Milwaukee Bucks: Can Brook Lopez repeat his shooting success in 2019-20?

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 14: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 14: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Brook Lopez was key to the Milwaukee Bucks’ success last season, but will his long-range shooting exploits prove sustainable in 2019-20?

As the Milwaukee Bucks soared to heights the franchise hadn’t reached for over three decades, Brook Lopez was very much at the heart of so much that the team was doing on both ends of the floor last season.

The ability of Giannis Antetokounmpo to make plays as something of a free safety was certainly central to Milwaukee’s No. 1 ranked defense, but that was only made possible by the way Lopez anchored the Bucks’ dropping scheme.

More from Bucks News

Lopez had long been a strong rim protector, but rarely has he been made such a focus in that regard, as he was as the Bucks attempted to funnel opponents into shots contested by the seven-footer at the rim and in the midrange.

Still, there’s a very strong argument to be made that Lopez’s most important contribution to the Bucks came on the opposite end of the floor.

Offensively Lopez built on the reinvention as a three-point shooter he’d enjoyed over the previous few seasons, and took it to new levels under coach Mike Budenholzer’s “let it fly” system.

As a whole, the Bucks were second to only the Houston Rockets in terms of three-point volume last season, and it was the seven-footer who led the team in terms of long-range attempts per game.

Having a center that could peel away from the paint allowed the Bucks to create open lanes for Antetokounmpo to operate in. The result was an MVP-winning campaign. In its own right, though, Lopez’s shooting performance was immensely impressive over the course of the year.

After making just three triples across the first eight seasons of his career, Lopez drained 187 three-pointers in 2018-19. Those makes came at a 36.5 percent clip on his 512 attempts. The ability for a center to make long shots at that rate remains rare in the NBA, but even more unusual is the volume of shots from deep Lopez was willing to take.

Of course, discussion of Lopez’s season as a historical outlier for players of his size and position raises other questions.

Is it possible there was also an element of anomaly in just how well Lopez shot the ball last season? Will he be able to repeat his performance at the same high level as the Bucks look to go even better in 2019-20?

What seems certain is that Lopez will continue to show no hesitation in putting up long shots on a nightly basis. The Bucks need him to do so, which is a large part of the reason he was re-signed on a much improved contract this summer, and there’s little reason to expect Lopez’s volume of attempts to decrease. If anything, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him work up beyond his mark of 6.2 attempts from last season.

Even a slight increase to that volume could be important too. If Lopez continues to shoot with the same efficiency, or goes even better, more shots will simply lead to even greater gains for the Bucks. But if there’s a slight drop-off in his percentages, a bump in volume could also negate what the Bucks would lose from Lopez in that regard.

In three seasons as a three-point shooter, Lopez has demonstrated impressive consistency. Starting with 34.6 percent with the Nets in 2017, Lopez almost mirrored that with 34.5 percent as a Laker in 2018, before hitting his career high mark of 36.5 percent with the Bucks last season.

If those first two seasons prove to be the low end of Lopez’s efficiency as a shooter, the Bucks will have nothing to worry about.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: Get to know veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver. dark

Of course, there’s also a chance that as he continues to fine-tune a still only recently acquired skill. Lopez could get better. He’ll certainly command greater attention from opponents next season, but any increase in Lopez’s efficiency would only make the Bucks’ offense all the more formidable.