The New Threes of Jerryd Bayless
Just look how Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts when he thinks that Jerryd Bayless passed up the three in the video above. Dismay! Confusion! Terror!
Hard to tell whether Giannis was walking back toward the other side of the court because he assumed a three was going in or because he was filing off the court to retire for good, unable to exist a moment longer in a sport where one of the most accurate 3-point shooters in the league would decline to shoot a wide-open three.
Naturally, after hesitating and faking the pass, Bayless hit the triple.
Wait, how and when did Jerryd Bayless become one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA?
Certainly not when he was a rookie in Portland back in 2008-09, when he made seven threes the entire season and converted at 25.9 percent as a slashing guard. And it sure was not last season either, when he made a three in just one of his final 13 games of the season, and ranked well below league average at 30.8 percent.
“I have always believed I was pretty good at it (shooting threes),” Bayless said. “Last season I just couldn’t make a shot, honestly. I was struggling with it. Last summer I worked on it, and just got better at it.”
Put another way: last season, Bayless shot threes at a worse percentage than Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith and 200-some others. This season, he is shooting threes at a better percentage than Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton and all but four players (among those who qualify for the league’s leaderboard).
This chart here is a little ridiculous.
|3-Point Accuracy – 2015-16|
As far as Bucks single season 3-point accuracy, well, he ranks right up there all-time, too.
|Three-Point Accuracy – Single Season History – Bucks|
He entered the league as one of the most explosive guards in the game. Getting to the rim and the line was his thing – Bayless once attempted 23 free throws in a Las Vegas Summer League game prior to his rookie season, and as a rookie in Portland he went 11-for-11 from the stripe in his second NBA game playing at least 25 minutes.
From a Draft Express report from Las Vegas back in 2008: “Bayless doesn’t seem keen on taking a lot of jumpers, and takes the ball to the rim on almost every possession.”
You still can see the athleticism, particularly by how effortlessly the 6-foot-3-inch guard finishes those two-handed baseline alley-oop dunks here and there.
But his foremost asset is now outside shooting, which (and this is said a lot, but is also true) is just about the most valuable skill that one can possess in the modern NBA.
|Season||Percent of total field goals made as 3-pointers|
Bayless had played on six different NBA teams by age 26. His adaptability and willingness to reinvent his game, at all of 27 years old now, bodes well.
When you think about how a certain player can fit on a team, you should really think about how (and if) a certain player can fit on a good team. And if this new Bayless is really the new real Bayless, it is more believable than ever to see how he could contribute minutes on a meaningful team.
Before this season, there was a lot of talk (and concern) about how the Bucks could replace the 3-point shooting of the departed Jared Dudley and Ersan Ilyasova (and to an extent, Brandon Knight, who was traded during the season).
And most of that talk was about Giannis Antetokounmpo (will he have the green light?), Jabari Parker (can he extend his range?), Khris Middleton (he is for real, right?), O.J. Mayo (he is the shooter off the bench, right?), Greivis Vasquez (can he replicate his career-best percentage from last year?), and Michael Carter-Williams (can he make them and should he even take them?).
In the end, Middleton and Bayless have been the only two consistent long-range threats, and they both have been great. Thanks to them, the Bucks as a team are league-average (league average is 35.2 percent, Bucks are at 35.3 percent) in terms of accuracy from deep (though they have attempted the second-fewest threes in the league).
With Carter-Williams, Vasquez and Mayo now out for the season with injuries, Bayless has rejoined the starting lineup. That has coincided with a three-game winning streak, during which time Bayless is 7-for-15 (.466) on threes. He is the starting “point guard” in this new land of Point Giannis, and he is a natural, floor-spreading, combo guard complement.
It is March now, a time when hard-to-believe numbers like this turn from unexplainable hot streaks to legitimately good seasons.
“I do a routine every day, and it helps me, so I will just keep doing that and hopefully they continue to go in.”
Bayless danced around the specifics of his routine, with me anyway.
“If I told you I would have to kill you. No, I am just kidding.”
The way Bayless is shooting, I left it at that.