The preseason is a time for hopefulness, optimism, and dreams. Despite the damper of Khris Middleton’s injury, this year has been no different for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Last week, there were rumblings at training camp about a Bucks roster looking to push the tempo and use the pick and roll more than ever before under Jason Kidd. So, we discussed it here on the Locked On Bucks podcast.
There were also rumblings of increased three point shooting, but we’ve heard that discussed for years with Jason Kidd at the helm for the Bucks. Then, on Monday, the Bucks actually shot quite a few threes in their preseason opener against the Bulls. Milwaukee went 10-for-25 from the three point line in that game and seemed to actually attempt to space the floor (with bench units) in a way that would suggest they care about shooting more threes. So with that, Frank Madden and I re-considered the topic and decided to record a podcast about it:
Before describing our discussion, I would like to post a link to the podcast that inspired a number of the thoughts we expressed in our three point shooting podcast. That podcast was Locked on NBA #45 with ESPN’s Kevin Pelton:
As I mentioned in our podcast, I simply wanted to post this podcast and not even record our own podcast for the day because it is UNBELIEVABLY good. Listen to it multiple times. There is so much basketball knowledge dropped in those 51 minutes. You may think all of this gushing is overboard, but I can assure you it is not. It is fantastic podcasting. Listen to it.
We covered quite a bit in our discussion of the Bucks’ three point shooting. Let’s break down the major topics:
- Their place among the rest of the NBA. Dead last. With just 15.6 attempts per game, the Bucks shot fewer threes last season than anyone else in the NBA. The league-leading Golden State Warriors shot 31.6 threes per game. The league averages for three pointers were: 24.1 attempts, 8.5 makes, and 35.3 percent. The Bucks shot 34.5 percent from three point land last year, but would need to make significant changes to get to league average in the other two categories.
- The rim. By now you’ve probably heard that a balanced breakfast of layups, threes and free throws makes for the most efficient offense. And while the Bucks didn’t get the memo on the three pointers, they did lead the league in makes and attempts in the restricted area. That’s a good starting point -- now time to take some of their in-between shots and turn them into threes. The Bucks were a middle-of-the-pack team from mid-range, shooting 38% on 20 attempts per game, which as you might guess isn’t a great use of possessions -- while you’re always going to shoot some mid-range shots, you’d only have to hit 25% of your threes to get the same expected value as 38% on twos.
- Their players. Breaking News: The Bucks don’t have a ton of three point shooters. Khris Middleton took roughly a quarter of the team’s 1,277 attempts last season, and between Middleton’s injury and offseason departures, the Bucks’ returning players only made 55 threes last year. That, in short, is significant -- but not totally catastrophic. Mirza Teletovic shoots a ton of threes (his 181 last year were an NBA record for a reserve), as does Jason Terry. Matthew Dellavedova is a capable three point shooter and can replace much, if not all, of Jerryd Bayless’ three point shooting from last season. Those three alone hit 372 triples a year ago, offsetting the 385 that Middleton, Bayless, Mayo, and the rest of the Bucks’ departing players hit (in more total minutes).
- Leaguewide trends. NBA teams are probably not going to start shooting fewer threes anytime soon. The league has seen an increase in three point shooting pretty much every year since the three point line was created. Gradually increasing your three point shooting based on the previous years’ numbers likely won’t ever really allow you to get to the top of the league in three point shooting.
- Giannis and Jabari. Almost every topic we discuss this year will be affected greatly by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. This conversation is no different. Many discussions of those two players will at some point touch on each of them increasing their range as jump shooters, with the “mastery of the corner three” often referenced as the first step in that process. Though that seems like a great idea, Frank and I discussed why that might not actually make a ton of sense for Giannis in particular.
- How do the Bucks shoot more threes? Frank and I do not have PhDs in Three Point Shooting, but that did not stop us from prescribing some remedies to ail the Bucks’ three point shooting woes. Conveniently, playing faster is an obvious first step to hitting more threes, though tweaking players’ mindsets will also likely be needed to make a big jump. Take a listen to what we had to say and then offer up some of your own solutions in the comments section!