Malcolm Brogdon is the most slept-on member of the Milwaukee Bucks’ starting five. Everyone seems to talk about Giannis Antetokounmpo and his MVP season, Brook Lopez as Splash Mountain, the enigma that is Eric Bledsoe and whether to pay Khris Middleton max money in the offseason. The only time Brogdon seems to get brought up in conversation is when people are making quick mention of his 50/40/90 season or chastising his over-dribbling.
The truth is Brogdon is much more than a bounce the ball one too many times type of player. He’a an intellectual who rebounds the basketball well, can defend multiple positions, make the right pass when needed and knocks down the outside shot.
Brogdon is modestly in the prodigious 50/40/90 club; a seven-man association who shot at least 50 percent on field goals, 40 percent from three-point land and 90 percent from the free throw line for a whole season (Brogdon sits at 51.3/42.0/94.6). (Editor’s note: stats do not incorporate the 2/4 Nets game.) Six of those seven members are either in the Hall of Fame or are surefire locks and the last representative has an extremely strong case. Obviously, Brogdon isn’t anywhere near the Hall of Fame, but it goes to show you just how difficult this feat is.
Similar to just about every other carryover on the Bucks’ roster, Brogdon has thrived under Mike Budenholzer’s five-out offensive system. And that’s a two-way street. In order for the head coach to successfully implement his scheme, he needs shooters to place on the perimeter giving the opposition a reason to defend 20 feet away from the hoop when off the ball.
Setting aside Brogdon’s improved two-point and free throw percentage, his outside shooting is, perhaps, his biggest accomplishment. He’s currently draining a career-high 42 percent of his three-point attempts. Even better, he’s astronomically good at spotting-up; one of the most used and most lethal shots in basketball. Brogdon’s spot-up shooting is good as anyone’s, as he ranks in the 90th percentile by averaging 1.228 points per possession according to Synergy.
We already know how much attention Giannis Antetokounmpo attracts, but the extra defenders flying his way would allow defenses to remain unexposed if someone like Brogdon wasn’t there to make them pay for neglecting him:
As soon as Antetokounmpo receives the entry pass on the left block, the remaining Bucks spread out on the perimeter to give him optimal space to work. The defense also reacts accordingly and sends the nearest wing defender on a hard double as soon as the ball hits the floor. Antetokounmpo counters by throwing the ball to the vacated Khris Middleton on the left wing. As the Bulls half-heartedly rotate, Middleton promptly swings it to Brook Lopez on the opposite wing who continues the movement by dishing it to Brogdon in the right corner. Brogdon profits off the lack of attention from Chicago, as he sets himself and has enough time to knock down the corner three thanks to an excellent Eric Bledsoe down screen.
This play is a demonstration of all of Budenholzer’s offensive principles coming together and climaxing with the Brogdon three from the right corner, an area where he’s hitting 64.3 percent of his shots this season according to Synergy.
The result of this play might be a lot different if the Bucks had someone like Donte DiVincenzo or Pat Connaughton in the corner. That’s nothing against either one of those spark plugs; Brogdon has just been incredibly clutch for Milwaukee all season long. Remember, those two huge threes he hit against the Raptors in their first game in Toronto?
Or the one he hit in the Bucks most recent game against the Raptors that sealed the victory:
That’s what good shooters can do in this offense. He continuously puts defenses in the precarious position of having to stop an elite driver or give up a wide open three.
Brogdon’s sole weakness when it comes to outside shooting is that he doesn’t take enough of them. The only rotation regulars who hoist fewer threes per 36 minutes than Brogdon are George Hill and Antetokounmpo. That’s embarrassing. To pile on, only 29 percent of his shots come from downtown which ranks in the 23rd percentile for his position according to Cleaning the Glass.
A lot of it has to do with Brogdon’s shot:
He needs a fair amount of time to get it off and it ends up being a push more than anything else. Because of the slow and low release, he requires ample space and time to launch it. Brogdon understands this and it’s why only 28 of his 102 total catch-and-shoot jumpers this season have been deemed “guarded” by Synergy.
Despite the funky release and extra required space, Brogdon is quickly inserting himself amongst the elite three-point shooters in the game today: A class of players that’s never been better. Brogdon isn’t just a one-trick pony, as he can spot-up and knock down shots from anywhere on the court:
His dangerous outside shot has helped allow other players to thrive as well. Part of the reason the drivers of the team (Bledsoe and Antetokounmpo) are having career years in their field goal percentage at the rim is because of players like Brogdon ensuring defenses aren’t collapsing every time the ball-handler threatens to get into the paint. Or at least they make them pay if they help too often:
Antetokounmpo can take his man off the bounce almost anytime he wants. And that’s where Brogdon can thrive. As soon as the Greek Freak attacks Noah Vonleh in the video above and begins to get into his euro-step, Brogdon’s defender completely turns his head and begins watching the play from the best seat in the house. Fortunately, Brogdon isn’t as easily star-struck and he rotates from the corner to the wing. Antetokounmpo finds him wide open and he buries the three.
Brogdon’s penny-pinching on his shot selection has more to do with his high basketball-IQ than anything else. He’s a selfless player who understands his own strengths and weaknesses. Winning is his ultimate goal. In order to maximize his skillset, he must be smart about the shots he’s taking because a bad shot is a wasted one on this talented team.
Given that everyone in the Bucks’ starting lineup not named Antetokounmpo is set to be a free agent this summer, it’s unclear who Milwaukee will prioritize. One thing is certain, however, and it’s that operating a five-out system would be pretty difficult to do without an elite spot-up shooter such as Brogdon.