Here's the first part in the series, if you missed it.
Much has been made this postseason of the three point rate of the four conference finalists and the now-World Champion Warriors' in particular, but the reality is that this is not a new trend.
In the last ten years, conference final participants have been in the Top 10 in three point rate 52.5 percent of the time, while just seven of the 40 teams (17.5 percent) to advance to that stage have found themselves in the league's bottom ten.
Taking it a step further, only one of the last 10 NBA champions (including this year) was in the league's bottom 10 in three point rate. That lone champion was the 2012 Miami Heat, who completely changed their identity in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals and embraced small ball lineups that chucked three pointers.
At this point, the numbers aren't just suggesting it would be better for the Bucks to shoot more threes. The numbers are screaming it, yet the Bucks' most used lineup since the All-Star Break thrived with an extremely low three point rate.
The lineup of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Zaza Pachulia and the recently-traded Ersan Ilyasova, appeared in 24 of the Bucks' 29 games after the All-Star Break. In 344 minutes, the lineup posted an impressive Offensive Rating of 107.3, despite an extremely low 17.5% three point rate.That offensive rating is equal to some of the league's top offenses.
This seems great until you look at the rest of the league's lineups. Among lineups that appeared in at least 20 games, that offensive rating barely sneaks into the Top 50. Some of the league's best offensive lineups include Cleveland's big three lineup (OffRtg 123.5), multiple Clippers lineups (OffRtg 119-117.8), and multiple Warriors lineups (OffRtg 124-117). Not surprisingly, nearly all of these highly effective offenses can also be found among the league's leaders in three point rate. The three is a weapon. The best offensive lineups understand this and use it with lethal force.
So, while it's fun to say that this lineup that doesn't shoot threes is the equivalent to some of the league's best offenses, it's simply not true. If you're going to compare this lineup that played 14.5 minutes a game after the All-Star Break to something, compare it to other lineups, not whole teams.
And therein lies the rub. There is no doubt that you can construct a lineup, or maybe even a couple lineups, that can survive offensively without shooting threes. It is impossible to deny that, but that type of lineup should be a change of pace. A way you give the other team a different look. Not the basis of an entire's team offensive identity.
Despite the Bucks' recent trade of one of their few three point shooters, they clearly to need to find a way to take more threes. It seems that signing a shooter in free agency isn't their first priority, which would suggest they might not be as concerned about adding shooting this offseason as some might assume. Instead, the Bucks may have little choice but to hope for organic improvement from three point range, especially from unproven shooters (and presumed core players) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Michael Carter-Williams.
If that is the case, the Bucks should tread very carefully, as a summer without adding shooters and few changes to the offensive game plan could be a step down a dangerous path. Nothing is impossible in the NBA, but it is extremely difficult to build an NBA championship team without a very good offense. Just a single NBA champion (2010 Lakers - OffRtg 4, DefRtg 11) has managed to fall outside of the Top 10 in either offensive or defensive rating in the last ten years, which makes the choice to start down a path towards Memphis seem a bit unusual when possibilities seem so endless at this moment.
This isn't a call for the Bucks to be in the league's top 10 next season, but it would certainly be great to see them rise out of the bottom 10. As this team progresses, their three point shooting will need to progress as well and in our next installment, we'll look at some of the players that may be able to help tip the scales towards a more three-happy scoring model next season.