Giannis Is Making Shots

With a month and a half to play in the regular season, Giannis remains on pace to shatter the single-season dunk record. In fact, he has dunked more than more than a handful of teams.

Dunks — 2018/19
Giannis: 217
Cavaliers: 199
Grizzlies: 196
Knicks: 196
Pistons: 190
Hornets: 189
Pacers: 176
Spurs: 140

You know how someone who is not familiar with the game of basketball might wonder why a team does not just give the ball to the biggest, best player to dunk every time? Watching Giannis would not dissuade them of the merits of that plan.

The Bucks kind of do that. Here is how that Timberwolves game started.

Hoping that Giannis misses dunks (he missed two against the Timberwolves on Saturday night) remains a precarious defensive gameplan, but teams have not figured out how to stop him from doing what he wants, what he wants to do is dunk, and even the best-case scenario (Anthony Tolliver, apparently) did not work out in the end.

Giannis is dunking roughly twice as often compared to last season. More than a quarter of his shot attempts this year are dunks. The MVP frontrunner gets to his spot near the basket with such ease and consistency that he hardly even needs to shoot from outside the paint anymore.

Yet he is the literal driving force in helping the Bucks rank second in the NBA in threes made by drawing so many defenders. In the win against the Timberwolves, Giannis racked up seven assists. Six of them fed teammates for three-pointers.

And with defenders giving him open looks on the perimeter, Giannis is warming. Against the Timberwolves, for the third time in the last few weeks, he made three three-pointers.

On the year, he is still hitting just 24.3 percent from long range. But if you spend too much time on Twitter, you may have recently seen a progression of his three-point shooting that looks like this:

Giannis Three-Point Percentage — 2018/19
October: .063
November: .143
December: .222
January: .306
February: .455

Does this mean he is going to shoot .850 on threes in the Finals in June? Probably not. Maybe? Giannis was dominant against the Celtics in the first round last season, despite shooting just 4–14 (.286) on threes in seven games. We should all know by now that he does not need even an averagethree-point shot to be an elite offensive player.

But after a slow start to this season from outside (he made two of his first 28 from deep), he vowed to keep shooting, and his three-point attempt rate is now the highest since his rookie season. Shots are falling, including a game-sealing hit with a few minutes to play against the Timberwolves.

Threes are not the only shots he is hitting. As a team, the Bucks have largely eschewed long twos, and Giannis has wisely cut way back on these low-efficiency shots, attempting fewer than half as many as he did last season, a career-low. He is faring well on the ones he is shooting though, and he is attempting these long twos more often than everyone on the team except Middleton.

Long Twos (16+ feet) Accuracy— Bucks — 2018/19
Wilson: .667
Brogdon: .500
Giannis: .415
Middleton: .407
Lopez: .400
Bledsoe: .379
Connaughton: .333
Ilyasova: .300
Snell: .214
Brown: .200
Hill: .143

At the line, Giannis started the month with a 17–17 night in a win against the Wizards, and he is hitting .795 from the stripe in February, his most accurate month at the line since November 2015, and he made 6–6 in their most recent game against the Timberwolves.

In what turned out to be a one-point win against the Celtics last week, Giannis headed to the line with a minute to play and the Bucks up by just one. He made the first, and then —

You could tell that Lopez, rebounding savant, could tell that Giannis had it, and shouldn’t we all.