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Calculated Countdown: 6 Days to Tipoff

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Giannis’ jumper remains a shaky proposition, but how much should it factor into his offensive makeup?

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season is rapidly approaching. That means it’s time for the now-annual tradition of our Calculated Countdown series examining a particular stat that corresponds to the number of days until tipoff. Today, that figure focuses on how Giannis’ jumper should factor into his offensive repertoire.

6 Days to Tipoff

Giannis attempted “6” pull-up jumpers per game last year

Ah, the perpetual debate around Giannis’ jumper. Seemingly year-round, pundits envision a reality where his shot finally falls at a consistent rate, unlocking some sort of world-wrecker offensively. Pushing aside the, in my humble opinion, outright silly argument that he might be too strong to shoot well, folks seem to ignore the fact he scored at an outrageously efficient clip without the benefit of a competent jump shot or a modern offensive system to complement his skills. Still, his percentage of shots last year slowly shifted a smidge away from his overreliance on rim finishing. The ability to get his own shot off and hit at a competent rate is something Milwaukee will need at points, even with Bud’s system hopefully turning the Bucks’ into a fully-formed 30-pointer. Giannis’ six pull-up jumpers per game last year were by far the most of his career, and it’ll be curious to see whether that shot type trend continues within the motion offense.

Giannis’ previous high for pull-up jumpers peaked at 3.9 in 2016-17. It’s been a steady incline ever since he entered the league, albeit with mixed results thus far. These last two seasons have provided a decent sample size though, with 758 jumpers attempted across them. Unfortunately, they also averaged out to just a 36.3% effective field goal percentage. So long as Giannis remains a middling shooter, teams will continue to give him these opportunities to pull up for his own shot. Situations like that have been pretty commonplace.

Whether Ben Sullivan’s reported acumen as a shooting tutor will pay off for Giannis remains an open question, but one hopes it pays some dividends. If nothing else, the open-door policy Bud has for shooting may alleviate the hesitation that Giannis typically displays when contemplating whether to shoot.

The fact Giannis takes more pull-up jumpers than Bledsoe may seem strange at first given the angst over Bledsoe’s penchant for those sometimes ill-advised shots, but not when you consider the amount of space Giannis gets from opponents. At times, that space started to evaporate when defenders realized Giannis could still punish them on a drive when given a square inch of room to operate. More often than not though, opponents are gunning for the best of two difficult outcomes, and a Giannis jump shot is still considered a win defensively.

Because he has the ball in his hands so much, it’s not likely these sorts of jumpers will disappear completely, but it is possible Bud can convince him to change the type of jumpers he takes. Foremost among them is turning more of his Jason Kidd specials, the step-inside-the-arc pull-up, into 3-point attempts. His shot chart illustrates that too:

He favors the left side of the floor for his jumpers, but there’s at least some areas where Giannis’ jumper is approaching, near or slightly exceeding league average. If his pull-up game doesn’t improve, there is some possibility the increased offensive flow could open up more off-ball opportunities for him to launch from deep. Catch-and-shoot opportunities haven’t made a huge difference for Giannis in terms of general field goal percentage (just 31.6% on 258 attempts the last two years combined), but it has helped his effective field goal percentage by way of an improved 3-point percentage.

As opposed to 23% percentage on 111 pull-up threes the last two years, he’s hit 31.7% on 205 catch-and-shoot threes the last two years. That’s up to 34.5% on 87 attempts last year too. As food for thought, Joel Embiid shot just 32.7% on threes last season yet is often talked about as a “threat” from outside due to his willingness to shoot. Giannis gloating on the exterior isn’t an optimum use of his skills given the fact opponents won’t pay him much mind until he starts some devastating cut, but if he starts to shoot more often off passes from his teammates, it could force the defense to shift in alarming, Bucks-beneficial ways. Pay him enough mind, and he can wriggle past any defender closing in for a dangerous drive or second pass after the D sucks into the paint like flies to sticky tape. Regardless, even just one game of Budsketball has me excited for Giannis this year.