Milwaukee Bucks: The difference shooting can make in an offense

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

The Milwaukee Bucks went from a sputtering offensive team to an above-league average squad thanks in part to adding some shooters.

For a long time, the Milwaukee Bucks biggest need was some shooters. With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker both on the Bucks, Milwaukee had a hard time on offense without any space for those two to operate within.

This past summer, the Bucks front office clearly prioritized shooting. Every new player the Bucks brought in that offseason was a fairly capable shooter, whether it be Mirza Teletovic, Matthew Dellavedova, Michael Beasley, Tony Snell, Jason Terry, Malcolm Brogdon or Thon Maker.

Seven players is a lot to bring in one summer, but Milwaukee was a team that needed an overhaul. The season before, the only shooters in the rotation who were hitting more than 33.3 percent of their triples were Khris Middleton and Jerryd Bayless.

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This time around, Parker, Middleton, Snell, Brogdon, Dellavedova, Terry, Beasley, Teletovic and Maker all played significant roles for the Bucks at one point or another, and all of them hit better than 33.3 percent of their threes.

Those shooters have made a significant difference. The Bucks went from attempting 15.6 threes per game and making 34.5 percent of those attempts to cashing in on 37.0 percent of their 23.7 attempted threes this season.

Milwaukee, thus, went from making 5.4 three-pointers per game to sinking 8.8 triples each night. That’s nearly ten more points each game, just coming from three-pointers. That kind of efficient offense is why the Bucks went from 26th in offensive rating in 2015-16 to 13th this year.

That jump in rank is actually deceivingly small, because offenses all around the NBA are remarkably more efficient this season–last season’s Warriors, who were insanely good on both ends, would have been the fourth-best offense this season. This year’s Bucks would be seventh in offensive rating in 2015-16.

So while Milwaukee’s defense didn’t really change all that much–the Bucks allow 0.6 more points per 100 possessions this season, even though their defensive rating rank looks better than last season because offenses have been so damn good–the team won nine more games this season thanks to a more potent offense.

Obviously talking about the Bucks improving without mentioning Giannis Antetokounmpo is short-sighted. Giannis becoming an All-Star has everything to do with Milwaukee moving into the playoff picture this season.

In an indirect sense, though, the Bucks adding shooters has everything to do with Giannis’ emergence onto the national scene. Just as the Cleveland Cavaliers have maximized LeBron James‘ potential by surrounding him with shooters, Milwaukee has made life easier for Giannis by injecting space into the offense.

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Any ball-handler who prefers getting to the paint will benefit from spacing. Russell Westbrook often had a hard time this season because the Oklahoma City Thunder were not able to space the floor, allowing defenses to pack into the paint and make Russ’ life difficult.

Opposing defenses still do that to Giannis sometime, but it’s harder if he’s got either three or four shooters around him. The Bucks should essentially copy-paste what Cleveland does with LeBron, and thus far in the postseason the Cavaliers’ rotation has included exactly one player who isn’t a capable shooter–Tristan Thompson.

Every other Cavalier, besides a slumping Kyrie Irving, is shooting 41 percent or better from three-point territory this postseason. That should be the Bucks goal going forward. The blueprint to follow is on display right now in Cleveland.

Next: Giannis' Season In Review

Having skilled three-point shooters help any offense, but are especially useful for Milwaukee considering the Bucks can only be as good as Giannis Antetokounmpo is, and the Greek Freak is even better than usual when surrounded with shooters.