Brook Lopez’s marksmanship from deep was a huge weapon for the Milwaukee Bucks last season. It’s been a sore spot for the team in 2019-20.
The Milwaukee Bucks are soaring. Holding the league’s best record at 31-5, arguably the most-balanced team in the league continues to exceed expectations. That’s no easy feat either, as many picked Mike Budenholzer’s squad to do quite well before the season even started.
Milwaukee has been terrific, both on offense and defense. Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has added a new level to his game with the development of a 3-point shot. As a team, the Bucks rank among the top five teams in the league in both 3-pointers attempted and made.
They rank 13th in 3-point efficiency, though, and part of that contradiction is because of “Splash Mountain” falling flat.
Brook Lopez has carved out a lengthy NBA career as a score-first center that provides rim protection. He’s never been a good rebounder nor passer. In an effort to keep up with where the game is heading, his range has been expanded significantly over the last four seasons.
The 7-footer added a long-range shot to his arsenal during the 2016-17 campaign and never looked back.
Between 2016-17 and 2017-18 with the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers, Lopez attempted an average of 4.8 3s per game. Converting on 34.6 percent of those heaves, this was a legitimate statement from a player who averaged 0.1 attempts per game in the eight years prior.
This development was a key reason why the Milwaukee Bucks decided to bring him in on a one-year deal for the 2018-19 season.
Last season, Lopez was terrific. He played the exact role Budenholzer wanted him to: serve as a floor-spacer for Antetokounmpo on offense and protect the rim on defense. Lopez made, on average, 2.3 of his 6.3 3-point attempts per night. This was good for a 36.5 percent conversion rate.
Both of these career-highs led to Lopez receiving a four-year, $52 million contract this past offseason.
Unfortunately, that success hasn’t carried over into 2019-20. In 34 games, Lopez is struggling. His field goal percentage is at a career-worst 40.5 percent, dragged down by his worrisome 29.7 percent figure from deep. This wouldn’t be a horrible rate for some of the NBA’s other starting centers, but because the 3-ball is such an integral part of Lopez’s game, it’s unacceptable.
Lopez is posting several a couple of other career-lows across the board. Field goal attempts (9.1) and points (10.4) highlight just how severe this issue is. Milwaukee’s system revolves around Antetokounmpo, but it also requires the floor to be spaced well for things to reach their potential. If Lopez continues bricking 3s, teams may no longer respect his shot.
Things don’t show signs of improving much, either. Lopez’s best 3-point shooting month came in December, when he shot 33.3 percent. His last 10 games, though, result in a 29.2 percent figure on 4.8 attempts per game. If he was getting hot and then cooling off over time, things would be a different story.
Brook Lopez’s proficiency from range is a huge part of the Bucks’ offensive strategy. He’s going to keep firing away from 3, and rightfully so. Only time will tell those shots will start falling. If they don’t defenses may catch on and game plan accordingly.