Who’s shooting from where? Early season shot location trends for Milwaukee Bucks players

Early on in the 2009-10 season, we all watched the Milwaukee Bucks miss mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper. They had no one capable of getting to the rim and precious few 3-point shooters. This was a team that frequently started Charlie freaking Bell at the shooting guard position. But then Andrew Bogut got more assertive, Jerry Stackhouse provided a lift and John Salmons arrived in the same manor as your typical superhero. Still, they knew they needed to improve offensively the next season.

Instead, they finished the 2010-11 season with a near record low 101.6 offensive efficiency after Salmons turned back into Clark Kent, Corey Maggette played himself out of the rotation and Bogut played hurt all year.

The Bucks were a defensive team first, second, third, fourth, fifth and as far as you want to go in those two seasons. Last season, a shift was made when Bogut went down again. Suddenly, ball movement and shootouts were the buzz words in Milwaukee. Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih helped spur a bench capable of making and sharing shots and when Monta Ellis arrived, he and Brandon Jennings worked to solidify the perception switch around the Bucks. This was an offensive minded team now.

But they still struggled to get shots efficiently. Too many Drew Gooden and Ellis long twos were bringing down field goal percentage in general. There’s more risk, for equal reward on those shots. Would they be able to snap out of that this season? Well the Bucks are currently 11 in effective field goal percentage after finishing 17 last season, 30 the season before that and 25 the one before that. They’re making a much higher percentage of their 2-point shots right now to offset some early 3-point shooting struggles. But how have the Bucks gotten better shots?

Let’s take a look.

Since day one of this season, Larry Sanders has impressed with his dedication to sticking around the rim and using his length and athleticism to finish. After a slow initial start, Samuel Dalembert has done the same thing. Both have been effective as screen and roll partners for Milwaukee’s guards. Their reward for diving hard to the rim after setting those picks? SO MANY DUNKS. Sanders has 11 dunks on the season and Dalembert has nine. 80% of Sanders field goals have been assisted this season and 78.9% of Dalembert’s have.

This sort of offensive center play is a fairly drastic change from the pick and pop focused game of Gooden last year. Given the playmaking skills and propensity to shoot of both Jennings and Ellis, the simpler role of the centers this season seems like it could be a better fit long term.

First thing first: Those are not shooting percentages by location on this image for Ellis. I’m interested with Ellis in specifically WHERE his shots are coming from. So those are number of shots and total number of attempts.

As far as how often he’s making shots, we already know times have been tough for Ellis this season. He’s made just 39.4% of his shots from the field and 24.1% of his shots from behind the 3-point line. The eye test and prior knowledge of Ellis’ game makes it easy for us to assume he’s bricking jumpers left and right with no regard for anything else that’s happening on the court. But is he still taking the same old shots he always takes?

Early indications are that Ellis could be on his way to a slightly more efficient season if he’s able to start shooting at the same clip he typically does. He’s cut back slightly on both long twos and those difficult off-balance, fading left or right as he comes through the paint floaters. In turn, he’s taking more shots close to the hoop and more 3-pointers.

We all love the idea of Monta getting to the basket more, so hooray for that. As for the 3-pointers, they SOUND like a great idea, though Ellis has never been much of a 3-point shooter. Perhaps he’ll find his way at some point. He’s been particularly bad above the break, connecting on just four-of-23 attempts.

Two words can sum up Tobias Harris’ current role in the Bucks offense: Left corner. The vast majority of Harris’ shot attempts have come from the left corner where he’s seemed pretty comfortable this season. Either he catches and shoots over there or he starts to go to work over there and ends up getting to the hoop or posting up. We haven’t seen the corner three we’re all awaiting for Harris to develop much this season, as he’s taken just three 3-pointers from below the break. But he’s made one-of-three, so that’s encouraging.

I’d expect when Luc Richard Mbah a Moute returns that he ends up with a distribution chart very similar to this, except perhaps with a few more attempts from the elbows. It’s actually kind of amazing how different the small forward role is for Harris and probably Mbah a Moute than for Dunleavy. 

You can almost FEEL Dunleavy coming off screens just when you glance at this chart. Only one of those 17 mid-range jumpers came from the right side of the court. Holy left side. But think about the last Bucks game you watched and think about the first time Dunleavy caught the ball. You’ll probably remember him curling off a screen on the left side and catching and shooting. He’s an expert.

He’s also hyper efficient. Sure, he takes mid-range jumpers, but those are typically pretty open looks for him. If he’s going to the hoop, he’s heading all the way to the rim or leaving it off for someone else. You’ll rarely see Dunleavy toss up a floater in the paint. You wil see him shoot plenty of threes though, typically with great success.

It hasn’t been all makes, improvements and video game on rookie level shooting percentages for the Bucks though.

That’s a whole lot of red for Ersan Ilyasova. It does give reason for the shock his head is displaying, I’ll admit that. The battle continues.

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  1. Box scores just don’t give this kind of information. Really like your illustrations and explanation. Thanks for all your work on this.

  2. Awesome article. A very detailed way to show just how impressive Larry, Heavy D, and Manleavy have been thus far. And also, did not realize Ersan was 3/16 at the hoop….blech.

  3. Pingback: Court Vision: James passes in crunch time and life goes on | The Point Forward - SI.com