Earlier this week, I wrote a piece that broke down the most important Bucks for the playoffs. Going through the entire roster, I ranked everybody 1-16 on how I viewed their level of importance to the squad. However, that topic has still been floating around in my head, but in a little different manner — what exactly has to happen for the Bucks to find success? Are there certain stats that need to shored up? Who needs to show up? Let’s dive into things a little more and open up the cupboard above the stove to take out the cookbook and start breaking down the steps in the recipe for a championship.
1) Dash the perimeter with consistent and versatile 3-point shooting
Let it fly, let it fly! Despite some faces missing from the playoff hype video last season, this catchy tune is still the mantra of the Bucks. Before the hiatus went into effect, Milwaukee was sitting at No. 4 in the league in terms of 3PA (38.6 APG) and were utilizing every one of those sharpshooters. Quality and quantity are two of the most important words when describing the Bucks’ 3-point threats, as everybody in their most healthy starting five lineup can connect on a shot from deep, as can a majority of the bench. In fact, everybody can connect (okay, I wouldn’t trust Thanasis, but that’s irrelevant).
The one thing that stands out in that first step is the word “consistent.” It’s an issue some players have had, especially Brook Lopez. His first season as a member of the Bucks saw him launch 6.3 3PA a game, connecting on 36.5 percent of them. This season, those numbers have faltered to 4.7 and 29.6 percent respectively. We all know the skills he brings on the defensive side of the ball, but Brook’s ability to shoot when pulling up as the trailer from the other end of the court (just one example of his 3-point arsenal) really makes Milwaukee’s offense lethal. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to find the groove as of yet, but maybe the restart will do him some good.
On the other end, the Bucks have players that have been shooting the deep ball well — in fact, career best for some. I’m talking about Khris Middleton, His 41.8 percent connection from deep is a career high. We all know how he comes alive in the playoffs, especially against Boston. Should Brook’s shooting woes continue in Orlando, it’s going to be imperative for Middleton to not miss a beat.
2) Be aggressive in heating things up, but not overly aggressive
This is in reference to Eric Bledsoe. Obviously, we’re all aware of the news of him testing positive for COVID-19 and wish him nothing but the speediest of recoveries. However, if all goes well, he should be back in time for the playoffs. Unfortunately, the playoffs are an area where he’s disappeared in years past. We’ve seen it against Boston and Terry Rozier. Then, last season, we saw the crumble vs. Fred VanVleet and the Raptors. It’s imperative for Bledsoe to have a healthy playoffs, whether it’s the Eastern Semis, the ECF’s, or the NBA Finals.
A statistic that was brought forth by Brew Hoop Co-Editor Adam Paris in a recent piece really hit the nail on the head when it comes to Bled. This season, he’s shooting 67 percent at the rim on 240 attempts. Adam makes the point that despite teams sagging off him in the playoffs last season, Bledsoe still got to the rack at a 68 percent clip on 62 attempts. That really epitomizes the bulldog mentality that Bledsoe describes himself as having. Just the ability to get out there, take on whoever is in front of him, and get the job done. However, at times, that mentality can backfire. He can end up trying to do too much, which then seems to impact his whole game — both physically and mentally. His shot can falter, his mechanics in ball possession can diminish, and even his passes can sometimes be lackadaisical when he’s in his own head during the playoffs. Healthy and consistent point guard play is a must for the Bucks, and it’ll be crucial to see if Bledsoe can offer that in the postseason.
3) Add in an X-Factor for distinct flavor
Every playoff run calls for a player that comes out and steals the show. For example, last year against Milwaukee, we all know how Fred VanVleet decimated Milwaukee in the ECF and couldn’t miss. The Bucks have various players that could fulfill this role for them, but I’m really expecting Donte DiVincenzo to be big for them in the postseason. You know he’s itching to get some playoff minutes after being unable to participate last year due to injury, and you also know just how big he’s proven to be for this Bucks team. I love talking about Donte. It really never gets old for me. He’s so fascinating to watch. Whether it’s on offense or defense, it’s clear he has a succinct understanding of the game. You know he’ll be in the right spot in transition and you know he’ll make the right decision.
On defense, you know he’s waiting in the passing lanes, just waiting to get his fingertips on the basketball. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve witnessed that this season, but that 1.4 steals per game is a stat that will be very important come playoff time. Oh, and his shot? Sure, it doesn’t boast the friendliest stats on the team. But when it’s on? Watch out. It can be deadly. I’ll end this by posting this. We all know what happened the last time Donte got hot in a postseason run...
Alright, now I’m handing things off to you guys! What steps are needed to finish off this championship recipe? Leave your thoughts in the comments!