Did the Indiana Pacers ruin Malcolm Brogdon’s shooting?

Malcolm Brogdon has adjusted to a new shot profile with the Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

When the Indiana Pacers secured Malcolm Brogdon in a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks this summer, the general consensus was that this was a good get for the Indiana Pacers.

Brogdon would man the point guard duties for the Pacers and fill into a primary initiator role on offense until Victor Oladipo returned from his injury in late January.

The Pacers gave up quite a bit to secure Brogdon. When looking back at the trade now, opting to sign-and-trade for Brogdon and giving up a first-round pick — when the Pacers could have potentially submitted an offer sheet and secured Brogdon for nothing — looks a bit rough.

One of the main reasons for that re-grade not reaching an acceptable mark is because Brogdon has taken a pretty significant step back in his shooting accuracy this season.

After entering the very exclusive 50/40/90 club last season, Brogdon’s percentages have dipped to 43.9 percent, 31.3 percent, and 89.5 percent. His true shooting percentage has dropped from 61.4 percent last year to 53.7 percent this year.

So, what gives? Did the Pacers ruin Brogdon’s shot?

No, they did not. Shooting is a skill, yes, but a player’s shooting can function differently based on the system it’s placed in and the shots they are asked to take.

Outside of some extremely dominant shooters like Stephen Curry (arguably one of the greatest shooters of all time), a player’s shooting accuracy is going to be fairly well connected to what his team is asking him to do.

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Let’s start with volume. Plain and simple, Brogdon takes more shots with the Pacers, as he has a more direct role in the team’s offense than he did in Milwaukee. Per 36 minutes, he’s taking 16.1 field goals this year compared to 14.7 in Milwaukee.

His usage percentage is about five percent higher in Indiana than it was last season in Milwaukee, too.

Interestingly, his 3-point shot rate per 36 minutes is exactly the same this year as it was last year. Usually, if a player’s attempts per game rise quite a bit, there’s less reason to panic over the percentage dropping. It’s harder to keep those percentages up when the attempts are more frequent.

Beyond volume, the appearance of how Brogdon’s shot profile looks is vastly different and provides more answers about his struggles shooting.

Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers, shot profile (data courtesy of basketball-reference.com)

As is made plain here, Brogdon was asked to take far fewer shots at the rim this season and trade those in for shots many NBA players these days have been trained out of, the mid-range.

The 16-foot and beyond range is a controversial one in the NBA. They’re often just about the same level of difficulty as 3-pointers, yet they yield fewer points for the team. For that reason, many teams have deemed those to be undesirable shots and treated them like toxic waste.

Indiana attempts a fair amount of them, and we see the effects of having to mold yourself to that system here.

Brogdon, who had been trained out of the art of the mid-range, was asked to attempt 18.8 percent of his shots from that range this year, a shocking increase compared to 3.3 percent last year.

That pivot can be jarring for a player. As you adjust, it throws the rhythm off and comes with some growing pains, part of the reason we’ve seen Brogdon’s accuracy dip this year.

While I don’t think this is everything, I do think the systematic adjustments Brogdon has had to make to flow properly with the Pacers system are something. 

Did that system ruin Brogdon?

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Did the Indiana Pacers ruin Malcolm Brogdon’s shot?

Absolutely not. Though the Pacers asking Malcolm Brogdon to shoot more shots in the mid-range has certainly been an impactful adjustment for Brogdon, the crux of his missed 3-pointers has more to do with the difficulty of his shots than the team asking him to do something he’s incapable of.

Brogdon gets more defensive attention as a focal point of the Pacers offense than he did as a complementary piece in Milwaukee. 25 percent of his 3-point attempts last season were “wide open” and only 20 percent can be categorized as such this year.

24 percent of his shots from distance last year were catch-and-shoot 3-pointers as well, this year just 9 (pull-ups have gone from 8 percent to 20 percent). The good news is that Brogdon has actually improved his accuracy on pull-up 3-pointers this year, sinking 31.1 percent compared to 26.7 percent last year.

Brogdon is going to have to adjust moving forward and learn to sink contested and pull-up 3-pointers if his goal is to keep his accuracy up.

Mid-range shots are not inherently good or bad, in my opinion. Though the Pacers might be served well with a few more threes per game, I believe that the mid-range has a strong place in postseason play when defenses ratchet up and the luxury of selective shooting disappears.

The Pacers priming their players to take what they see from all areas of the floor all year long will hopefully be an extremely transferrable skill once the playoffs roll around.

Here’s hoping Brogdon can figure out that 3-point shot.

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