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Calculated Countdown: 10 Days to Tipoff

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Milwaukee upped their 3-point attempts a bit last year, will they make an appreciable jump this season?

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-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 Milwaukee’s mild increase in 3-pointers and if any sort of jump is coming.

10 days to tipoff: Milwaukee increased 3-point attempt rate by 10.1%

The 3-pointer. Just about everyone’s favorite sticking point when discussing the Milwaukee Bucks current offensive system. Much digital ink has been spilled discussing that very topic and we’re about to dump out just a wee more. Last year, Milwaukee increased their 3-point attempt rate by 10%, our stat we’ll discuss today as the season lurks just 10 days away. They went from 18.9% (30th in the league) to 29.0% (21st). In a vacuum, that’s great! We all want Milwaukee to turn a larger chunk of their offensive possessions into 3-pointers. Whether that trend will continue remains the sticking point though.

The league average jumped from 28.5% to 31.6% last year on 3-point attempt rate, a clear indication of the shifting philosophy towards efficiently chucking the long ball. Milwaukee’s leap is an encouraging sign and one that came without one of their primary deep shooters in Khris Middleton. Khris, of course, isn’t exactly a giant boon to this statistic given the fact he posted just a 31.2% mark last year. While better than Milwaukee’s team average, it’s still silly for a career 40% shooter from deep to be averaging less threes at a lower rate than the league average.

It’s worth noting a penchant for the three isn’t necessary for an efficient offense. The three teams below Milwaukee in terms of 3PAR for last year, San Antonio, Toronto and Washington, all posted better offensive efficiency ratings than the Bucks. San Antonio stroked it from deep at the league’s best percentage though (39.1%), but Milwaukee isn’t that far behind in 10th place (37.0%). One could say there’s the potential that increasing their 3-point attempt rate could further deflate that percentage number, but I’m still betting on some bounceback shooting years from Mirza and Delly, both of whom underperformed their career marks last year. Even if there’s a bit of regression from Tony Snell and Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee has enough guys willing and able to rip it from deep that Giannis should have ample perimeter outlets on his drives to the hoop.

Two other teams that made large strides in 3-point attempt rate last year were Brooklyn and Miami, though for largely different reasons. Brooklyn’s clearly came from a coaching change, where Kenny Atkinson installed the trigger happy system from Atlanta and emboldened his guys to fire away. It didn’t pay dividends for their offensive rating (3rd worst in the league), but that’s more a product of a cobwebbed, barren talent cupboard than their offensive strategy. No coaching change this year means Milwaukee clearly won’t benefit from a completely overhauled offensive strategy, but it’s possible they could mimic the leap Miami made to 31.4%. Giannis could act as the divebombing Goran Dragic in those situations, drawing defenders to him like a fly strip before slipping the ball to Middleton, Brogdon, Thon, Snell or any other number of Bucks on the perimeter. Milwaukee won’t make such a dramatic jump this year, but even reaching league average would add a healthy spark to their offensive performance. While I’m dubious it could happen, last year showed at least a semblance of commitment to changing tactics. Hopefully they apply the same principles this year.