The Milwaukee Bucks have been the best regular-season team each of the past two seasons, beating down on their opponents game after game. Many predicted them to at least reach the finals the past two seasons but ultimately they never made it past the Eastern Conference Finals. After last year’s postseason defeat, Jon Horst the Bucks General Manager knew it was time to make a change.
Going into the off-season there was one big decision on the minds of everyone around the league. Whether or not Giannis Antetokounmpo would sign his supermax extension. As a Bucks fan I was skeptical about Antetokounmpo returning, but then Jon Horst started making his moves. Getting rid of Eric Bledsoe who was just horrible in the playoffs was a win in itself, gaining Jrue Holiday was a sweet cherry on top.
Gaining Jrue Holiday was a huge move for the Bucks. Many thought that giving up two future first-round picks and pick swaps was too much. But after watching our first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, the same team that ended our season last year in the bubble, seeing us destroy them this year gives me hope that Jrue Holiday could be the missing piece in the Bucks title run.
Many people for some reason thought the Bucks bench had gotten worse than the previous two seasons. Breaking it down from player to player, I would have to say that their bench has gotten better. Bobby Portis replacing Robin Lopez should not even be a debate. Portis has done wonders for our team off the bench, shooting 47% from 3 consistently spacing the floor for the Bucks while putting up 11 ppg. Bringing a physical and mental toughness the Bucks have so desperately needed.
Bryn Forbes was another player brought in who has made a big impact on the Bucks. He has been everything they thought Kyle Korver would be and then some. Being a deadeye shooter, Forbes has made waves this season with his play. Coming from the San Antonio Spurs playing under Gregg Popovich, we knew that they were getting a consistent player who knew how to do his job. Forbes outscored Jimmy Butler in this year’s playoff series which nobody expected to happen. That came by playing lockdown defense on Butler and Forbes just catching absolute fire at the right time.
The one new bench piece that I feel gives us an edge is P.J. Tucker. Acquiring Tucker via trade just before the trade deadline gave the Bucks a sense of toughness that they have so desperately needed. Not having to give up as much either. Sending D.J. Augustin, D.J. Wilson, a 2023 first-round draft pick and the right to swap picks, for P.J. Tucker and Rodions Kurucs. Tucker was linked to many championship-caliber teams who felt that they needed that certain edge and toughness come playoff time. Milwaukee played their cards right and acquired an extremely valuable defensive asset to help them out in the playoffs.
One player that I feel does not get enough credit is Donte Divincenzo. Many remember the botched sign and trade that would have sent him to the Kings in exchange for Bogdan Bogdanovic. As much as I would have loved for us to get Bogdanovic, Divincenzo has made a lot of winning plays for us this year. Unfortunately, in game three of the first round against the Heat, Divincenzo landed awkwardly on his foot. It is never good to see a player in that much pain after a non-contact injury and that was the case here. Suffering a tendon injury in his left foot, Divincenzo will end up missing the rest of the playoffs. Losing a great rebounding guard at the wrong time of the season, Milwaukee will look to use their depth and hopefully push into the deeper rounds.
Now everyone always wants to talk about how Giannis has to improve on his three-point shot, which he does. But I think that the biggest improvement he can make is his footwork and post moves because right now he is just trying to drive past people and bully them which will work against some teams but at some point, he will get stopped. If he can develop an in-between game, knocking down mid-range and fadeaway shots, Giannis will add another valuable asset to his game that he desperately needs come playoff time.
A big question mark coming into this year’s playoffs for the Milwaukee Bucks that I feel is one of our biggest x-factors is if Mike Budenholzer will finally make adjustments when his first option doesn’t work out. Because in the playoffs great coaches will take away your first option and if you can’t adjust to that, then most of the time you’re screwed. He has never really adjusted and it shows with all of his teams that he has previously coached having great track records in the regular season but faltering in the playoffs. It happened in Atlanta and it has happened twice so far in Milwaukee. This season though was different.
Milwaukee was not the dominant team that they usually were in the regular season and that was due to Budenholzer trying new schemes on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The Bucks started switching way more than they usually did but there was still one falter in his scheme. The Bucks gave up a ridiculous amount of 3 pointers. It seemed as though every time I would look at the boxscore the opposing team was setting a new franchise record for threes made in a game. Time will tell if Budenholzer finally makes the right adjustments in hopes of leading a very talented team to the championship.
The Bucks have a very tall task awaiting them in the second round. The big three of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving. You can’t forget about Blake Griffin who has somehow found the ability to dunk again after being traded from Detroit. I have full confidence that this year’s Bucks team is different than past years and can push past Brooklyn in 7 games to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Game one is set for Saturday at 7:30 pm.