With newly acquired star guard Damian Lillard at the point for the Milwaukee Bucks now, the team had to give up their premier defensive player in Jrue Holiday. With Holiday gone, the defense that made the Bucks a contender will not be there but it may come down to a collective effort to make up for what the 2023 All-Star brought to the team.
Jrue Holiday had some what of a renaissance season in 2022-23. He became an All-Star for the first time in nine seasons, the longest between appearances in the history of the game. He is starting to finally get the recognition as the great defensive player he is, making the All-Defensive Teams five of the last six seasons. Last season, it was his second time making the 1st team. Not to mention, Holiday got the game-winning steal on Devin Booker and threw an assist to Giannis for the alley-oop to secure the Game 5 win in the 2021 Finals. That’s what Holiday brought to the table. Defense. Widely regarded as the best defensive player in the league. But with him gone, the defense will take a hit.
Damian Lillard is the opposite of Holiday, an offensive powerhouse who’s known for his explosive scoring performances and deep bombs from range. Lillard isn’t a slouch on defense though, averaging 1 steal for his career. But he isn’t going to that guy to get a key defensive stop in clutch moments, be able to guard multiple positions and make All-Defensive Teams. Lillard’s production is solely on the offense, so the Bucks will need someone else to take up the slack defensively. The Bucks still have a former Defensive Player of the Year in Giannis on the roster and the leader in total blocks this last season with Brook Lopez. Lopez is always ranking in the top spots for blocks, having his 2.5 blocks per game last season best for third. But that’s inside the paint. Lopez isn’t going to be guarding the opposing team’s best player from the perimeter. Khris Middleton can step up as that premier go-to defender. He has shown some flashes as a good defender and has the size to guard multiple positions. But ultimately, Middleton is an offensive player and a lot of his energy will be expensed on that side of the ball.
The Bucks may need to find someone who is a defensive specialist to help solidify the defense. They are currently constructed as an offensive team who is going to score big numbers but they won’t be able to accomplish their ultimate goal if they can get key stops on defense. Jrue Holiday brought a lot of those skills to the team and he will be missed but the Bucks will definitely find a way to make up for his absence.