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Bucks Film Room: Kyle Korver...A Passing Guru?

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Kyle Korver’s three-point shooting is world-renowned. But his passing? Now that’s a story worth telling.

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Milwaukee Bucks’ forward Kyle Korver needs no introduction. As one of the most prolific three-point shooters in NBA history, he’s managed to stay relevant in the NBA for nearly two decades. His accomplishments from deep are nearly unparalleled; he ranks sixth in three-point percentage among players to attempt at least 1,000 in their career, and he’s made more threes than anybody not named Ray Allen, Reggie Miller or Stephen Curry.

However, his basketball prowess runs deeper than splashing treys and sniping from behind the arc. He’s a sly passer with an underrated feel for the game.

It’s not often (or ever) we dissect the passing of a guy who averages 1.7 assists per game in his career, but Korver is a different beast. He understands how defenses fear his three-point shooting and uses that to his advantage to not only create shots for himself, but for his teammates as well.

Even at 39-years-old, Korver is one of the most lethal catch-and-shoot weapons in the NBA. At 6’7”, he can shoot over defenders and only needs a sliver of space to get his shot off in other situations. This scares the shit out of defenses.

As the Bucks are running the secondary break, Korver begins in the left corner and runs off a plethora of screens to receive the pass from George Hill at the top of the key. He immediately looks for his guy Pat Connaughton and finds him open under the basket for two points.

The play begins with everyone and their mom looking to set an off-ball screen for Korver. It begins with Connaughton in the corner and continues with Robin Lopez and Sterling Brown on the wing.

Korver receives a triple down screen.

Korver’s prolific outside shooting forced two defenders to abandon all other defensive responsibilities and commit to stopping him, while a third lunged his direction before realizing his teammates had it covered. Korver recognized this obsessive attention before he even caught the ball and immediately found Pat Connaughton on the right block despite horrendous offensive spacing that almost ruined the possession.

Korver attracts the attention of three Hawks’ defenders.

Korver’s mere presence can cause mass chaos and confusion for defenses. With all the attention on three-point shooting, defenses want to ensure they prevent one of the best outside shooters ever from getting a clean look off. This often opens up shots for his teammates.

As Sterling Brown brought the ball up the right side of the court against the Denver Nuggets, he quickly ran toward Korver to complete a dribble-handoff behind the arc. The intention was to get an open three immediately off the handoff, but the two Nuggets’ defenders converged on Korver to take that look away. While the defenders were so occupied with thwarting the original three-point attempt, they completely forgot to cover Brown. Korver recognized the situation, hit Brown with an imperfect pass and it resulted in three points for the Bucks.

Random Korver Passing Stats:

His liabilities on defense are well-documented. The Houston Rockets, known for hunting mismatches, rendered him unplayable in the first round of last year’s playoffs. He only saw 10 or more minutes in two of the five games; playing for less than two minutes in Game 4 and never even getting on the floor in the decisive Game 5.

The Bucks may be a bit more equipped to hide him on defense, as they typically sport at least four above-average defenders on the court at all time as well as shot-blockers galore. However, it’s not like the Utah Jazz didn’t have Rudy Gobert to help clean up Korver’s mess, and even that didn’t help.

During his time in Milwaukee, Korver certainly tries hard on defense. Unfortunately, he’s usually a step too slow and is often overzealous when he gets around the ball, resulting in poor positioning. His playing time in this year’s postseason will largely depend on two components; how well head coach Mike Budenholzer can hide him on defense and the matchups they run into.

The offense he generates for himself and his teammates could be a third contributing factor. Milwaukee got bogged down in the half court by the Toronto Raptors in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals and found it difficult to create looks around the rim and knock down shots behind the arc. Korver could be a solution to both.

We already know his elite three-point shooting demands a defender sticks on his hip at all times. But he can also use that gravity to generate open looks for teammates close to the basket.

Using their typical five-out spacing, Antetokounmpo caught the pass at the top of the key before going into a dribble-handoff with Korver. Due to his magnificent outside shooting, Antetokounmpo’s defender hesitated for just a second to ensure an open three wasn’t about to be launched. Korver recognized this and dumped the ball over the defense’s head and into Antetokounmpo’s waiting arms. With the help defense scrambling and the lane cleared, that’s all the MVP needed to set the ball in the hoop at point-blank range.

To be clear, this shot-creation is not the be all end all to any Bucks’ woes. Korver was never a player who could create shots for himself or his teammates at a high or even medium rate, and especially isn’t that player at this stage in his career. Instead, it’s like a dessert—it’s not an all the time thing, only a sometime thing. It’s best when used lightly and as a compliment to the main course.

Korver’s a master manipulator of defenses and understands the ins and outs of the game. He’s one of the many high I.Q. players general manager Jon Horst has put on this team.

If Budenholzer finds a way to get him on the court for 10-15 minutes a game, he has the opportunity to make a positive impact on a Bucks’ championship run. His elite outside shooting combined with sneaky good passing can wreak havoc, confusion and anarchy on defenses in small doses, and is a perfect fit with the Bucks.