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Should the Bucks shoot more threes? (Part 1)

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Before discussing the specifics of fixing the Bucks' supposed three point shooting problems, a clearer picture of the situation needs to be drawn.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

We're pleased to welcome our newest contributor today, Eric Nehm. Regular readers should be quite familiar with Eric's work -- over the past year we've regularly linked to his excellent work covering the Bucks at Milwaukee Magazine, and you can follow him on Twitter @Eric_Nehm. Welcome, Eric!

For much of this season, those who follow the Bucks closely have asked for the them to shoot more threes.  (Ask might actually be too passive of a verb in this situation.  Beg, plead, or implore might more accurately describe the situation.)  The topic was once again thrust into the spotlight this week as Jason Kidd was quoted throughout Zach Lowe's latest piece regarding the supposed death of the post up and rise of the three point shot.

Discussing the Bucks' three point shooting is certainly a worthwhile topic, as three pointers are being shot at a record-breaking frequency leaguewide. In the coming weeks, we will take a closer look at the Bucks' three point shooting dilemma along with potential solutions, but we first must start by taking a look at the Bucks' three point shooting profile, as well as the three point shooting profiles of some of the NBA's most active three point shooting teams.

Three Point Shooting in Milwaukee

As most well know, the Bucks were among the league's least reliant teams on the three point shot. For the season, the Bucks finished 25th in three point rate, or the percentage of their field goal attempts that were three point attempts, at 22.3 percent. After the All-Star Break, the Bucks dipped all the way down to 27th in three point rate with just 20.6 percent of their shots coming behind the three-point line.

Looking at it from a more individual perspective, the Bucks' leader in three point attempts per game was O.J. Mayo with 3.9 per game.  Khris Middleton was second with 3.4 per game, while Ersan Ilyasova trailed closely behind with 3.3 per game.  (For reference, Ilyasova led the squad with 4.3 after the All-Star Break with Middleton in 2nd with 4.1 per game.)

When looking at a list of the league's most frequent three point shooters, the Bucks' first appearance comes with Mayo at the 71st spot.  Middleton can be found at 95th, while Ilyasova's 3.3 attempts were good enough for 103rd.

(Please keep in mind we won't be focusing on accuracy during this exercise. Some teams that shoot a lot of threes are accurate, some are not.  That will not be a central part of this discussion as the rallying cry has been "Shoot more threes!"  Not "Shoot an appropriate amount of threes for the level of your shooting ability!")

Leaguewide Three Point Shooting Leaders

Team 3 Point 2

(Stats courtesy of NBA Stats: Three Point RateCatch and Shoot 3 Attempts Per GamePullup 3 Attempts Per Game)

The above graph shows the league's Top 10 teams in terms of three point rate.  Alongside each team's three point rate is the number of catch-and-shoot three point field goals and pullup three point field goals each team attempted per game, as well as their ranking in each category. Highlighted in green are rankings outside of the Top 10 in either category, as well as the Bucks' rankings on the bottom.

Obviously, these teams don't tend to discriminate in terms of the types of threes they are willing to attempt.  The only real outliers are the Philadelphia Sixers and Atlanta Hawks.  Both of these teams try to avoid pullup threes, likely because of the increased rate in which catch and shoot attempts are converted.

Team 3 Leaders

(Stats courtesy of NBA Stats)

This second graph shows the two most frequent three point shooters of the league's top ten teams in terms of three point rate.  It also shows the number of rotation players each team had that averaged three or more three point attempts per game.  Highlighted in green are players ranking outside of the Top 10 in three point attempts per game.

Many of these teams feature players that appeared in the Top 10 in three point attempts per game, while some even feature two players that appeared in the Top 10. Most have two players in the Top 30 in three point attempts per game. In some cases, it is these players that buoy the team in the Top 10 of three point rate, while others have an entire rotation of players who take three or more threes per game.

Takeaways:

  1. The Bucks were 25th in three point rate this past season.
  2. The Bucks took neither a significant amount of catch and shoot threes or pull-up threes.
  3. The Bucks don't have a single player who took a significant amount of threes this past season.
  4. Teams that appear in the Top 10 in Three Point Rate tend to take both a lot of catch and shoot threes and pullup threes.
  5. Teams that appear in the Top 10 in Three Point Rate tend to have at least one player who appears in the Top 10 for three point attempts per game.
  6. Teams that appear in the Top 10 in Three Point Rate often have two players that appear near the top of the list in three point attempts or five or six players that take three or more three point shots per game.
  7. The final four teams in this year's playoffs all rank among the league's top seven in Three Point Rate, with the Warriors perhaps surprisingly ranking "only" seventh overall. Still the implication is obvious: the league's best teams shoot threes at high rates.
Though these numbers might have seemed very rudimentary, they should serve as a nice baseline for the rest of our discussion in the coming weeks regarding the Bucks and their three point shooting dilemma. We'll take a look at whether or not the Bucks should be taking more threes and if they should, how they might go about trying to accomplish that.