The Bucks are 25 games into the season and Giannis Antetokounmpo is easily leading the team in shot attempts within five feet from the basket. Can you guess who is second though? If you guessed Malcolm Brogdon, you’re either really smart, or read the title of this article (I’m proud of you either way). Yes, Brogdon is second on the team in shots close to the rim, which makes a lot of sense – and no sense at all at the same time.
First, this trend makes sense because of how Coach Budenholzer’s offense works. The Bucks are second in the league in three-pointers attempted with 40 per game. This focus on spreading the floor and shooting threes means that defenses have to send more players to defend the three-point line, leaving more open space around the basket. Giannis has been taking advantage of this, and his fellow big men have been making it easier for him. Brook Lopez, Thon Maker, and former Buck John Henson have been pulling opposing centers and forwards outside of the paint, allowing wings and guards to have an easier path to the basket. Because of this offense, Giannis, Malcolm, Khris Middleton, and Eric Bledsoe have been the Bucks’ leaders in shooting close to the basket.
Now, Milwaukee’s offense allows Malcolm to be second on the team in shot attempts less than five feet from the basket with 5.8 per game. That doesn’t mean he actually should be in that position. Players who drive to the basket need to have an athleticism and quickness that Brogdon doesn’t really have. Within five feet from the basket, Brogdon is currently shooting 60.2 percent, good for 10th on the team, with the likes of Jaylen Morris, Ersan Ilyasova, and Sterling Brown ahead of him. The eye test backs up these numbers. The perfect example was in Milwaukee’s game against the 76ers. Late in the fourth quarter, Brogdon attempted to take on Joel Embiid. Instead of getting past Embiid, Malcolm’s shot was blocked at the rim. Less than a minute later, Eric Bledsoe blew past Embiid for a successful layup. The difference in quickness and ability was obvious, and underscores why more athletic players like Giannis and Bledsoe should be the ones taking these shots at the rim.
As the season continues, the Bucks may want to find ways to get Brogdon more looks from beyond the arc. The most successful offenses in today’s NBA have focused on increasing efficiency. Malcolm is one of the best three-point shooters on the team with a 48 percent three-point percentage. It doesn’t make sense for him to be the one taking so many shots close shots when there are 10 other players who can make those same shots at a better rate. Milwaukee’s offense has been incredible this season, but this trend shows that it can be even better. Finding more ways to keep Brogdon behind the arc should increase the Bucks’ offensive efficiency and could be the difference between a close win and a close loss.