Milwaukee’s Other Three Point Shooter

Very quietly, Bucks guard Jerryd Bayless has been one of the league’s best three-point shooters this season. Plus: Previewing the Bucks at All-Star Weekend in Toronto.

  1. J.J. Redick
  2. Stephen Curry
  3. Jerryd Bayless
  4. Kawhi Leonard

Those four players are the NBA’s top performers in spot-up situations. By now, you’ve surely heard about Redick’s fantastic year, Curry’s MVP season, and the impressive improvement in Leonard’s shooting. It’s less likely that you’ve heard about Bayless’ incredible shooting this season.

“He’s worked extremely hard on it,” coach Jason Kidd said of Bayless’s three-point shooting. “He’s put in a lot of time and he’s not short on confidence. So, right now, he’s shooting the three at a very high level.”

While Kidd seems to suggest that Bayless’ improvement has been a result of the time he has put in over the last year, Bayless has a much simpler suggestion.

“Shots are just falling.”

Shots are indeed falling and falling at a staggering pace. Last season, Bayless shot just 31 percent on catch-and-shoot threes. This season, Bayless is knocking down 47.2 percent of those same shots, the league’s tenth highest percentage — ahead of celebrated three-point gunners like Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton.

Three years ago, Bayless hit 39 percent of his catch and shoot opportunities as a member of the Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies — a solid percentage — but he has never really been considered a dead-eye shooter. He’s been a “capable and steady backup.” He’s been a “great scorer who can also handle the ball” off the bench. He’s described himself as someone able to provide “a scoring spark,” but he’s always been seen as more of a scorer than a knockdown shooter.

He’s actually been so good this season that the Bucks have been running plays for him to get a good look at the three-point line while he’s on the floor with the second unit since the middle of November. Though it has worked out well for the team, it doesn’t sound like it was Kidd’s first choice.

“Our bench was thin, so we were sort of limited on who to go to,” said Kidd. “But I think he’s picked up the slack and enjoyed that opportunity.”

The Bucks go-to play for Bayless has been a surprisingly simple action that seems very easy to guard, yet teams have struggled to stop it for much of this season. The play has only four steps: 1) Bayless brings the ball up the floor as the nominal point guard on the floor. 2) He enters the ball to the elbow. 3) A post player comes up the lane line and sets a flare screen for Bayless. and 4) Bayless nails a wide-open three.

Notice the difference on the final highlight against the Heat? That was a counter to the play the Bucks might need to run more often now, according to Bayless.

“We don’t even run that play anymore,” said Bayless. “Teams scouted (the play) and now they sit on it.”

While the Bucks might not be able to use that specific play anymore, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to continue running some sort of action for Bayless, considering he is one of the league’s best shooters.

Yes, Jerryd Bayless is one of the league’s best shooters. The NBA has noticed. It’s about time you do, too.

Clip of the Week

In the final game before the All-Star Break, both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker put up 17 points, which is pretty exciting. Even more exciting is Parker making next level passes, which he did here in semi-transition for an Antetokounmpo lay-in. I mentioned it on this week’s Milwaukee Magazine podcast with Dan Shafer and Bucksketball’s Jeremy Schmidt, but it seems like Parker is making more and more of these passes lately, which might suggest the game is starting to slow down for him.

What to Read

Guide to the NBA trade deadline: Bucks  – I’ve already written about my desire for the Bucks to stay away from any activity at the deadline, but if you’re interested in what the Bucks might be interested in moving before next Thursday at 2 p.m. CST, Bobby Marks of the Vertical has an overview of the Bucks’ situation that may be helpful.

NBA trade deadline: Who could move? – Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney took a look around the NBA at potential trade candidates and his article has a section titled “Greg Monroe, Milwaukee’s poor fit”. Though interesting, I was much more intrigued by Mahoney mentioning that the Bucks defensive scheme “has been countered thoroughly, if not solved outright.”

The Art of the Rumor: Moose, MCW, and more – Over at Brew Hoop, Frank Madden helpfully broke down rumors, what they mean, how they’re reported, and who to trust this time of year. He also went through the roster player-by-player to see who might be moved in a trade in the next week.

Week in Review

Friday– It was one of the Bucks’ ugliest games of the season, which makes it easy to forget they had a chance to force overtime in the closing seconds of regulation. Despite leading the team in scoring with (just) 18 points, Middleton’s game-tying three was off target and the Bucks fell to the Jazz 84-81.

Tuesday – This game had everything: Greg Monroe’s season-high 29 points, Giannis dunks and dimes, Jabari fakes, and a roundball double bailout. What’s that? It’s that thing where both teams commit a foul and send their opponent to the free throw line with less than a second left in a close game. Ultimately, Avery Bradley’s foul on Middleton with .6 seconds left decided the game as Middleton hit his first free throw to give the Bucks a 112-111 lead over the Celtics before missing the second one on purpose to seal a victory for Milwaukee.

Thursday – For the second straight game, Khris Middleton took over in the fourth quarter and the Bucks secured a home victory. Middleton scored or assisted on 25 of the Bucks’ final 30 points in the 99-92 victory over the Wizards. Middleton’s stat line was impressive for the entire game as well, as he finished with 27 points, nine assists, six rebounds, and five steals.

Next Week’s Preview

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game – The NBA’s All-Star Weekend festivities begin on Friday with the celebrity game, which features a Milwaukee connection in Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry. Does he score more than three points? I say yes.

Rookie-Sophomore Game – Up next on Friday night is the Rising Stars Challenge, which features the league’s best players in their first or second year in the NBA. The Bucks Jabari Parker will participate on the U.S. Team. The game is not known for defense or effort, so if you’ve been wanting to see more highlight plays from Parker, be sure to tune in.

Three Point Shootout – The second event of All-Star Saturday night is the Three Point Contest and this season Khris Middleton was chosen as one of eight participants. He will try to become the second Buck to ever win the event, trying to replicate Ray Allen’s 2001 victory.

NBA Trade Deadline – Thursday, February 18 at 2 p.m. CST

Stats of the Week

1 –The NBA defines a clutch situation as a time when the deficit is five or less and there are five or less minutes remaining in the game. In the fourth quarter Thursday night, Jabari Parker hit a “clutch” jumper with 2:32 remaining to give the Bucks a six-point lead over the Celtics. It was his first such basket of the season.

15 – Khris Middleton has recorded seven or more assists just 15 times in his career. He did it twice in the 2013-14 season and three times last season. He has now done it 10 times this season with five of those occurrences happening in the last month.

9 – Against the Jazz, Jerryd Bayless hit five threes. That was the third time he had done so this season, which is impressive considering he had only hit five or more threes six times in his seven prior years in the NBA.

Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine’s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can also find his work at SBNation’s Brew Hoop or you can find him on Twitter @eric_nehm to tell him about your favorite Bucks’ All-Star Weekend memory.