Roughly a quarter of the way into the season, the Milwaukee Bucks have been a pleasant surprise. The team has improved in a number of areas under head coach Mike Budenholzer. Brook Lopez has played a central role in that improvement. Specifically, Lopez has been building three-point shooting as a key element in his game. In the 2015-2016 season, Lopez only attempted 14 three-point shots. The following season, he attempted 387 while shooting them at a 34.7 percent mark on 5.2 attempts. He shot a similar percentage from deep the following season on 4.4 attempts
Now 22 games into this season, Lopez is shooting 6.8 three-point attempts per game and is hitting a career-high 36.7 percent mark. Needless to say, Lopez has cemented his three-point shooting as one of the most effective aspects of his game in his age-30 season.
Basketball Insiders caught up with Lopez recently to discuss his three-point shooting and his approach to the game. Lopez consistently hit a deferential theme when discussing personal aspects of his game.
“I’m just doing what my team needs me to do, you know,” Lopez said. “Just out there doing my job and the offense is trying to set a lot of space on the floor, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Lopez’s three-point attempts ebb and flow within the offense. There have been games when Lopez has been given the space and opportunity to fire away from deep. In an early season matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, Lopez hit five of 11 attempts. In early November, Lopez shot 10 or more three-pointers in three of four games while shooting 50 percent or higher in each game. In those four high volume games, the Bucks have won.
These particular high-volume games and the increase in three-pointers overall is not an accident. When asked about his outside shooting, Lopez leaned on his work ethic.
“I’m trying to improve every single day,” Lopez told Basketball Insiders.
Lopez doesn’t get open in a vacuum. The Bucks have adjusted nicely to the addition of new head coach Mike Budenholzer. With his new offensive system and the continued improvement of Giannis Antetokounmpo, now an MVP candidate, Lopez often finds himself being left open from deep. When pressed on his preference between set-plays for him and being passed to opportunistically in the offense, Lopez again showed deference.
“It depends, you know. Whatever it is, regardless if it’s a play or a kick-out, you have to be prepared. You got to be ready to catch it and shoot it,” Lopez said.
This attitude has been one piece of the Bucks’ turnaround this season. As of now, the Bucks are 15-7 and are in second place in the Eastern Conference. While shooting a career-high for the season, Lopez did recently set a new NBA record for futility from deep going 0-12 from deep in a loss against the Phoenix Suns recently in a losing effort. Lopez made his attitude about his outside shooting clear, which helps to explain why a single bad outing wouldn’t hold him back.
“Not really thinking that much about it, day-to-day,” Lopez said. “I’m Just trying to go out there and shoot the ball when I’m open. Just do my job. I’m not thinking about numbers or anything like that.”
In Lopez’s first seven seasons, he shot only seven three-pointers. The following two seasons, 10 and 14, respectively. Lopez is now on pace to shoot over 500 three-point attempts this season should he not miss significant time. When asked whether he’s had to adjust to add this new element to his game, Lopez was quick to counter.
“I feel like I’ve always been capable,” Lopez said. “It’s just what’s been asked of me. This is my role. So, I’m just trying to go out there and help my team in any way I can.”
Of course, Lopez is not alone. Being able to hit shots from the outside is necessary for most big men to consistently stay on the court these days. Being consistent from three-point range is a big plus. Lopez made it clear that he enjoyed the current situation for big men.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s a very exciting time to be playing in the NBA,” Lopez said.
The Bucks are a formidable opponent that could go far in the playoffs. They have a number of weapons and have been a particularly tough matchup because of their collective size and athleticism. When pressed about any other unused parts to his game should the opportunity arise, Brook Lopez was again deferential to team-first concepts.
“I’m ready to do whatever they need me to do. I’m confident in myself and go out there and do whatever my team needs me to do, I’m going to do it,” Lopez said.
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