The Brooklyn Nets have the starpower to be the clear number one of the Eastern Conference favorites, but the Milwaukee Bucks also have a case to be in the conversation to win the East. The Bucks feature one of the best defenses in the NBA, and led by two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league should be fearing the deer more than they are as the NBA playoffs loom.
Five Reasons Why the Bucks Should be One of the Eastern Conference Favorites
1. The Match-Up with Brooklyn
Matching up with superstars of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant‘s caliber is never easy. However, with defensive minded guards Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo, the Bucks have as good of a guard pairing to slow down Irving and Harden as anyone else in the NBA. The duo of Irving and Harden average just over 50 points per game, the hope for Milwaukee is for Donte and Holiday to slow the production of the high powered duo in Brooklyn.
Add in a four-time scoring champ, and two-time Finals MVP to Brooklyn’s overpowered roster, and it feels all hope is lost in the East. But the length of former Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the strength of P.J. Tucker, or the quick hands of either guard in Milwaukee, might be a solution to slowing down Durant.
Stopping Brooklyn’s high scoring offense is almost impossible. The trio of some of the best scorers in the NBA make the Nets the best of the Eastern Conference Favorites. However, a great run can be halted with a good match-up as we saw with Miami and Milwaukee last season. Brooklyn’s run to the Finals feels inevitable, yet this tough Bucks team can give Brooklyn all they can handle in a seven game series in the playoffs.
A key with Brooklyn is their versatility. Fans have seen Durant line up at the Small Forward, Power Forward, and even small-ball Center. The addition of Blake Griffin has added more versatility in their rotation as well. The Bucks too have an elite level of versatility throughout their rotation. If Brooklyn wishes to go smaller with Durant at the center, P.J. Tucker or the Greek Freak can also play a small-ball five. If the Nets wish to add in LaMarcus Aldridge at the Center position, Milwaukee can counter with either Brook Lopez or Bobby Portis.
As stated, the playoffs are all about who the team is matched up with, and the Bucks match-up well with Brooklyn as they have counters for whatever the Nets wish to do. Of course the countermoves the Bucks pull with their rotation might not be as talented as what the Nets have in their rotation, but it should make for an interesting game of chess between head coaches Mike Budenholzer and Steve Nash.
3. 3-Point Shooting
A key reason why both the Bucks and Nets are Eastern Conference favorites have been the three point shooting from both teams. Both of which register in the top five for 3-point percentage on the year, Brooklyn with the fourth best, and Milwaukee second. The amount of 3-point attempts per game are only differentiated by about one, so a series between these two Eastern Conference favorites will be a shooting clinic.
Brooklyn has the bigger stars, known for their shooting ability, yet Milwaukee leads them in every three point shooting statistic. Compared to the other Eastern Conference favorites, the Bucks have displayed an ability to keep up with the higher scoring teams with their ability to take and make shots from behind the arc. In the playoffs, role players from both sides will have to hit 3-pointers in big situations, so seeing the advantage in Milwaukee’s favor is another nod for the Bucks.
4. Defensive Edge
It is no secret that Brooklyn is not a defensive-minded team, ranked 25th in defensive efficiency and 24th in opponent points per game, the Nets have not made themselves Eastern Conference favorites by way of locking up their opposition. On the other hand, the Bucks have. Ranked in the top ten for defensive efficiency, giving up the third fewest points in the paint per game, and allowing the fewest points from fastbreak per game, the Bucks will be up for the challenge to slow down the high-powered Nets.
5. Team Health
It is not fun to talk about superstars battling injury, at all. But when comparing Eastern Conference favorites, it has to be in the discussion. The Brooklyn Nets have players that have battled serious injury not too long ago. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and LaMarcus Aldridge have missed time recently. Looking at the Bucks, Giannis has missed some time this season, but no players have missed significant time recently. Over the span of at most a 28 game playoff run, health has to be a factor, and it is in advantage of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Eastern Conference Favorites are Few and Far Between
The Bucks, Nets, and Sixers are all Eastern Conference favorites. Outside of the top three, no other team has stuck out. Miami always has a claim to win the East, because they have beaten Milwaukee in a series, but the offensive struggles make it hard to put them on par with the Brooklyn Nets. All that being said, the Eastern Conference playoffs will be interesting if the Bucks-Nets match-up does occur. A lot to look out for as the NBA playoffs are looming!
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