By Lamar Battle
Contrary to the opinion of most observers the Milwaukee Bucks sporting the leagues best record ( 32-5, 1st in net rating and 3rd in offensive rating) and are currently riding a five game winning streak are just about a lock to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Can they pull it off ?
Of course they can but it won’t be easy. The Bucks adroitly surrounded reigning MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo with outside shooting which complements his incredible penetrating abilities and they lead the league in fast breaks at 18.6. However to find a chink in the armor one need only look to last seasons playoff loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Blessed with superior size (6′ 11″) and athleticism Giannis would normally slash towards the basket and utilize his shooters when cut off. What Toronto did was employ zone defensive principles where they dropped multiple defenders back to protect the basket effectively reducing a major part of Giannis attack. The Raptors would then rotate aggressively to the outside shooters to contest their shot attempts thus exposing a flaw in the Bucks offense.
First, Giannis outside shooting skills (33.5 3pt%) are still a work in progress but the most pressing need for the Bucks is the existence of a penetrating playmaker (i.e. a player who can get his own shot)
The second best player on the team is forward/guard Kris Middleton, an above average shooter but still unable to penetrate off the dribble or take over offensively.
New addition Malcolm Brogdan (33.3 3pt% 2018-19) is solid defensively but is not considered a real scoring threat.
A true play maker could take Giannis off the ball effectively making him even more dangerous as a post up threat and lob recipient. As it stands Giannis has to expend too much energy challenging two to three players every time down the floor.
Anyone in mind ?
A start would be a player who can slash to the hoop at will, shoot respectably from the three and distribute the rock like he’s been there before….You know, a player like Derrick Rose.
Actually, Rose could be available at a reasonable cost.
Anyone else ?
The New Orleans Pelicans Drew Holiday would also fit the bill and just about guarantee Milwaukee their 1st trip to the NBA Finals since Kareem Abdul Jabbar walked the earth.