Milwaukee will once again head into the playoffs, or stumble in, depending on how you view the last week. The Bucks are the Eastern Conference’s 7th seed and will match up against the Boston Celtics. The playoffs normally means that rotations get shorter and minutes go up for certain players. Milwaukee, like most teams, has an interesting situation to decide who plays, and for how long.
We’ll do this by separating the roster in different tiers. The number in parentheses will be an average number of minutes plays; some games that player might play more, and sometimes less. Unless otherwise noted, all stats will be from stats.nba.com.
Tier 1: Not playing
- D.J. Wilson
- Marshall Plumlee
- Xavier Munford
The two-way guys will mainly be around for practice and emergency depth. Wilson hasn’t played meaningful minutes all season, and I highly doubt that the playoffs will be the start of that. Hopefully he takes his hype game up to playoff level.
Tier 2: Shouldn’t play, yet might sneak on the court
- Shabazz Muhammad (5)
- Brandon Jennings (5)
- Thon Maker (3)
With minutes increasing for other wing players, odds are slim that Shabazz will get on the court. I wouldn’t put it past Prunty to go for a scoring punch, or if there is foul trouble that Muhammad sneaks onto the court but if he does make it, he will at least give it his all, which can be appreciated.
On Twitter last week, I had a poll to see where Bucks fans’ heads were at.
I wasn’t surprised that Brogdon would get the majority of the votes, but Jennings getting 5% of the votes was somewhat shocking, even over Delly. Jennings had an offensive rating of 96.4, which is only better than Munford, Wilson, and Plumlee. He has a defensive rating of 112.9 which was only better than Wilson and Munford. Jennings can’t be someone that you can have on the court in the playoffs expecting success.
Thon has seen his minutes given to Tyler Zeller, and that’s for the best. Unfortunately, Thon has not made enough improvements this season.
Tier 3: He’s playing, and fans need to deal
- Matthew Dellavedova (15)
So in that earlier poll, Delly didn’t get any votes on who Bucks fans wanted to get the most minutes as the backup point guard. To the disappointment of Bucks fans, Delly will play as long as he’s healthy. How much can be debated, but I would expect him to be in lineups with Bledsoe, or three guard lineups with Bledsoe and Brogdon.
Tier 4: Spot minutes here and there
- Sterling Brown (10)
Brown could be someone who can come in and give you a little bit of an edge and maybe hit a shot or two. He has a tendency to foul frequently, but that can be forgiven during his one stint off the bench.
Tier 5: Bench players
- Tony Snell (15)
- Jason Terry (15)
- Tyler Zeller (20)
- Malcolm Brogdon (25)
With Brogdon now healthy, he will get the backup PG role. Snell and Terry have been alternating between who is the starting SG, but I expect Snell to start (but not be featured much) in lineups. Terry will have his experience to help, and we can hope he can find his shooting touch again as Terry has been shooting 34.9% from three during the last month.
Zeller was a decent addition to the team and is in the right place at the right time on offense. With rotations being slimmed down (supposedly), he might see his minutes get a slight increase.
Tier 6: The Jabari conundrum
- Jabari Parker (28)
Jabari is a talented offensive player who can get buckets. Jabari is a bad defender who will allow buckets. He is too good of a player for Milwaukee to keep on the bench, but he is someone who has shown poor engagement for most of the season, and the playoffs is not the time to expect a turnaround.
He will play and will be a thorn in Bucks Twitter’s side, but it might be best to not have him in a clutch lineup where Brad Stevens would surely target him.
Tier 7: Starters with capable backups
- Eric Bledsoe (32)
- John Henson (27)
Bledsoe has been playing solid basketball the past month, and he will be expected to continue that stretch against Terry Rozier, and we all know about Playoff Henson from the 2015 series against the Chicago Bulls. While I don’t believe we will get a repeat of that, he will be given the chance to lead the front line primarily against Al Horford.
Tier 8: 40+ minutes club
- Khris Middleton (41)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (43)
Let’s not overthink this: Giannis and Khris will play 40 minutes as long as the games are competitive.
With a matchup against the Celtics who are down their top two players in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Milwaukee has an actual chance to win a playoff series for the first time since 2001. We all know Brad Stevens is a good coach, so it’s important for Joe Prunty to get his rotations correct. There will be moments that don’t make sense or seem like a bad idea, but you want to keep your five best players on the court, and that might mean some players need to get less playing time.
So tell us what you think the minutes distribution should be! Is there a player you think should be in different tier? Let us know in the comments.