Brandon Jennings never called it his favorite spot before he slotted that buzzer-beating straightaway three to sink the Cavaliers in the home opener this year. During his first three NBA seasons, Jennings struggled on straightaway threes. The capable long-range shooter entered this season making just 32.7 % of his center area threes, easily below his overall three-point percentage. Hard to believe, in that moment that made you forget about work, the car payment, the winter air outside, what time you had to wake up the next day, and that one day… the Bucks would lose a basketball game.
Easier to believe since then, with a look at player shot charts.
Based on shot area charts, I have made requests (or in many cases, just observations) for players on the Bucks to shoot more and shoot less from particular areas on the floor.
Before jumping into the player charts, a few things to keep in mind.
Dalembert comes before Durant. Not just alphabetically. Samuel Dalembert has a better eFG% than Kevin Durant.
Unfortunately for the Bucks, scoring is not quite that simple. While eFG% is a wonderful measure for capturing shooting efficiency, our very own Dalembert attempts roughly five shots each game from the field whereas Durant shoots more than 18 field goals each game. Durant also gets to the line a ton. Both players are eFG% superheroes, but one leads the NBA in scoring and the other is Dalembert.
So, tempting as it might be after looking at these shot charts… curing Milwaukee’s offensive ails (23rd overall in offensive efficiency) is not as easy as giving Dalembert 18 shots while cutting down the number of shots taken by comparably higher volume, lower percentage shooters like Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Centers typically shoot at a higher clip than guards. But centers also don’t shoot nearly as much – there is not a single center among the top 30 players in field goal attempts this season. Normally, centers cannot create their own shots, they don’t have to worry about forcing shots with the ball in their hands at the end of shot clocks, they shoot close to the hoop, and so on. The same general point of context holds true for all different types of players. Kyle Korver is fantastically efficient when he shoots, but he is a shooting specialist who relies on others to find him in just the right place at just the right time. It only works so often. For the Bucks, no one scores more efficiently than Mike Dunleavy (well, except Dalembert), but he simply is not built to take 18 shots every night.
Simplified: If Dalembert or Dunleavy shot as often as Jennings or Ellis, they would not shoot anywhere near as efficiently as they do now.
That said, everyone on the team needs to know their strengths and limitations when it comes to shooting. And everyone on the team must do what they can to find people in the right spot, and to create situations that help put their teammates in positions to succeed.
*Note on the charts via NBA.com: green is above average, yellow is average, red is below average (relative to league averages).
Shot Charts and Requests
More: More straight-on threes? Okay, probably not, but a strong recognition of his range makes it difficult to beg for more of anything in particular from Dalembert right now. Not only is he making an excellent percentage of shots around the basket, he is sticking close to the hoop, attempting 69.4 % of his shots in that very closest area. Since he is in such a good place right now, I request that Dalembert simply shoot more in the paint.
Less: Again, few qualms here. Dalembert has not taken shots outside of his comfort areas, for the most part.
More: His playing time has dropped since the start of 2013, and Daniels has not yet thrived shooting the ball in a lesser role. Not a big three-point shooter upon arrival in Milwaukee, he started the season warm from outside and still has hardly missed from the right corner. But even that number is bound to drop a bit. Daniels has been quite competent finishing around the basket, but is attempting the fewest number of shots from that area since his 2007-08 campaign. Thus, I request that Daniels get into the lane and attempt more shots around the basket.
Less: The team can always use three-point shooting, but that has never really been his thing, and after a promising start he is at 26.5 % from outside for the season, so I request that Daniels cut down on the threes.
More: Everywhere is the easy answer. Dunleavy is particularly devastating on corner threes, either side works just fine. The more the Bucks can find him in the corners, the better… so more Dunleavy corner threes is the request. Though it should be noted, without getting too heavily into the details, Dunleavy is already shooting corner threes more often than ever. And that reflects well on the team’s coaching staff as well as his teammates.
Less: If Dunleavy had limitations, he would probably be aware of them. He does wisely avoid shots from 8-16 feet. That left-side 16-24 feet area catches you by surprise, but even at 2-16 there is little reason to request that Dunleavy pump the brakes there. After all, he shot a robust 15-28 (.535) from that same area last season. In general, I am okay with Dunleavy shooting more, not less.
More: Before you focus only on all of the red, please keep this in mind: Ellis is attempting more shots in that very closest area around the hoop than anyone else on the team, and more often than he did in either of the previous two seasons… and he is pretty effective there. Ultimately, he is going to the basket, which is of course what we all want. Can he do it even more? Probably. He has before. So yes, I request that Ellis attempts more shots around the basket.
Less: Ellis made 1-20 on threes in the six games preceding All-Star Weekend. Normally you want to encourage players to shoot threes, at least relative to long twos, but Ellis is down to 23.2 % on threes, so it is probably due time to at least reduce the volume of three-point attempts. Thus, I request that Ellis cut down on the threes.
More: Gooden has played sparingly this season, so the sample size here is not so educational. Over the past couple seasons, Gooden actually boasted an effective mid-range, pick-and-pop game. To wit: He made an impressive 30-55 (.545) from straight on from 16-24 feet last season, so I request he shoot from there when he has the chance. This season, he is just 0-1, which is sort of unfortunate, but there is just a ton of depth at power forward.
Less: He has shot a lot more often around the basket this season, and normally that is a good thing for a big man. But again, Gooden is most comfortable from 16-24 feet, so he probably need not spend quite so much time in the paint.
More: In his first season and a half, Harris has sometimes hinted at an ability to function as a decent corner three-point shooter. As a rookie he made 5-12 from the right side and this season he is 4-8 from the left side, but he has struggled from the opposite sides both years. The 2-2 three-point night in the season opener against Boston provided some optimism, but since then he has been in and out of the rotation, and ultimately the jury is still out. I request that Harris at least gives us more to see when it comes to corner threes.
