Struggles inside and success outside: The Bucks shot charts through nine games

Gary Neal

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If Gary Neal was Icarus, and the Sun was orange, metal, hollow and hanging ten feet in the air, then this shot chart would make all of the sense.
Neal is converting a shaky 30.9% of his two-point attempts, but sits second (54.8%) on the NBA’s three-point accuracy leaderboard — less than a percent behind Anthony Morrow (55.6%).

If his hot long-distance shooting dips, Neal will be a far less useful player because his ball dominance and defense aren’t helping the second unit gel. In defense of his defense, he appears to be dealing with a recurrence of the plantar fasciitis that plagued him a season ago in San Antonio.

With regard to being a ballstopper, Neal has made 64.7% of his catch-and-shoot chances and just 35.0% of his pull-up shots.  He needs to keep the ball moving and stay ready for when it comes back around to him.

Larry Sanders


This shot chart won’t get any better until after Christmas because of the injury to Larry Sanders’ thumb, and it won’t get any worse until never because it how could it get any more red? But it would be more Christmas-y with some green.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Seemingly without a firm grasp on the offensive scheme, Antetokounmpo has relied heavily on floating behind the three-point line and hoping for someone else to create and kick it out to him. On the plus side, Giannis has shown a consistent stroke when taking those shots.  I don’t think anyone expected him to look this good from long range as an 18-year-old.

It’s interesting to see someone function completely without a desire for the mid-range game. He’s like something out of Daryl Morey’s dreams. Dunks and threes, with just one attempt between 5 and 22 feet this season.

Brandon Knight

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Hamstring problems have held Knight out of six games and limited him in the three games that he did play.

Ekpe Udoh

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I would expect the area around the free throw circle to be a strength for Udoh this season.  That would fit with his strengths as a college player at Baylor.  On the other hand, the 4-for-15 mark around the rim needs a sizable bump.

Zaza Pachulia

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After a solid beginning to the season, Pachulia shot a combined 5-for-27 in losses to the Pacers and Thunder.  Like Neal, Pachulia is battling rather nobly through a foot injury, but his hot start is a thing of the past.

Of note: Sanders, Pachulia and Udoh have shot a combined 27/75 (36%) on shots within eight feet of the rim.  Mine eyes hath seen the horror of leather colliding with steel.  All of which leads to an argument for more minutes for…

John Henson

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One might be able to pick nits over other aspects of his game, but John Henson is making the shots a big man should make.

One of my few fears for Henson is that he may have personally been an eyewitness to too many possessions where Bucks bigs have caught the ball in the area behind the free-throw line and treated the ball like a spent nuclear fuel rod waiting to be properly disposed.  Henson has too much skill for that approach.  I’d love to see him take the occasional catch-and-shoot jumper from that spot when the defense cedes it to him.

Caron Butler

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Like most of the Bucks, Caron Butler has shiny numbers from three-point range and less glossy numbers from everywhere else.  He’ll be fine, of course, provided that he moves the ball.  When Larry Drew questioned his players’ proficiency in getting the side-to-side ball movement on which his offense is predicated, one would have to think that iso-indulgent Butler was a primary culprit.

Luke Ridnour

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Two games does not a full story make.  Assuming his back injury heals, you can probably expect something similar to his results from last season.

O.J. Mayo

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As a team, the Bucks are converting 41.7% of their three-point attempts and 41.3% of their two-point attempts.  Their top scorer is leading the charge. Mayo has made 53.3% of his threes (4th best in NBA) and 39.1% of his twos.

Dan Sinclair over at Brew Hoop had an interesting story on Mayo’s offense thus far this season.

Ersan Ilyasova

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Small-sample size alert: Even with a sore ankle, Ilyasova shot well in the three games he played.

Miroslav Raduljica

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Another small sample, so here’s a non sequitur: Raduljica’s interview from Media Day. There’s a mention of him shooting three pointers.

Khris Middleton

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It’s a rather modest achievement, but Middleton has been one of the Bucks’ best finishers close to the rim.  He has also defended better than most of his teammates.

It will be interesting to see how future chapters of the Khris Middleton story play out, especially since he seems to be one of the players Drew wants to have on the floor as much as possible.

Nate Wolters

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The floater has given him a handful of baskets off the dribble, but he’s largely struggled whether driving or spotting up. The the outside shot isn’t there yet either.

Wolters also has a good sense of timing on when to make a backdoor cut.

(Statistics, shot charts and SportVu data for this piece were all taken from

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  1. K Middle is my boy so far, he’s fun to watch. I really wish that Naters could make a damn 3 once. Most of the shots I’ve seen aren’t even really close, some real clankers. Mayo has quietly been very good for the team, I’m glad they picked him up, though you can tell the opposing teams are keyed up on him, with no respect for anyone else’s offense, especially with all the injuries.

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  3. Like I’ve said before…

    The Bucks should force feed the hell out of J.Henson down low and begin running a majority of their offense through him. Basically throw him into the fire and force him to develop his game. This will allow them to see if he’s capable of being an integral part of their offensive sets in future years or if his game is better off simply being a part of it, but not the central figure of it. Get him to work on developing his fronting game and his game with his back to the basket. Improvement in his short-mid range shooting should be another major focus as well as his ability to pass the ball when he starts seeing double teams or when there’s teammates slashing to the hoop or coming off of screens for open looks. Even if things don’t work out for him being the central offensive figure at least you’ll have given him a full year of development to be a key member of the future success of the team.

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  5. Once Middleton starts connecting on his much talked about midrange game, I think he will be a dangerous and consistent offensive weapon. His defense has already surprised and Drew seems to trust him a great deal now. The midrange shots he’s taking now look good. High, quick release at 6’8″ will be effective. Form is good looking, they will start to fall soon. Like Nate also, just wish he wasn’t so in love with his dribble. Wish he would move the ball much earlier in the shot clock as opposed to dribbling from side to side or down the middle and back out again. He does this entirely too much. I like that he doesn’t turn it over but giving up the ball with 8 secs left isn’t exactly helping us get a good shot either. Basically a wasted possession, hence a psuedo-turnover. No need to mention Butler’s chucks or Neal’s shot hunting. More of the YOUNG BUCKS please!!! Let them loose.

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