The Milwaukee Bucks have a superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo who is not only able to create for himself but also for others in unique ways.
Antetokounmpo is one of the most feared players driving toward the basket in recent memory, which helps open up the floor for his teammates. That, as we have written before, includes more open or wide open three-pointers than any other team in the league.
Several of these looks have come from dribble handoffs. Milwaukee has averaged 0.99 points per possession on handoffs so far this season, which ranks sixth-best in the NBA. This would be the fourth season in a row where the Bucks rank Top 10 among all teams, per Synergy Sports.
Tony Snell has run this option the most often, which started under former head coach Jason Kidd – who reportedly ran it with Jason Terry during his own playing days.
The 27-year-old Snell has averaged 1.20 PPP (90th percentile) on this play type. That ranks fourth-best among the 95 players who have had at least 50 handoff possessions.
Antetokounmpo has referred to this as the “Tony Snell Play” because his longtime teammate has been one of the most efficient recipients of dribble handoffs. Snell ranked Top 5 in points per possession among the other high-volume competitors in 2016-17.
The Eastern Conference All-Star spoke to Eric Nehm about the breakdown back in January 2019 (via The Athletic):
“This might affect us in the playoffs. Or, maybe in like two years, on the final play in the Finals, we might need it.”
They have run this play only 5.6 times per game, however, trailing 13 teams. Now that Milwaukee has been riddled with injuries, it is possible that other players get the opportunity to run this option with their superstar.
For example, DJ Wilson has averaged 1.17 PPP (89th percentile) when he has finished possessions coming on handoffs. During his final season as a college player for Michigan, Wilson was 3-for-5 (60.0 percent) on handoffs.
Wilson has a fairly efficient jump shot, especially for someone his size. The 6-foot-10 power forward has averaged 1.04 PPP (71st percentile) on jumpers this season. It has helped earn respect from Antetokounmpo.
“If he trusts you, you know he is going to make it happen,” Wilson told HoopsHype. “I feel like it just opens everything up, gives us an opportunity to shoot the ball. It’s very useful. I think a lot of defenders get caught just watching him because he is such a threat to score so they kind of lose track when we are behind him. It’s a mental lapse that creates separation for Tony, me or whoever gets those looks and it’s too late to recover.”
All of his handoffs have come off the dribble, where he has been far more efficient than off the catch. The former first-round pick has averaged 1.24 PPP (98th percentile) on dribble jumpers, which trails just two NBA players among those with at least 20 attempts.
Wilson is 8-for-13 (61.5 percent) from three-point range after passes from Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee has outscored opponents by 14.8 points per 100 possessions when the two players have been on the court at the same time.
“I think the system fits for him,” Mike Budenholzer told HoopsHype back in February. “I think he is really mobile as a big, he can really shoot as a big, can go to second and third actions like DHOs as a big.”
The coach once more mentioned his ability to get into second and third actions as a dynamic, versatile player when he caught up with HoopsHype again on April 1.
When asked if there was any chance Wilson would see more dribble handoffs in Snell’s recent absence due to injury, Budenholzer seemed optimistic about the possibility.
“I like them, I would love for them to do more,” said the 2015 NBA Coach of the Year. “DJ can give us that. If it happens, I’ll be happy. But I’m not going to go in there and tell him ‘please do this more!’ because I’ve been doing that for 80 games or whatever it has been.”
Of course, there are other players on the team who would not mind getting more opportunities for this action as well. Sophomore wing player Sterling Brown said he loves the shot because it is such a high-quality look.
While he wouldn’t spoil any secrets of the craft, he knows it is a huge play for the organization.
“Giannis has come to me a few times and capitalized, it’s visible when he wants to run it,” explained Brown. “That is definitely the goal, to get more of those situations.”