MILWAUKEE — Compared to the rest of the NBA last season, the Milwaukee Bucks weren’t necessarily a dynamite 3-point shooting team.
They ranked 16th in the league, pretty much right in the middle of the pack,and shot a decent, not great, percentage from beyond the arc (34.5 percent). But they did have one major improvement in 2012 when it came to shooting from long range.
Ersan Ilyasova didn’t give the impression in the 2010-11 season that he would be especially effective from long range. At 6-10, he had the potential to be one of the stretch bigs that the NBA has fallen in love with in recent years, but at 29 percent from distance, he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire.
But in his breakout season in 2011-12, Ilyasova improved that number by a ridiculous 16 percent, good enough for second in the NBA — trailing only New York’s Steve Novak.
Ever since last season ended though, Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles has been realistic about Ilyasova’s 3-point shooting. He’s not likely to shoot that well again —something he reiterated at training camp on Saturday. But Skiles does think he’ll have enough options to make up for a slight downtick in Ilyasova’s percentage.
“Usually, when a player goes from 27 percent from 3 to 45 percent from 3, usually there’s a mean that they revert back to,” Skiles said. “I wouldn’t sell Ersan short though, as long as he has his feet set and takes good ones. His issue wasn’t will he take the 3, it was will he take good ones? Will he step in and take some twos? Obviously, he became much more efficient. I just don’t want people to think that if he’s all of a sudden shooting 41 that he’s having a bad year.”
“We don’t expect (Ilyasova)to shoot in the mid 40’s again, but hopefully he can shoot a good percentage again. Mike (Dunleavy) can shoot a good percentage. Brandon (Jennings) can shoot a better percentage. Beno (Udrih) will hopefully shoot more like his career percentage. Tobias (Harris), he can make the corner three right now. Hopefully we can find enough of them out there.”
Whatever his coach’s expectations may be, Ilyasova seemed confident in his 16-percent improvement from one season to the next. But could he improve significantly again this season?
“I’m looking forward to doing the same thing this year,” Ilyasova said.
As for the rest of the team’s 3-point attack, Skiles did admit that the Bucks will miss forward Carlos Delfino, who last year — while being slightly streaky — still attempted the second-most 3-pointers per game on the team and shot 36 percent from long range.
His ability to get hot could be accounted for with Ilyasova taking more effective 3-pointers or guys like Dunleavy — who shot 39 percent from range last season — or Jennings — who shot a mediocre 33 percent — taking better shots from beyond the arc.
For Ilyasova and the rest of the team, taking the good shot, as opposed to a multitude of 3-pointers, will be key in becoming a better team from long range.
“The thing is with all those percentages is that I’m just going to try and take the good shot,” Ilyasova said. “Brandon and Monta did a really good job penetrating and kicking and finding me open. .. All I have to do is knock the shot down. It’s a part of our game.”
And it if can become a more efficient part of the Bucks’ game this season, with enough weapons on the floor to hit open shots from long range, Milwaukee could potentially have an offense to be reckoned with this season.