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Giannis & Jabari lineups have underperformed so far, but there are good things to build on

Three-point shooting remains a problem, but free-throws have been keeping things afloat.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It may have just been a matter of time before Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker found themselves thrown together in the starting lineup, but it was a welcome development for fans eager to see how the two would play together. Milwaukee's promising young forwards have now started together in four of the Bucks' last five games, stringing together a three-game winning streak before losing each of their last two games (Giannis came off the bench versus Toronto).

Getting Giannis and Jabari on the court together was sure to be a key goal for the season. There was no reason to hold off on developing and evaluating the pairing Milwaukee is counting on to eventually push it into the elite ranks of the NBA. Granted, Giannis had been playing quite well as an instant-offense bench player, capable of soaking up possessions while maintaining above-average efficiency (meditate on that for a second!). But ultimately, these two players need to be able to play long minutes together and complement each other.

So far it's been a struggle. According to Advanced Stats, in the 169 minutes Antetokounmpo and Parker have shared the court, the Bucks have been outscored by 9.8 points per 100 possessions (97.8 ORtg, 107.6 DRtg). Those lineups are suffering from a familiar symptom: a crippling disparity in three-point shooting. Giannis/Jabari lineups are taking 10.6 fewer threes per 100 possessions than their opponents and making 5.9 fewer. They're also being outshot behind the arc by almost 12 percentage points. Such a deep deficit in a crucial offensive category is a tough thing to overcome.

The disparity largely comes as a result of Milwaukee's drastically restricted offensive style when Giannis and Jabari are in the game. Overall this season 22.5 percent of the Bucks' shot attempts have come from behind the arc. But in the roughly 14 minutes per game that we're focused on, Milwaukee's three-point attempt rate plunges to 15.7%. That's almost two percentage points lower than the 30th-ranked Minnesota Timberwolves. So it's a strikingly low number, but not a difficult one to reconcile considering the 3PAr of both Giannis and Jabari themselves. Only 7.4% of Giannis' shots have been three-pointers, while Jabari has lofted 10.5% of his shots from deep.

Ignoring one of the most efficient scoring zones on the floor isn't exactly sound strategy, and the lack of a reliable three-point shot from either of Milwaukee's current starting forwards seems to be an issue. Khris Middleton's shooting has fallen off considerably from last season, leaving Brandon Knight as the only reliable shooter on the floor at tip. That makes things more difficult for everybody, as defense crunch the paint and ignore shooters in favor of protecting the basket.

The saving grace has been that, at least for now, lineups featuring Giannis and Jabari have gotten to the line a ton, shooting almost 7 more free throws than opponents per 100 possessions on average. Counting by ones is much slower than counting by threes, but Antetokounmpo's ability in particular to attack the basket and draw contact with consistency has been a lifesaver for otherwise stagnant offensive groupings. Remember his ridiculous .483 free-throw rate last season, the one we thought was completely unsustainable? Well, he's got it topped right now at .500. The Giannis/Jabari pairing also has a positive turnover differential, and these two deserve much of the credit. Both have done well keeping their turnovers down (Giannis is still prone to mistakes, but higher usage hasn't increased his miscues very much) and produced excellent steal numbers, helping key a pressure defense that gives way to a fast-break offense.

There's no denying Milwaukee needs to fix its three-point shooting problems if the offense is going to escape from the lower rungs of the NBA ladder. But its definitely good to see that other elements of efficient offense, in particular those parts that are generally thought to be largely reliant on individually talented players, are already present. For now, at least. More data is needed. Thankfully, collecting it has been fun so far.