Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez made just three shots from beyond the arc during his first eight seasons in the league. Back then, the thought of Lopez adding a three-point shot to his offensive arsenal seemed absurd.
Not only is the shot now part of his repertoire, he’s on pace to break the NBA’s single-season record for most made threes by a 7-footer, as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton recently pointed out.
After connecting on eight three-pointers against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night, Lopez improved his average to 3.0 treys per game. Last season, Chicago Bulls rookie big man Lauri Markkanen became the only 7-footer to ever make at least 2.0 threes per game over the course of a season.
Dallas Mavericks veteran Dirk Nowitzki held the previous record with 1.9 threes per game in 2002-03. Through 13 games, Lopez has taken 108 total field goal attempts and an absurd 77.5 percent of those looks have come from three-point range.
As bigs have moved beyond the arc more often in today’s NBA, defenders have not adjusted well to slow him down. For Lopez, 62 out of the 93 three-pointers he has attempted have been wide open. All but six attempts have come without a defender within four feet.
He’s also been unafraid to shoot from way beyond the arc: 22 of his 39 threes thus far have been from at least 25 feet of the basket.
He is 12-for-21 (57.0 percent) on corner three-pointers so far this season. That’s currently the best percentage in the league, per Cleaning the Glass.
Lopez has finished 43.0 percent of his offensive possessions as a spot-up shooter so far this season, which has been his most-used play type. He is averaging 1.37 points per possession when spotting up. That ranks in the 93rd percentile, per Synergy Sports.
The big man has averaged 11.1 points per 36 minutes on catch-and-shoot opportunities. For comparison, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is currently averaging 10.9 points per 36 minutes on his catch-and-shoot looks.
How did Lopez go from a complete non-factor from long range to one of the best 7-foot sharpshooters the league has seen?
“It was just a lot of reps in the offseason, honestly,” Lopez told HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy in August. “I was getting in the gym every single day and getting shots up. I also have to attribute some of that success to head coach Kenny Atkinson in Brooklyn because he really gave me the confidence to just go out there and shoot it. … Regardless of whether I was missing every three-pointer I attempted or making every three-pointer I attempted in games, Coach Atkinson kept telling me, ‘Just keep shooting.’ He made it clear that they needed me out there shooting and spacing the floor, so he instilled a lot of confidence in me and just gave me the opportunity to [add that to my game]. I’m very thankful he allowed me to do that.”
It’s unclear how sustainable Lopez’s effectiveness will be from downtown as the season progresses and defenders start trying to take away this part of his game.
But he’s started this new chapter of his career with the Bucks in amazing fashion. Opposing teams already have enough to worry about when facing the Bucks, considering Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the league’s most challenging players to guard.
Perhaps with Lopez as a three-point threat, Milwaukee can unlock a new level of success and make a deep postseason run. The team is currently 10-3, which is the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and the third-best record in the league as a whole.
In August, Lopez confidently told HoopsHype that the Bucks will “definitely be making noise in the East.”
“We definitely think the East is wide open,” Lopez elaborated. “It’s going to be such a fun, exciting time in the East and it’s going to be super competitive… I think we’re very confident that we can, no question, win the East.”