The Milwaukee Bucks return to play today in the form of scrimmages. Even if the matches will occur while a pandemic rips apart the country, most of the team has made it to the bubble safely and started practicing. Milwaukee will hope to finish what they started last October, but there will be a few questions people will ask to see if the goal can be achieved.
What are realistic expectations for Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton?
The revelation of Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton having COVID-19 meant an inability to practice with their teammates, and having to isolate in general. Both have said they are feeling well which is a good thing; but we don’t know the extent that COVID might impact their health going forward. For two guys who rely on athleticism, losing two weeks of training hurts, as well as not getting some game time with the scrimmages. The stakes for Connaughton are lower with Sterling Brown and Donte DiVincenzo taking his minutes, but Bledsoe’s importance to the Bucks can make or break their season. Thankfully, he likely won’t be needed until the second round of the playoffs and with his arrival yesterday, that seems realistic.
Will the system be tweaked?
Last year was all about learning and getting used to Bud’s system which was overall a success. This season was simply going through the motions of the regular season and trying to perfect it. However, right before the break, it did seem like Milwaukee was trying new things in case plan A wasn’t going so well, with Brook Lopez post offense being one example. Knowing Bud, this was something to help lighten the load off of players down the stretch, but it’s expected that the tried and true formula may be reincorporated and Bud’s perceived inflexibility might return.
Will the new look Khris Middleton make a difference?
Every preseason, there is always a player that reports to camp “in the best shape of their life.” I’m not sure if we are classifying this adventure to the bubble as preseason, but lo and behold, we got an update.
Kyle Korver said a lot of his teammates have looked great coming back but if he was going to single out one person he mentioned Khris Middleton has looked really great and explosive in Orlando. The way he's changing directions/moving has impressed Korver a lot.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) July 21, 2020
Middleton has been notorious for starting seasons on the slow end of things but this time things look different. If Milwaukee wants to have any chance at winning the title, Khris will need to be at his best and this looks to be a good start.
How much can we take away from the scrimmages and 8 games?
Milwaukee nearly has the one seed in the East locked up, with the Raptors 6.5 games behind. The schedule will provide intriguing matchups with Milwaukee playing fellow Eastern Conference contenders, the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors in these 8 games. Odds are the Bucks will want to make sure the players get up to speed and don’t suffer any injuries, but winning a few of these games can remind the doubters why Milwaukee are the favorites not only in the East, but in the league overall.
What should we expect from Bud’s rotation?
With Bledsoe and Connaughton not with the team, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts in the short term. We will likely see either Donte DiVincenzo or George Hill start in his place, as that has happened in the past. Will we also get the chance to see what Frank Mason could offer as well? The G-League MVP is hoping to make an impression on both the Bucks coaching staff and other NBA scouts. He has the tools to potentially be a reliable bench guard who can come in for spot minutes. Bud has always been one to go deep with his rotation and I’d expect that to be true down in Florida. We should get more Marvin Williams, and Kyle Korver while just maybe D.J. Wilson and Thanasis Antetkounmpo could get a chance to help load manage the players that are expected to be relied upon in the Playoffs.
Will the Bucks leave Orlando champions?
Milwaukee was looking to right the wrongs of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals and had been the pace setters for the league. They had beaten their biggest challengers in the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics. Now, with a fully healthy and rested Giannis and the rest of the Eastern Conference battling it out for seeding, it should give Milwaukee a chance to come out of the East. I still think Toronto is the only team that can beat them in a seven game series, but Boston will put up a fight. Out in the West, it appears that Milwaukee will face one of the LA teams and match up better against the Clippers than Lakers. I still feel optimistic of a Bucks championship, but we will have to play the games to find out.
So what are some of the question you are wondering? Will Milwaukee finish the job and who do you think is the X-factor for the Bucks journey around the Disney World?