts an example, from a day earlier, in Chicago. Fearing a letdown against the hapless Bulls, Bud had addressed his players before tip-off. He became increasingly fired up. About effort. About defense. About getting on the f------ floor for 50-50 balls! And then, to demonstrate the point, Budenholzer took one quick step and dived onto the locker room carpet, chasing a basketball only he could see. Says Giannis, "I think he got hurt. Got hurt in his chest."

Then Giannis looked around at his teammates: "Everybody was fired up. When you see the coach want it as bad as you want it, it feels really good."

OH, S---, he told you about that?"

It's an hour later, at lunch. Bud is sweaty from sneaking in a workout after practice. He tells me he can neither confirm nor deny the locker room dive. The red abrasion and flap of skin on his right wrist tell a different story.

Though friendly with the media, Budenholzer has long eschewed the spotlight, as Pop always taught his staff to do. Fairly or not, what Bud may be best known for—outside his coaching—are his facial expressions. The cameras started picking them up in San Antonio. His greatest hits include: Disappointed Dad; Dude-Cut-Me-Off-on-the-Merge; Man-Trying-to-Decipher-Legal-Document; and Just-Watched-a-Bull-Gore-Someone. Observers delight in captioning them on Twitter. An example, from Rob Perez of the Action Network: "I swear every time Mike Budenholzer is on camera he looks like he just watched the stampede scene from The Lion King."

Bud is aware of all this. "Oh, God, yes, it's been brought to my attention," he says. "I can't control or change it in the heat of the moment." He pauses. "I'm competitive, I care! My kids think it's hilarious and annoying.... It doesn't really bother me, but it's funny that I literally can't change it."

Players tend to be amused. "We do a little bit of laughing," says Brogdon. "Some of the time he looks confused, but you can also tell he's pissed." Says Korver, "One of the best parts about playing for him is watching him in the film sessions. But that's how his heart feels, man! He cares so much and he's just so disgusted with what's going on in the court, but it's so genuine. He's just someone you want to follow because he's not just a good person, but he's great at his craft."

Middleton says he appreciates it: "He's himself, he doesn't try to be anybody he's not. If he feels he needs to dive on the floor, he does it." Budenholzer compares coaching to parenting—his oldest two are now in college, with two more not far away. "Players are like kids," he says. "They listen more than you realize, and they may not act on what you want but they see everything." He pauses. "How you treat people, how you interact. Everything."

THE STATED goal for Milwaukee this season was to play the long game. Introduce the system, but don't expect to master it. So far, Budenholzer estimates they're 60% of the way there. Spacing is great. Defense is solid. But despite having the league's best record (57--20), work remains. "From a coaching standpoint, Bud is doing an amazing job," says a scout who saw the team recently, "But I don't know if I fear them at the highest level of the playoffs. Giannis's inability to shoot hurts them."

Ah, yes, the shooting. It seems unfair to harp on his one flaw, but there it is. This year Giannis is shooting 24.5% from behind the arc on 2.7 attempts per game, putting him on pace for one of the 10 worst high-volume seasons in history, amid chuckers like Charles Barkley and Josh Smith. And yet, to reach their goal, the Bucks might Giannis need to jack more.

This is what Bud has told him since last summer. I don't care if you go 0 for 6. I don't care if we lose because of it. It might not happen this week, this month or this year, but I don't care. For us to get where we want to go, you're going to be a better shooter. It makes sense even if there's a certain irony to it. Given the ultimate weapon, with only his imagination to bound him, Bud asked Antetokounmpo to do something he's historically bad at.

Giannis is on board. "He took me in his office and watched clips of my threes and said, O.K., look, you shoot the ball? How bad can it be?" He continues. "I've gotten more confident, I've gotten better. And he's like, 'Keep shooting it.' He's yelling all the time to shoot the ball, and I've never had that before. It's a good feeling."

