Fear the Deer will once more echo through the Fiserv Forum as the Bucks secured home-court advantage by finishing 3rd in the Eastern Conference. It’s not the first seed they secured last year or hoped to secure this year but several things contributed to that. So what are the Bucks playoff chances this year? Let’s break it down.
Bucks playoff chances
In the offseason, Vegas set the over/under win totals for the Bucks at 49.5. It is the highest win total Vegas set before the start of the season and it seemed realistic.
They did not get there having won 46 games this year but Vegas did not take into account that Harden would end up in the Nets or that Embiid would play like the League MVP. Had those things not happened, the Bucks would have probably ended up once again as the number one seed.
Vegas did not have them as one of the two top favourites to win it all before the start of the season for no reason.
Milwaukee was one locker room that saw a lot of turnover in the offseason. They first had that Bogdan Bogdanovic fiasco before the team acted on the wishes of its MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo shipping out Eric Bledsoe and George Hill and bringing in 2x All-NBA defensive guard Jrue Holiday. He was exactly what they were looking for as he could play even better defence than Eric Bledsoe while also being capable of creating his own shot in close playoff games.
His role is to bring energy from the bench and spread the court so Giannis can do Giannis things. During the season, they added P.J. Tucker who will mostly play defence. He is a great asset to have if coach Budenholzer wants to go small and he can also play in lineups featuring Giannis and Lopez. His main value is that he can guard any position on the court which should help in the playoffs.
How the season went
The season went largely as expected which is both a good and bad thing.
It’s a good thing because the Bucks proved they are a good team. It is a bad thing because that means the postseason might go as one might expect as well and that does not bode well for the Bucks playoff chances.
They finished 3rd in the East and 7th overall in the League. Their offence and defence both rank in the top 10 but neither ranks in the top 5.
They play one of the fastest paces in the league averaging 102 possessions per 48 minutes (3rd overall). Giannis is the heart and soul of this team and everybody knows that. He had another MVP worthy season and he was 5th in scoring while shooting 56% from the floor. Middleton had a typically good season.
One thing that might give them a boost is Jrue Holiday. He played a sensational season and something interesting to note is that the Bucks have one of the highest efficiencies of ISO plays. Those types of plays become more common in the postseason when the defence tightens.
Jrue Holiday gave the Bucks something they desperately lacked last year and the year before. When the opposing team puts up a wall in the paint to stop Giannis they lacked a player that can create his own shot. Giannis can’t do it but Jrue can. Khris Middleton is not a great half-court player either and most of the offence in the Playoffs is a half-court offence.
Holiday creates his own shot quite easily and he is very efficient at it. His eFG this year is 57% which is 6% higher than his career average. The only guards that are ahead of him are Jalen Brunson, Norman Powell, Zach LaVine and Steph Curry.
Besides Jrue, it will obviously come down to the play of Giannis. His deficiencies are well noted and whether he can hit a shot or two will largely impact the Bucks playoff chances.
The most likely starting five will be Holiday, DiVincenzo, Middleton, Giannis and Lopez. This starting five started 26 games while no other combination has more than 6 starts.
The guards will be Holiday and DiVincenzo, with Giannis and Middleton on the wings and Lopez in the paint. The offence will be initiated by Giannis playing point forward. DiVincenzo is a great 3&D player who is still very young and has the potential to get hot.
The bench options are Bobby Portis, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Pat Connaughton and P.J. Tucker. It’s not the greatest of benches which could prove problematic especially if one starter goes down to injury.
Bucks playoff chances: Final thoughts and expectations
The Bucks played a good season, but not historically good as they had the last two years.
Their numbers are a bit worse but that was a calculated decision resting up for the playoffs. They will face off against the Heat in the 1st round which is far from an ideal matchup considering what happened last year but the Heat are not as good as last year either.
The Bucks’ best player had an amazing year. Besides him, they have Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton to carry the team. A lot will depend on those three and if they deliver the Bucks could go all the way.
The expectations before the season were certainly focused on winning a ring. The road will be tougher than ever with the Heat waiting in R1.
After that, it will only get tougher as the Nets and Sixers will be waiting. And if they do come out of the East it will be a great team waiting from the West. It’s not an easy job to do but the Bucks have the quality to do it.