NBA Playoff Prediction: This isn’t the same old Milwaukee Bucks
Is everyone forgetting about the Milwaukee Bucks? They are 39-24, good for third in the Eastern Conference, and rank 6th in both offense and defense this season.
I understand the pessimism based on the last couple of years of playoff exits. They blew a 2-0 lead in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals and had an indefensible display against Miami last year. But if playoff success is the barometer then can we really feel confident in any of the teams in the Eastern Conference?
Scouting and focus are at such a high level in a playoff series that you have to be multiple to win. In other words, you have to be malleable on both ends of the floor, able to adjust when the opponent takes away the plays and schemes that you’re comfortable in.
In the last couple of years, Milwaukee hasn’t been able to do that and came up short largely due to that fact. Their offense becomes stale and predictable, and their infamous Brook Lopez drop coverage on defense is easily exploited by good coaches with the right personnel.
But Milwaukee at least appears to be aware of their lack of versatility in the playoffs and has taken steps to try and fix that. Bringing in Jrue Holiday is such a massive upgrade for them on both ends, bringing reliable playmaking to a team that has desperately needed it at the point guard position.
On defense, Milwaukee has also been testing out different schemes like switching ball screens as opposed to drop coverage, which makes their acquisition of P.J. Tucker noteworthy because of his defensive versatility. Nowadays you’ll often see a frontcourt combo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tucker, allowing them to switch everything without exposing themselves to bad matchups.
Coach Budenholzer still likes his drop coverage to protect the rim, but this new option to play a more versatile, athletic lineup is certainly something we’ll see from them in the playoffs that they haven’t really had in their back pocket the last couple of years.
I’m not exactly driving the Milwaukee bandwagon and it’s fair to want to wait and see on them, but writing them off for past playoff results after they’ve made a concerted effort to change some of the things that led to those failures isn’t telling the full story.