The Bucks came from quite a season last year where they finished with the best record in the league with 60-22. They were led by the MVP in Giannis Antetokounnmpo. The Bucks surprised the league with their performance and they were the clear favorites to challenge the Warriors in the finals. The Bucks eliminated the Detroit Pistons and the Boston Celtics in the playoffs before getting to the Eastern Conference Finals to challenge the newly revamped Kawhi Leonard Raptors who just beat the 76ers in an amazing 7 game series. The Bucks held a 2-0 lead in the series and it looked like the end for Toronto and that their Finals aspirations were over. That all changed when the Raptors tied the series at 2-2 and proceeded to eliminate the Bucks 4-2. The Bucks team struggled that series as Giannis was being forced to bad shots due to the defense by Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Middleton was not hitting his threes. Bledsoe was playing horribly and the rest of the team did not perform to their full potential.
The offseason came and the east changed during that time. Milwaukee lost their 50-40-90 player in Malcolm Brogdon who left for Indiana who also lost Bojan Bogdanovic. The Nets went Super Saiyan and got Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Jordan. The Sixers re-signed Tobias Harris and signed Al Horford. The Celtics got Kemba Walker to develop with their young core. The Heat obtained Jimmy Butler alongside with lottery pick Tyler Herro. And last, but not least the Toronto Raptors lost their superstar in Kawhi Leonard, but they still had a young Pascal Siakam who was bound to take another leap. The Bucks were seen as title contenders still, but it looked like they had a challenge in this new East which looked like the best in years.
Today I will be breaking down every eastern conference team's chance against the Bucks except the Nets who just came off an impressive win against the Celtics lead by 51 from Caris LeVert and the Magic who are just there because the East is mediocre.
Lets first talk about the Bucks themselves. They are sitting at 52-9 and are on pace to potentially hit 70 by the end of the season. Giannis and Middleton are both improving and the whole team around them is playing better team basketball. The Bucks are ranked as the Number 1 PPG and have a top-ranked defense in the league. Giannis is having some of the most ridiculous numbers in a season ever in only 30 minutes and is very healthy. Middleton is having another 20 PPG season where he is becoming a true secondary option for Giannis. Bledsoe is having another good season. Lopez is shooting the 3 balls less but is still getting good numbers. George Hill is a great sparkplug off the bench and he is shooting the highest percentage for threes in the league. Mike Buddenholtzer is having another coach of the year level season and this time he is expecting his one seed not to lose like the Bucks and the Hawks have done in the past. The Bucks roster is deep, but if one of these better defensive teams clog the paint, are their championship aspirations over?
One of the only 5 teams in the east that have beaten the Bucks is the Pacers. Granted that the Bucks didn't have Giannis that game, it was still an awful loss and the rest of the roster didn't perform in his absence. The leading scorer in that game was Dante Divencenzo with only 19. This isn't anything for the Bucks to worry about in the playoffs and most likely they won't face off and the Pacers will most likely lose in the first round anyway.
The Sixers are a confusing team to decipher. At the moment it looks like the Bucks would beat the Sixers if they were to face off. The series is 2-1 for the Bucks. The Sixers took game 1 on Christmas with potentially the worst loss of the season for Milwaukee. The Bucks bounced back the next two games and it looks like Philly's chance is over if Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson don't get health before the playoffs. The Sixers size is something the Bucks may have to worry about due to their great defense down low with Joel and Al and good perimeter defenders in Ben, Josh and Mattise. This series would be very interesting to watch, but I believe that both teams have a chance of winning.
Miami is the Darkhorse team of the East and they have a good chance at taking down the Bucks. They are the only team in the league to have beaten the Bucks more than once at
2-0 right now. Bam Adebayo has been proven to be a great defender on Giannis as in both games Giannis did not shoot efficiently. Jimmy Butler and other great wing defenders may prove to be a challenge for Milwaukee. I would still take the Bucks in this series.
The Boston Celtics are tied with Milwaukee 1-1 and their team may have a challenge with handling Giannis. The Celtics' lack of size will hurt their ability to guard Giannis. The Celtics team is also very top-heavy and their bench lacks depth. The Celtics could still be able to shoot and score Milwaukee out as they have 3 20 point scorers and the way Jayson Tatum is playing they could potentially go to a game 7. My prediction is that series would still result in a 4-3 win for the Bucks.
And last, but not least the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks and Raptors series would be very interesting and depending on how placement ends up being by the end of the year this will most likely be the Conference Finals and Boston might face Milwaukee in the 2nd round. It seems like Toronto has cracked a code to guard Giannis as even though they lost the previous game Giannis did not score like he usually did(19 points and 19 rebounds is still good). Toronto is also a very squad deep team and has an endless amount of scorers and defenders off the bench who could have amazing nights. They have good defenders in Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Og, Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher. The Raptors have the best chance to beat the Bucks because they have the power to tire down Giannis. Shooting will be a huge aspect of this series and the role players for both teams have to show up. Toronto doesn't have Kawhi anymore so they have to produce against the Bucks without him. And on the other end Middleton, Bledsoe and the rest of the Bucks roster have to hit their shots because all their focus is going to be on stopping Giannis from scoring. Even though the Raptors just came from a championship I do not see them challenging the Bucks and I see them losing 4-3 in the Conference Finals.
Let me know what you guys think about my article. Do you guys think the Bucks are another 2016 Warriors or do you think they will continue their success to the championship? Thanks for reading!