Encouraging stat #3: Milwaukee Bucks are top five in free throw points per game
The most underrated thing that Damian Lillard has brought to the Bucks is his ability to get to the free throw line and convert there. Jrue Holiday, as great as he was, never was very good at getting to the line and getting easy points that way, but Lillard is one of the best in the league at it. Since 2020, Lillard ranks 25th among 262 qualified players in free throw attempt rate, while Jrue Holiday ranks 192nd.
Lillard is currently attempting 9.7 free throw attempts per game this season (fifth in the NBA) and shooting 92 percent from the line. For comparison, Jrue Holiday averaged just 2.6 free throw attempts per game and shot 80 percent in his three years with the Bucks. Lillard already has eight games this season making nine or more free throws, something that Jrue Holiday never did once with the Bucks. An even crazier stat... Lillard has already made as many free throws through 12 games this season (107) as Jrue Holiday did in his entire first season with the Bucks.
Despite having one of the most prolific foul-drawers in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks were just 22nd in free throw points per game (16.9) during the Jrue Holiday era. Giannis was usually the only player who could get to the line with any consistency, and he has never been a great free throw shooter, so the Bucks failed to consistently generate free points from the charity stripe.
But this season, the Bucks are fifth in free throw points per game (20.1) thanks to the pressure that their new point guard is putting on the rim and his ability to draw contact and convert at the line.
Lillard alone has accounted for 44 percent of the Bucks' made free throws this season, and it has been a huge difference-maker for the team's offensive floor. Even though Lillard has struggled from the field so far this season (39.5 percent field goals), he is still averaging nearly 25 points per game on an elite 60 percent true shooting because of those free throw points. When the Bucks are struggling offensively, their fallback plan is to give it to Lillrard or Antetokounmpo and let them drive, draw contact, and get to the line, and it has been very effective so far.
It hasn't been even close to a perfect start to the season for the Bucks, but they are figuring things out. The offense is moving closer to elite, the defense is moving closer to average, and the superstar combination is looking more and more comfortable with each other. There are certainly still things they need to improve on, but there are also plenty of things that show they should be one of the scariest teams in the league moving forward.