Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
The Court Is Now A Hot Spot For The Bucks
The Bucks were down by two late in the first quarter against the Warriors when Pat Connaughton received the ball on the left wing, faked the three, went to the hoop, and dunked near a few Warriors who decided better of the situation.
That tied the game and the Bucks never trailed the rest of the way.
Over the past season and a half, the Bucks have eschewed shots from relatively low-percentage places on the court in favor of threes and shots at the rim, and no one on the team represents this philosophy more intensely than Connaughton, who has not a made a shot outside of eight feet this season excluding three-pointers, instead specializing where he — like anyone — provides the most value, which is to say on threes and dunks.
Wesley Matthews has a similar plot.
Brook Lopez committed to threes and shots at the rim last season to an extreme degree, and this year, brother Robin Lopez has joined him.
Largely it goes like that on down the line. Halfway through the season, the Bucks are shooting more threes than all but a half-dozen teams in NBA history, pushing almost 40 per game.
Three-Pointers Attempted Per Game — Single Season — NBA History
1. Rockets — 45.4 (2018–19)
2. Rockets — 44.2 (2019–20)
3. Rockets — 42.3 (2017–18)
4. Mavericks — 40.9 (2019–20)
5. Rockets — 40.3 (2016–17)
6. Wolves — 39.4 (2019–20)
7. Bucks — 39.1 (2019–20)
8. Pelicans — 39.0 (2019–20)
9. Bucks — 38.2 (2018–19)
10. Nets — 37.8 (2019–20)
And although they are middle-of-the-pack in terms of accuracy so far this season (despite having the most accurate three-point shooter in the league), the Bucks get ahead by playing the numbers game that three is more than two. And they get tons of clean looks, based in no small part on Giannis drawing so much attention and then kicking to open shooters, something he has become elite at doing.
Giannis is also now one of their highest-volume three-point shooters, ranking second on the team in threes made behind only Middleton, and doing so at a percentage (.325) that is pushing up toward league average.
As prolific as Giannis makes the team from beyond the arc, his historically-dominant presence at the rim also turns the Bucks into one of the most unstoppable teams around the hoop in recent history.
Shooting Accuracy Within 3 Feet — 2019/20
1. Lakers — .724
2. Bucks — .721
3. Mavericks — .699
4. Heat — .698
5. Thunder — .693
Most of this — the dominance at the rim, the Let It Fly 2.0 stuff — represents an extension and refinement of what the Bucks were doing last season when they set the league on fire. The Bucks are third in the NBA in offensive efficiency (after ranking fourth last year) and on pace for 70 wins.
In the regular season last year, only the Rockets attempted fewer two-pointers outside the restricted area. The Bucks avoided those shots, and they ranked in the bottom half of the league in terms of accuracy on them. In the playoffs, those numbers looked similar. After the playoffs last season, Giannis reflected on Kawhi Leonard’s mid-range game and vowed to improve.
This season, the Bucks are still mostly avoiding those tough two-point shots, but when they do take them, they are making more of them, and Giannis has improved on those long twos, now firmly above-average compared to the league from 16 feet and out.
Shooting Accuracy From 10–16 Feet — 2019/20
1. Bucks — .471
2. Spurs — .465
3. Pacers — .462
4. Thunder — .453
5. Jazz — .452
Shooting Accuracy From 16 Feet To Inside Three-Point Line — 2019/20
1. Thunder — .463
2. Blazers — .456
3. Kings — .441
4. Bucks — .439
5. Nuggets — .436
Is this just small sample size? Will they keep it up in the second half of the season (Khris Middleton has been especially deadly so far)? Will it sustain in the playoffs? Is it really about just hitting more threes in the playoffs this time anyway?
Hard to say right now. Hard to find a weakness on this team right now.