Milwaukee Bucks Don’t Need To Launch Three-Pointers

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The Milwaukee Bucks need to continue to ignore the NBA’s three-point infatuation.

The Milwaukee Bucks picked up a rare win on Saturday night, only their eighth from their opening 21 games, yet they did it while only shooting four three-point attempts. You didn’t need to look very far on Twitter to gauge how many Bucks fans and experts alike reacted to that.

It’s been a recurring theme, but when the Bucks don’t attempt a barrage of three-point attempts reactions tend to lean towards the negative, regardless of the result. To some fans it’s a concern, to others it’s a cause of panic.

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It’s easy to understand this way of thinking. We’re in the midst of a historic 21-0 start to the season from the Golden State Warriors, which is fueled in large part by their tie for the NBA’s most attempts per game from deep (30.8) and their league leading percentage (43.8).

Shooting from distance is very much the trend in the NBA, yet that doesn’t mean that you can’t be very successful by working in the opposite direction. In fact, that’s exactly what has been happening for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Not every roster is tooled to be a high volume, high efficiency three-point shooting team, and perhaps more importantly in Milwaukee’s case, that approach would take them away from playing through the team’s real stars Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe.

The counter-argument to that is that shooting the three-pointer creates greater space for those type of players who like to work closer to the basket, but that is complete nonsense. It’s making the shots that matters.

After the New York game, O.J. Mayo was questioned on the team’s apparent reluctance to shoot from deep, and he came out with the perfect answer.

A common refrain in reaction to that sort of message (and trust me because I’ve heard it more times than I could keep count of this season) is that the Bucks are currently a top ten three-point shooting team, and seen as they’re making 36.1 percent of their long ball on average, why wouldn’t they go for more?

Dec 4, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard

Khris Middleton

(22) attempts a shot over Detroit Pistons forward

Marcus Morris

(13) during the fourth quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons win 102-95. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The reality is that that efficient percentage is in direct correlation to the Bucks being a bottom five team in terms of three-point attempts.

Milwaukee has a handful of good shooters, if we’re being generous. Currently, only Khris Middleton and Jerryd Bayless are averaging over 40 percent from deep, yet Mayo is capable of chipping in too when the mood catches him.

With the Bucks attempting 18.7 three-point attempts per game, at present 9.3 of those are coming from Middleton and Bayless. When guys who are averaging 47.3 and 43.6 percent from deep respectively are taking just under 50 percent of your attempts, that’s going to be a good look for the team overall.

There’s a very clear pattern though, when the Bucks let it fly from deep they lose.

Although slightly inflated by the gun slinging Warriors and Rockets, the current league average for three-point attempts per game is 26.4. Even if you wanted to try and get a more normalized reading of the current situation, the team who are ranked 15th in the league in deep attempts are the Pacers at 23.9.

The Bucks have surpassed that number of three-point attempts in only four games this season, and they have lost all four.

In fact, the Bucks seem more likely to win games when they shoot less from deep, take a look for yourself at Milwaukee’s wins.

Team
DateTmOppResult3PA ▾
2015-11-02MIL@BRKW 103-9623
2015-11-04MILPHIW 91-8723
2015-11-07MILBRKW 94-8620
2015-11-30MILDENW 92-7418
2015-11-14MILCLEW 108-105 (2OT)16
2015-11-06MIL@NYKW 99-9214
2015-11-23MILDETW 109-8813
2015-12-05MILNYKW 106-914

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2015.

It’s worth noting that there’s a negative in-game pattern when it comes to the Bucks shooting three-pointers too. At this stage most Milwaukee fans will be familiar with the team’s habit of starting games fast only to crumble as time goes on (the Bucks are a top five first quarter scoring team), well, the quantity of three-pointers being attempted through different intervals may factor into that too.

In the first quarter, the Bucks are shooting 44.9 percent from distance on 3.7 attempts.

In the second, attempts rise to 4.6 and percentage drops to 37.1.

In the third period, attempts stay steady at 4.6 yet we see a further percentage drop to 35.4.

While in the final quarter, attempts soar to a high of 5.6 as the three-point percentage plummets to a low of 29.7.

You don’t have to be a genius to see it, but as the game goes on the Bucks grow more and more fond of the three-point shot, their percentages fall, and more often than not as highlighted by the team’s fourth quarter plus-minus of -2.5 (third worst in the league), bad things happen.

Of course, the Bucks should still take three-point shots, but they should only be the right ones. Khris Middleton and Jerryd Bayless are the two players who have earned that right at present, and of course, Middleton should be attempting more than the one long ball that he took against New York on Saturday.

If the Bucks really want to become preoccupied with the three-point shot and its potential to help them to win, they need to actually turn to the other end of the floor with it.

On nine occasions this season, the Bucks have allowed their opponents to shoot above 37 percent from behind the arc, and in all nine outings the Bucks have lost.

Even better again, when the Bucks can hold an opponent below 33 percent from distance, they’ve got a record of 6-2.

Opponent
DateTmOppResult3P% ▾
2015-11-14MILCLEW 108-105 (2OT).368
2015-11-07MILBRKW 94-86.333
2015-11-02MIL@BRKW 103-96.316
2015-11-30MILDENW 92-74.316
2015-12-05MILNYKW 106-91.240
2015-11-23MILDETW 109-88.214
2015-11-04MILPHIW 91-87.214
2015-11-06MIL@NYKW 99-92.167

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2015.

If the Bucks want to obsess over the three-point shot, let it be on not leaving men open on the perimeter, as they’ve done way too many times this season.

I wrote about a recipe for success that I had identified for the Bucks a week ago, and to this day it’s holding strong.

Which team in the NBA is most reliant on points in the paint in wins (50.0) and second least reliant on number of three-point attempts in victories (16.4)?

Of course, it’s the Milwaukee Bucks.

Mayo’s comments show the team understand what they need to do, hopefully everybody else will catch on to the idea soon too.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: 30 Most Significant Moments In Franchise History

*All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA Stats – accurate as of December 6.