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Calculated Countdown: 14 Days to Tipoff

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Will Bud’s new scheme chip away at the Bucks’ inefficient midrange jumpers?

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks-Media Day Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA T

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 involves the Bucks shot selection, specifically the midrange malaise that occasionally enveloped the team.

14 Days to Tipoff

Milwaukee ranked “14th” in terms of frequency of midrange shots last season

That equated out to 34.5% of their shots. For context, Sacramento came in as Kings of the midrange, chucking 43.9% of their jumpers from this zone of inefficiency while Houston proved allergic to the area at just 18.2%, well below the second ranked team in Brooklyn (28.6%). For as much as the Moreyball revolution turned this into a dead zone, teams with an affinity for this area doesn’t preclude them from having efficient offenses. Minnesota ranked second in terms of midrange frequency, but still posted the fourth most points per 100 possessions (113.3) last season per Cleaning the Glass.

For Milwaukee, that 34.5% figure is actually higher than the prior season. Here’s a chart of how their midrange diet changed through the years.

Percentage of Shots from Midrange

Season 2017-18 2016-17 2015-16 2014-15
Season 2017-18 2016-17 2015-16 2014-15
Percentage 34.50% 31.10% 39.20% 39.70%

The general decrease from several years ago isn’t unexpected. Across the league, no one would characterize midrange jumpers as “in like Flynn” at the moment. For years though, fans have cried out for Milwaukee to modernize their offensive arsenal. A simple fix is an uptick in shots from beyond the arc, yet even that seemed to elude them under the prior coaching regime. Still, their diet of 3-pointers attempted took a considerable leap from the nadir of 16.8%, worst in the league back in 15-16, up to 27.2% last year, although that ranked just 25th in the league. Milwaukee was changing, just not nearly fast enough.

The rationale behind additional 3-pointers (besides the obvious mathematical benefits) was that Milwaukee continued to rank rather highly in raw 3-point percentage. Their dip to 22nd last season came after ranking 9th, 17th and 7th over the prior three seasons respectively. Unless you have a bona fide arsenal of the finest shooters alive like in Golden State though, 3-point percentage tends to be fluid from year to year. Still, there is some decent talent from behind the arc that Budenholzer has to work with, not to mention a probable bounceback year from Khris Middleton. His 35.9% from deep last season was well below his career average of 39.1%.

Enter Mike Budenholzer, the offensive architect who knelt at the altar of Greg Popovich for years. For some of these pieces, we’ll be looking back at Budenholzer’s time in Atlanta to instruct potential alterations here in Milwaukee. Here’s how Atlanta’s shot breakdown from deep went during the same time frame as above.

Percentage of Shots from 3

Season 2017-18 2016-17 2015-16 2014-15
Season 2017-18 2016-17 2015-16 2014-15
Percentage 33.70% 27.90% 31.00% 29.70%
Rank 6 16 6 3

The one year prior to that, Bud’s team also ranked 2nd in the league at 29.0%. The year they fell to 16th may have to do with Bud adapting his offense to fit around Dwight Howard’s farty presence. So, clearly, Bud’s going to be asking the guys to cool it with stepping inside the arc. Interestingly, Atlanta’s 3-point percentage the last few years has left something to be desired, ranking 17th, 23rd and 22nd. Part of that could be from the greater number of shots they’re hoisting, but it’s possible Milwaukee will offer him a better barrage of shooters.

Many of those shooters are more passable than elite though. The arrival of Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton added much-needed shooters, but none of them are lights out. When you have a guy like Giannis who thrives on getting to the rim though, perhaps that’s less important than being green light guys with a willingness to shoot. One of the ways Bud can mitigate shaky shooters is by creating more shots for them in the corners. Outside of two years ago, Atlanta ranked in the top ten throughout Bud’s tenure in terms of percentage of shots that were corner threes. Regardless, the fact remains, those midrange jumpers are likely got tossed out the window the minute Bud walked into the Bucks’ training facility.