Milwaukee Bucks: Time to step up free throw performance

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 2: (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 2: (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images) /

As the Milwaukee Bucks look for ways to improve their record next season, collectively taking a step forward at the free throw line would be a good place to start.

There aren’t very many easy points across the course of an NBA game, and as the Milwaukee Bucks look to further improve on an offense that was already fourth best in the league last season, their aim will be to create additional, simple scoring opportunities.

One of the most basic and fundamental areas of the game should act as the starting point for Mike Budenholzer as his coaching staff, as the Bucks could make much more of their trips to the free throw line.

More from Bucks News

Milwaukee excelled in so many elements of the offensive game last season, yet when it came to the charity stripe, they were very much in the middle of the pack.

The Bucks attempted 23.2 free throw attempts per game and made just 77.3 percent of their looks at freebies. Respectively, that left Milwaukee ranked at the entirely mediocre 15th and 14th across those two categories.

In the playoffs, Milwaukee did manage to boost their free throw volume up to a third best mark of 28 attempts per game, but with more attempts their percentages ultimately dropped to a less than ideal 72.9 percent, the third worst mark in the postseason.

Considering the very fine margins that came into play in the Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors, a series in which their percentage was an even lower 72.4 percent, in the end, something as simple as free throw misses proved to have an outsized influence on the end of Milwaukee’s season.

Heading in to the 2019-20 campaign, greater efficiency in that regard will be crucial.

New signings Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver certainly offer reason to be optimistic on that front, boasting impressive career marks of 82.6 percent and 87.8 percent respectively. The fact of the matter for Milwaukee, though, is that their most frequent drivers are the players who desperately need to improve.

In that category, we land on two of the teams stars in the form of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe.

There are few players who get to the line as frequently as Antetokounmpo, yet inconsistency at the charity stripe robs of the chance to add even more easy points to his impressive totals.

Antetokounmpo’s free throw percentage dropped to 72.9 percent last season, making it one of the only categories where his game regressed, but the playoff story was even more problematic. At this point, Antetokounmpo has a track record of struggling with his free throws in the playoffs, and his 63.7 percent in that setting last season represented a notable low on that front.

Meanwhile, having attempted just 3.0 free throws per game last season, it’s no secret that Eric Bledsoe should be getting to the line more often. If Bledsoe is playing to his strengths, his game is built upon frequent drives to the basket, and in those scenarios free throws are a natural byproduct.

Even when Bledsoe did go to the line, though, his 75 percent free throw shooting left a little to be desired, even if not as much as his playoff mark of 70.6 percent would at the most crucial juncture of the season.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: 5 best signature shoes in franchise history. dark

Making a higher percentage of free throws shouldn’t be beyond the Bucks, but if they could do that with some consistency across both the regular season and playoffs, it could have a really significant impact on what Milwaukee could achieve next year.