Bucks Film Room

Bucks Film Room and Pat Connaughton’s Secret Shot

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Pat Connaughton’s development since signing as a free agent with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018 has been incredible to watch.

After being selected with the 41st overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, he spent the first three years of his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. During that time, he steadily improved and established himself as a high-flying, end-of-the-bench player who will work hard and occasionally hit a shot. That offseason, Portland had other priorities and foolishly decided to let Connaughton walk in free agency.

Milwaukee signed him as an afterthought on the open market in 2018, agreeing to a two-year, $3.4 million contract. The Bucks’ reserve outperformed his contract year after year, and he signed an extension for his third contract with the team this summer.

After averaging 5.4 to 6.9 points per game in his first three seasons in Milwaukee, he took a big step forward last season, scoring a career-high 9.9 points per game. Connaughton took and made more threes than ever before, which contributed to the increased scoring volume. After never taking more than four three-point attempts per game in his first six seasons. He took nearly six per game in 2021-22 and connected on 39.5 percent of them.

However, taking (and making) more threes is no longer enough; players must diversify their shot repertoire. Guys typically take deeper threes, shots off the bounce, or side-steps behind the arc.

Connaughton’s own inventive move is a high-catch, high-release shot. Which allows him to get the ball out of his hands before his defender recovers to contest.

To determine whether this tricep flick aided the Bucks and Connaughton’s three-point percentage. I manually computed his exact percentage from all 370 regular-season and 64 postseason three-point attempts.

Before we proceed, we must establish clear guidelines for what constitutes a high-catch, high-release shot. At or above shoulder height, the ball must be caught. If the ball remained at or above shoulder height, he could dip it.

A couple of extra points:

There were a few shots where he caught it just below the shoulders and went straight up, but those were not counted. Around Game 35 of the season, there was a noticeable increase in these shot attempts (end of December). 352 of his 370 regular-season three-point attempts were catch-and-shoots.

He was involved in a lot of two-man action with Giannis Antetokounmpo, where he set a ball screen before flaring to the three-point line (he even set a ball screen for Thanasis Antetokounmpo at least once!). He prefers to enter the threes with his left foot first, followed by his right.

I counted 24 shots that met the criteria, or 5.5 percent of the threes he attempted last season. Around Game 35 of the season, there was a noticeable increase in these shot attempts (end of December).

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