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NBA Fastbreak: Bucks’ Brook Lopez part of three-point craze; Lakers could use that

Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) lines up a three point shot as Toronto Raptors guard Fred Va
Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) lines up a three-point shot against the Raptors during a game earlier this season.
(Frank Gunn / Associated Press)

A decade ago, all of this would’ve been inconceivable. Rashard Lewis led the NBA with 554 three-point attempts in 2009. This season, through 45 games, James Harden has taken 597.

But the league’s three-point explosion might be best understood by looking at a 7-footer firing 30-footers in Milwaukee — center Brook Lopez. Smattered in with the top three-point shooters in the NBA this season is Lopez, someone who is on track to take 537 this season — 17 times more attempts than he took in the first eight seasons of his career.

“We thought our system would be really tailor-made to a big like (him) if he was going to shoot, at a minimum, in the 34 or 35% range,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst told the Los Angeles Times. “What we didn’t know is that he was going to shoot 38, 39% and that he was going to do it from 30-plus feet. That part we didn’t know.”

It’s why folks in Milwaukee believe Lopez should be included in the NBA’s three-point shooting contest as part of All-Star weekend.

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“It’s such an interesting thing for the league. I hope they realize it. He literally tells the story of our league,” Horst said. “It’s not an anomaly. Brook Lopez is one of the best three-point shooters in our league. And that’s what the three-point contest is for.”

The field hasn’t been announced, though Charlotte natives and brothers Stephen and Seth Curry have already told ESPN they will compete and Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki reportedly will join them.

Lopez’s numbers are there — he’s taken the 16th-most threes this season as of Saturday, made the 11th-most and he’s converting them at 38.3%.

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He was targeted by the Bucks because of how he’d fit next to Giannis Antetokounmpo, a hard-driving forward who demands a lot of attention. He would’ve been a great fit had he stayed with the Lakers for the same reason, giving LeBron James a floor-spacing big man that they don’t have.

The stories as to why Lopez isn’t on the Lakers are varied — maybe he didn’t want to be a part of the circus that was sure to follow James to Los Angeles and maybe he wanted the opportunity for more minutes and a spot in the starting lineup in Milwaukee.

Regardless of why, the Lakers’ loss has been the Bucks’ gain. And Horst’s bet on Lopez has paid off.

“I think we looked at [coach Mike Budenholzer’s] system, coupled it with the growth in his attempts over the last two seasons going into this year. We could see the progression,” Horst said.

“We felt like people were labeling guys like him as dinosaurs. Where Brook was unique and we targeted him early was that he had shown this tendency where he wanted to shoot threes. He changed his game. It’s super interesting how he’s changed his game to fit into this league.”

Harden’s heroics

Harden continues to ravage the NBA with a generational scoring binge.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, never scored 56 or more points in a game. By scoring 61 against the New York Knicks on Friday, Harden had scored 56 or more three times in just nine days.

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But even wilder, Harden’s done this all by himself on offense. With the Rockets minus a pair of starters in point guard Chris Paul and center Clint Capela, Harden has carried the Rockets’ offense, operating as ignition and engine.

His last 298 points have been unassisted — a mind-blowing number and testament to the one-on-one style the Rockets have relied upon.

While it’s not for everyone’s taste, Harden’s recent scoring binge has been impressive — even if you view it merely as an act of will and endurance.

Tip-ins

Jabari Parker and Enes Kanter could end up traded for one another in what would likely have to be a three-team deal or the two could end up on the buyout market. Neither the Chicago Bulls nor the Knicks have long-term plans for the players and both could end up in diminished roles for contenders looking to shore up their depth. Houston has benefited by signing Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried. … The NBA stuck to the letter of the law in suspending Denver center Nikola Jokic for one game after he left the bench during a fight between the Nuggets and the Jazz. … One reason the Jazz have won 10 of their last 12 games is Kyle Korver. The Jazz have needed scoring and shooting all season, and in the 28 games he’s played for Utah this season, Korver has made a three-pointer in 25 of them.

dan.woike@latimes.com

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports


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