Less: Harris simply has not played a lot or shot a lot, and he has not been reckless when on the floor, so I will pass here for now.
More: The rookie shows a nice touch around the basket, often making shots that roll around the rim for a bit and often missing shots that roll around the rim for a bit. He also takes the vast majority of his shots right around the basket, which is great, because he has not found his shot outside the immediate basket area yet. More specific than a simple shot area, I request that Henson hone and show off that lefty hook even more. He is 19-39 (.487) on hook shots so far this season, which is encouraging while also leaving room for improvement. It’s not an easy shot to defend and could become a base of a growing offensive arsenal.
Less: At least for now, I request that in meaningful minutes Henson refrain from attempting too many shots from 16-24 feet. He isn’t taking a lot, and down the road he will probably need to have that shot, but right now the numbers are low across the court there.
More: He knows his hot spots, and after a slow start, they are quite hot right now. Ilyasova is making threes at an outstanding 44.0 % clip overall, and as usual, he is hardly taking or making any of them from the corners. If anything, I request that Ilyasova attempt even more threes from his hot spots because he actually only attempts approximately 2.5 per game, ranking fourth on the team in three-point attempts, behind Jennings, Dunleavy, and even Ellis.
Less: Ilyasova has historically been a better long two-point shooter than what his numbers show this year, so I wouldn’t necessary request that he cut down on those attempts, as it is likely that those percentages only go up. But if the struggles prolong, it would be ideal if he could turn some of those long twos into more threes. Easier said than done, of course.
More: Here is an easy one. Jennings is making 36.4 % from distance, the best mark since his rookie season. Compared to last season, his three-point shooting stands out as a headlining improvement. I simply request that Jennings shoot more left-side-center threes. You probably remember his home-opening straight-on three to beat the Cavaliers, but the lefty is actually best when he is a shade to the left (but definitely not in the left corner). And this is not based simply on some small sample size. He also shot much better on left-side-center threes last season.
Less: You might be tempted to request that Jennings cut down on his shots in that reddened area closest to the hoop – but he has already done that, and it’s not necessarily a good thing. Last season, 39.6 % of his shots came from that area, and this season that number is down to 33.6 %. So yeah, I would encourage him to make more shots from there (great advice), but not take fewer shots from there. Ultimately, those are better than mid-range twos, and it is the place he can draw fouls and get to the free throw line. Instead, I request that Jennings cut down on those right-side 8-16 feet shots.
More: The sharpshooting guard from Kentucky has not found his NBA groove yet, even struggling on threes despite arriving as the prestigious school’s all-time best three-point shooter. That said, he has attempted 16 threes in the NBA, which is an extremely small sample size. I request that Lamb keep shooting threes when he gets back on the court.
Less: Despite the misfires, Lamb has yet to shoot his first 100 NBA shots. If he is out there with the game outcome already decided, he probably should not be gun-shy.
Luc Mbah a Moute
More: The Prince has actually shot better from 16-24 feet than from 8-16 feet, finding some real success from the center moving left. He had made 12-26 (.461) from that far left 16-24 feet spot in 2010-11, so there is some precedent there, but nothing concrete across his career. My favorite part about Mbah a Moute’s return to the lineup was his tendency to get to the free throw line. Unfortunately, that has coincided with a career-low free throw percentage (.588).
Less: The defensive ace doesn’t shoot a lot, but he is shooting more than ever before per minute despite a career-low field goal percentage (.417). I would expect his shooting numbers to go up and his shooting attempts to go down, which would be just fine.
Less: Not applicable. Przybilla has only taken four shots this season from the field along with two free throws.
More: Look at the circle closest to the hoop. Over his first three seasons in the NBA, Sanders is taking and making more and more shots in there. It is somewhat difficult to imagine now, but less than half of his shot attempts as a rookie came from inside that circle closest to the hoop. Last season that jumped all the way to 72.8 %, and this season Sanders attempts 78.5 % of his shots in there. And while he is converting better than ever, the main difference is that he is attempting more shots from that area. As a rookie, he made 58.4 % in that circle – this year he is at 58.5 %. But his overall field goal percentage is way up (from 43.3 % to 52.5 %) because he operates almost exclusively around the basket now. Not sure how much more he can do in that regard, but ideally Sanders continues to march on the Tyson Chandler path of improvement and eventually rank among the NBA leaders in field goal percentage. I request even more shots (and by shots I mean dunks) around the rim.
Less: As noted, Sanders has pretty much cut out the mid-range jumper from his offensive diet, and it is working nicely.
More: When he does shoot, which is not often, Udoh typically keeps it close to the basket – this season more than ever. He doesn’t have offensive plays run for him, so he is not always in the best position to score when he gets the ball.
Less: Not a main offensive cog, and rarely forces shots.
More: King of the pull-up jumper in transition, Udrih is tremendous in the mid-range and truly has few peers from 8-16 feet. He is only attempting 15.4 % of his shots in that circle close to the rim, which is an extraordinarily low number (even for his standards), but unlike just about anyone else in the NBA, he makes it work by converting on what are low-percentage two point shots for most players. I request a few more shots in that close circle area – just because his volume there is so low and he actually finishes there pretty adequately.
Less: Udrih is at a career-low 27.1 % on threes, and while he doesn’t take that many, he is on pace to shoot more than last year. I request he turn more of those threes into twos (which is such an odd thing to type).
My passions? Writing and the Bucks, to start. So it is good to be here. I have reported on media row for just about every Bucks home game since 2009-10 – almost all of that time writing for BrewHoop. I have also written for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, SB Nation, ESPN Milwaukee, Slam Online, etc. You can follow me on Twitter @alexboeder or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.