The Orlando Magic faced off against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA this past Monday in the Milwaukee Bucks.
It should come as no surprise the team comprised of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton has the best unadjusted defensive rating in the NBA, and their league-best defense was on full display against the Magic: Orlando shot just 36.6% from the field and 25.0% from three in the contest.
Paolo Banchero also posted his least efficient shooting performance of the season (4/16 from the field), primarily because of Holiday’s defensive prowess. Holiday defended more shot attempts (19) than any other Buck Monday night and the Magic still shot just 36.8% from the field against him.
And although Banchero still managed to record his 13th 20-point game of the season, I think it is important to highlight why Banchero struggled against Holiday and how Banchero improved as the game progressed.
Antetokounmpo was Banchero’s primary defender to begin the game, but there were a handful of possessions in the first half where Holiday was matched up against the top pick.
The first three possessions between the two were post up/isolation play types, a facet of defense Holiday has seemingly mastered during his time in the league. To use an American football term, watch Holiday jam Banchero at the line of scrimmage, allowing zero dribble penetration or the opportunity to secure deep post position.
Banchero ranks 26th in the NBA in post up possessions and 17th in isolation possessions (even with him missing six games already this season) so not only does Holiday have the advantage of knowing where Banchero likes to operate, but he also possesses the strength and quickness to tussle with the rookie.
So how does one counter Holiday’s physical style of defense? In this instance, Banchero chose to play fast and aggressive.
In the second half, Banchero’s off-ball usage increased which made the pesky veteran less of a deterrent. And when he did receive the ball, the rookie was quick and decisive with his moves.
This emphasizes one of the benefits of playing alongside Markelle Fultz, the entry pass in the first clip is a perfect example of putting the ball in a place where only Banchero can reach it while simultaneously getting him closer to the rim. Having multiple ball handlers on the floor (Fultz and Franz Wagner) alleviates the pressure of generating easy shots against one of the league’s premier defenders.
It was also evident in the times Holiday was defending Banchero off the ball (and Fultz had the ball in his hands), that Banchero was able to penetrate the defense more effectively than with the ball in his hands.
Fultz spoke about his growing chemistry with Banchero during his most recent media availability, “It is getting better and better. This is his rookie year and this is his first time playing with me, he is a hooper so the biggest thing out there is not overthinking. You want to go out there and play stress-free” Fultz said.
Luckily for Orlando, they will not have to play the Bucks every night. But I am sensing a trend in the type of defenders Banchero struggles against: sturdy, yet swift guards/forwards with great hands (think Philadelphia’s P.J. Tucker or Memphis’ Dillon Brooks).
Working in Banchero’s favor, there are only so many players like that in the league. But ultimately the silver lining is this: as Orlando’s roster gets healthier and Banchero’s offensive repertoire continues to expand, his “off nights” (I use that term lightly) will come few and far between.