Under Sullivan, Giannis has moved his release point away from his head, "to let his levers work for him, not against him," says the coach. He focuses on a simple, repeatable motion: consistent wrist snap, same follow-through and balance. Still, the stroke is herky-jerky. Giannis holds the ball way in front of him with those long arms, as if it's on fire. His wrist flip is exaggerated. Middleton says Giannis sinks them in practice—"I won't bet him"—but games bring a different pressure. "They'll have five guys in the restricted area and I'm like, 'You have to shoot that!'" says Sullivan. "And he'll say, 'I'll just go dunk on all of them.' And he's not wrong. He might."

Even so, just the promise of Giannis becoming a wing shooter allows Bud to experiment. Against the Kings he rolls out the team's newest acquisition, 6'10" Nikola Mirotic, another tall sniper who allows Budenholzer to go, as he says "counterculture," combating smallball lineups with Lopez, Giannis, Mirotic and the 6'8" Middleton. Once, Bud went even bigger. When Brogdon and Bledsoe were out against the Jazz, he says he "channeled my inner Nellie" and ran out a lineup that stood 7 feet, 6'11", 6'10", 6'10" and 6'8". It's not something he plans to do often—they've only been together 22 possessions—but the results were intriguing: Their point differential per 100 possessions was 119.6. "It was f------ beautiful!" says Bud. "I just love that we can go so many different directions." Of course, he notes, this only works because of Giannis.

On this night, Sacramento hangs around. Finally, with a little over a minute remaining and Milwaukee up two, the ball pings inside to Lopez, who finds the open shooter on the left wing. It is positionless motion in action. A beautiful randomness. The Budenholzer dream. Only that shooter is Giannis. It's the scenario he'll face again and again, both this postseason and in the years to come. "The whole team is on him to take that shot," Middleton says the next day. "Don't second-guess it." Giannis doesn't hesitate. The ball has nice backspin. It rims in and out. The Bucks win anyway, in overtime.

BARRING A late Raptors push, Milwaukee will have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The franchise may win Executive of the Year, Coach of the Year and MVP. Expectations have been reset. The team talks publicly of getting out of the first round for the first time since 2001. The real goal, of course, is loftier.

They know a deep run won't be easy. The LeBron-less East is as deep as it has been in a decade. Brogdon isn't due back until the second round, and Giannis is dealing with a recurring ankle injury. Teams will try to target Lopez in pick-and-rolls and lure him to the perimeter with lineups full of quick shooters.

Down the road, more obstacles loom. Antetokounmpo's contract is up after 2020--21; "We think about it strategically every day," says Horst. Other franchises can promise brighter glares, glitzier supporting casts. Horst hopes that by building a basketball culture akin to the Spurs' and the Warriors'—inclusive, personal and "laser-focused on excellence"—the Bucks can re-sign him. (So far, Giannis has said he loves Milwaukee and shows little interest in, as Bud puts it, "all that bulls--- and fame.")

For now, though, the Bucks will focus on what they hope is the first of many title pursuits. Win or lose, their coach will stalk the sideline, looking a bit disheveled no matter how pressed his suit may be. He will pause at times, hands on his hips, appearing bewildered. Disbelieving. Disgusted. Meanwhile, the team's star will curse himself for missed shots. He'll stew about his turnovers. He'll take copious notes.

Together, the pair will press forward. United by undisguised passion, indifferent to how it looks.

"In devising Milwaukee's offense, Budenholzer envisioned what he calls "POSITIONLESS MOTION." No bigs or wings or guards. Just five players, all interchangeable, creating a glorious "randomness."

"Budenholzer challenged his star on defense: "Watching the tape, I think Giannis had taken a STEP BACK."


IN THE recent past, a big man running the floor would mostly head to the rim (A) or sometimes peel off and set up in the corner (B). In Milwaukee's system, bigs are instructed to fill any of five spots on the perimeter (1 through 5). As a result, center BROOK LOPEZ has become the Bucks' most intrepid three-point threat from almost everywhere on the floor.

[The following text appears within a diagram. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual diagram.]

26 ATTEMPTS (3RD ON TEAM), FG%: 50.0



135 ATTEMPTS (2ND ON TEAM), FG%: 34.8