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Calculated Countdown: 1 Day to Tipoff

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Milwaukee’s weirdly efficient play as the shot clock winds down

NBA: Preseason-Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s nearly the regular season folks, which means it’s time to start contrived “countdown to tipoff” pieces. Our series will be called the Calculated Countdown, where we take a particular statistic from last season that corresponds to the number of days left till tipoff and analyze it in the context of this upcoming year. Today we’re looking at a peculiarly efficient Bucks team during the generally inefficient moments of the shot clock winding down.

1 Day to Tipoff: Giannis averaged 1.3 fg/game in final four seconds of shot clock

Generally, teams prefer to get shots off sooner in the clock rather than later. Eventually though, defenses often clamp down enough to force a team to chuck it up in a moment of desperation. Fail to get into your set fast enough or have an action that takes forever to develop and before you know it, there’s eight seconds left on the clock. Suddenly you’re stuck dribbling at the 3-point line forced to take a defender one-on-one, generally to little success. Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee in terms of field goal attempts (1.3) in that crunch time, classified as 0-4 seconds left on the clock by NBA.com.

As a team, Milwaukee ranked 12th in the league in terms of those types of shots attempted with 5.8. The weird part though, is how ludicrously efficient they were on those shots, leading the league with a 46.1% effective field goal percentage, 0.5% better than the second ranked Golden State Warriors. I don’t think anyone would confuse the Bucks for a team built to thrive with the shot clock winding down, yet last year they did. Is there any chance they could repeat that performance?

Probably not. Particularly since they were buoyed by some spectacular late clock shooting years from the likes of Jason Terry (74.2% eFG on 31 attempts), Matthew Clutchavedova (55.7% eFG on 35 attempts) and Greg Monroe (52.2% eFG on 69 attempts). Monroe improved markedly from the year prior, when he posted just 37.7% eFG on 53 attempts. Giannis, for his measure, shot just 41.0% eFG last year on those 1.3 attempts per game, so a majority of that league-leading mark comes from the super small sample size collection. Milwaukee had the third worst effective field goal percentage the year prior on those shots (36.6%) and while there was a good amount of roster turnover, I’m not counting on the likes of Delly, Terry and Monroe to repeat their late-clock heroics.

Curiously, the only of Milwaukee’s “big three” that’s been relatively efficient in the clutch is Jabari Parker. With a 51.4% eFG percentage on average over the past two years on 76 attempts, he’s far eclipsed both Giannis (37.6% eFG on 166 attempts) and Khris (36.2% eFG on 105 attempts). That won’t mean much with him out this entire year, but hitting shots with the clock winding down is valuable, particularly with an occasionally lethargic offense like Milwaukee’s.

Mixed in all this is the mirrored perspective that Milwaukee’s central defensive aim is to force teams to take precisely these types of shots due to their low percentage. It’s fascinating then that Milwaukee would’ve fared so well in the exact type of scenarios they’re forcing opponents into. What that means is probably very little, particularly given Milwaukee is due for a regression this year. However, it’s possible Milwaukee retains the late-clock shooting prowess they did last year, which would provide a helpful jolt to their offensive aspirations this season.