MILWAUKEE — It’s not often that a team can trade one of the game’s best defensive players and still get better, but the Milwaukee Bucks managed to pull such a deal off with the Jrue Holiday/Damian Lillard trade. Still, that leaves first-year head coach Adrian Griffin with a vastly different roster heading into the 2023-24 season.
WTMJ spoke exclusively with Head Coach Adrian Griffin about what he’ll be looking for in training camp and pre-season to solidify the fifth player in his starting five, and what the team can do strategically to suppress the losses of Holiday, Grayson Allen and Jevon Carter as top-rated perimeter defenders.
The first-year head coach said that protecting the paint and minimizing high-percentage shots, including paint touches and free throws, will be the top priority for his team. From there, the team will look at taking away corner three-pointers — the easiest type of 3-point shot to make, statistically.
Last, but certainly not least, Coach Griffin says his Milwaukee Bucks will try to chase shooters away from above-the-break 3-pointers, forcing them into contested jumpers from deep or in the mid-range area. Once the bread-and-butter of NBA jump shooters, non-paint, two-point shot attempts are now considered the most favorable from a defender’s perspective.
“We’re not going to ever leave one guy on the island. Obviously, you’ve gotta take pride in guarding your man, keeping him in the front, but we’ve got to help each other; and when somebody helps, you’ve got to help the helper so we’re tied together, and that’s what makes a great defensive team,” Coach Griffin explained.
This same philosophy will play a large part in deciding the team’s fifth starter. Coach Griffin confirmed that Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetkounmpo and Brook Lopez will hold four of his team’s starting positions with the fifth still uncertain.
Whether they’re a defensive specialist or unlock a new level to the team offensively, Coach Griffin wants his fifth Bucks starter to clearly compliment the qualities of his other four starters.
“The great thing about having a new staff and a new head coach come in is everyone starts from scratch. You get to showcase your talents,” Coach Griffin told WTMJ. “We talk about ‘No Turns.’ It’s not ‘my turn,’ it’s not ‘your turn.’ You get what you earn, so whoever comes in and earns that position, they’ll be in [the starting five].
This is where the nine-year NBA veteran’s playing experience comes into play. He recalled his time with the Dallas Mavericks, when Griffin was signed as a free agent in November and became the starter on a team that made the NBA Finals within two weeks of arriving.
Injecting that defensive energy and sacrificing to complement the team’s featured starters was the recipe for success for Griffin in carving out an NBA role, and ultimately, for surging his team in their collective pursuit of postseason success.
“Sometimes, it’s just about fit,” Griffin explained. GM Jon Horst would share that same sentiment when asked about why Griffin was the right man to lead this veteran Milwaukee Bucks locker room in pursuit of their next NBA championship.
TOP HEADLINES FROM 620 WTMJ – HOME OF THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS:
- Milwaukee Bucks announce 2023-24 season schedule
- Damian Lillard arrives at Fiserv Forum to the tune of 5,000+ fans applauding
- Milwaukee adds 2022 first-round pick TyTy Washington Jr. on two-way deal
- Bucks trade for superstar Damian Lillard in deal including Holiday, Allen & picks
- Giannis & Mariah highlight National Diaper Need Awareness Week with Milwaukee Diaper Mission