Championship Odds: +280
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 29.6 PTS, 13.7 REB, 5.8 AST, 1.0 STL
Khris Middleton: 21.1 PTS, 6.2 REB, 4.1 AST, 0.9 STL
Eric Bledsoe: 15.4 PTS, 4.6 REB, 5.4 AST, 0.9 STL
Brook Lopez: 11.0 PTS, 4.5 REB, 1.6 AST, 0.7 STL
George Hill: 9.6 PTS, 3.0 REB, 2.9 AST, 0.8 STL
Donte DiVincenzo: 9.4 PTS, 4.9 REB, 2.3 AST, 1.4 STL
Players Sitting Out
|7/31||Boston Celtics||6:30 PM||ESPN|
|8/2||Houston Rockets||8:30 PM||ABC|
|8/4||Brooklyn Nets||1:30 PM||NBA TV|
|8/6||Miami Heat||4:00 PM||TNT|
|8/8||Dallas Mavericks||8:30 PM||ESPN|
|8/10||Toronto Raptors||6:30 PM||ESPN|
|8/11||Washington Wizards||9:00 PM||TBD|
The Bucks enter bubble play as heavy Eastern Conference favorites. They coasted through the regular season with the best record in the NBA (53-12) and they showed no sign of slowing down when the season was suspended back in March. Come playoff time, Giannis and the Bucks should have the talent and depth to win night in and night out, even in games when Giannis’s production is limited.
On top of having arguably the best player in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee also has a very solid supporting cast. Khris Middleton averages 21.1 PPG and he’s one of the best shooters in the league. If any team can successfully slow down Giannis, which is a big if, Middleton is more than capable of carrying the bulk of the scoring load and leading the Bucks to a victory. Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee’s point guard, is another very good player for the Bucks despite getting little recognition. He’s averaging 15.4 PPG and his strong, broad frame makes him a very tough defender. Milwaukee has another great guard defender in Donte DiVincenzo, who averages a whopping 1.4 steals a game. I’m by no means disputing the fact that Giannis is the reason the Bucks are as great as they are and without him they’d probably barely be a playoff team. With that said, any superstar needs good players around him to win a championship, and Giannis has that.
If the Bucks take care of business in the Eastern Conference and reach the NBA Finals, their most likely opponent is either the Lakers or the Clippers. This is where they can run into some problems. Both the Lakers and the Clippers have tandems of superstar, All-NBA forwards in LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the Lakers, and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the Clippers. Giannis is an elite defender, but he cannot guard two players at once. Whichever player Giannis guards, the other player will take full advantage of whatever the mismatch ends up being. This is essentially inevitable, and the only way to limit the damage is if role players can collectively come together and contain whichever superstar Giannis isn’t guarding.
The Bucks should have a lot of confidence as they head toward the playoffs, however they should realize that they’re vulnerable. Although they’ve had all but a flawless regular season thus far, I expect them to run into defensive troubles as they get deeper into the playoffs. Even before the NBA Finals, the Celtics are another team that can give them trouble. Milwaukee simply doesn’t have enough solid wing defenders to stop Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward. And like I said before, if they get to the championship, their competition in the Western Conference will also give them problems defensively.
Don’t get me wrong, the Milwaukee Bucks have a great chance to win the NBA Finals this season. I’m simply pointing out the fact that they are far from invincible, and they can’t rely on Giannis, especially defensively, to carry them to a championship. If the Bucks win the championship this year, it will be because their whole roster played to their full potential and each player stepped up when they needed to.