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According to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey, 75 percent of Bucks fans are confident the team is headed in the right direction. That’s down from 80 percent last week and 78 percent two weeks ago.
Well, I call that drop-off in confidence the, “Miami Heat effect.” It is not surprising that Bucks fans lost a bit of confidence as they head into the postseason after the Heat got locked into the three seed for a much-anticipated rematch between last season’s playoff matchup.
Allow me to be the voice of reason! For me to say this means a lot since I am typically very pessimistic about the Bucks so I am not disappointed when a collapse happens. Now, do I fear the Heat? Absolutely not? Do I respect them? YES. There is a big difference. Miami is very well-coached and disciplined defensively, but both of these teams are in no way similar to last season and I believe that benefits the Milwaukee Bucks more than anything.
Swapping out Jrue Holiday for Eric Bledsoe is like upgrading from a PT Cruiser to a souped-up Maserati. Goran Dragic tormented Bledsoe throughout the five games and I have a feeling that Holiday won’t let that happen. Furthermore, his ability to hit three-pointers at a high clip opens up even more possibilities offensively for Milwaukee, and he is even deadlier as a pull-up shooter. Additionally, the acquisition of the UCLA point guard opened up the “dunker spot,” an area where Holiday excels in. He is so crafty along the baseline and has a knack at finding open shooters on any spot of the perimeter.
Furthermore, the dunker spot has opened up an array of options for Giannis Antetokounmpo to attack opposing defenses. It is now extremely difficult to build a wall defensively to stop him because the Bucks now have both Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes waiting on the perimeter and those two have been some of the best three-point shooters in the NBA this season. The Bucks upgrading from Kyle Korver and Sterling Brown to Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes has raised their ceiling exponentially.
Now, the Heat losing Jae Crowder is big. Not only did he make 22 three-pointers in five games against the Bucks, but he also did an admirable job defending both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. They essentially swapped him out for Trevor Ariza who is now 35 years old. While Ariza is capable, he does not bring to the table what Crowder does. Another troubling development for the Heat is the inconsistent play of Tyler Herro this season. While his shooting numbers are on par with last season, he does not look as electric on the floor compared to his rookie season. Plus, it is going to take A LOT for him to relive his 2020 bubble performance.
I am no fan of the play-in tournament, but there are certainly worse things than watching LeBron James and Stephen Curry square off. Going from Lakers vs. Warriors to Grizzles vs. Spurs is quite the drop-off in excitement and talent. I am shocked that most people voted for the Warriors to advance through the play-in, but I do understand that Curry’s elite play of late is a big reason for that. For me, though, I am not betting against LeBron James and Anthony Davis. There’s no way they lose two play-in games.
This is fascinating because two of the best players in NBA history go at it in a one-game set to see who will potentially take seeds seven or eight. While in the prior paragraph I stated that I wouldn’t bet against LeBron, this statistic is much more reasonable. Curry can outshoot anyone and any team on any given night which makes him much more lethal when you consider playing him in just one game. My biggest concern for Golden State is the supporting cast...sure, Curry will most likely drop 40, but can you count on his teammates to also shoulder the load? I am not so optimistic there.
I think the Boston Celtics are the most likely to advance. The Indiana Pacers have been depleted by injuries, and let’s be honest, even when at full strength, they’re nothing more than an “okay” basketball team. Jayson Tatum has really steed up in recent weeks, and from a talent standpoint, they definitely have the most talented roster out of any Eastern Conference play-in team. Will it happen against the Brooklyn Nets? Probably not. Can they make it competitive? Sure!
I am with the masses on this one! LaMelo Ball is great for the NBA, I love the swagger and how he carries himself on and off the court. It is unfortunate that he suffered a wrist injury that sidelined him for over a few weeks. Anthony Edwards is also a talented young player who will look to turn around the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves...while that is no easy task, keeping him and KAT is a good start. While I am bullish about the overall state of the T-Wolves, it is good to see them have two young cornerstones...for now. Tyrese Haliburton is going to be a problem (in a good way!) for a very long time. However, the dysfunction that is the franchise of the Sacramento Kings is concerning as we have seen them give up on young talent before.
Can’t go wrong with either of the players listed here, but for me, I would also agree that Rudy Gobert is the easy choice to win the Defensive Player Of the Year award. His ability to alter shots is otherworldly, when he is on the court, opposing players don’t even think about attacking the rim. I also love both Ben Simmons and Bam Adebayo’s ability to defend on the perimeter. I believe Giannis Antetokounmpo should get a little more love for DPOY, but as I said, Gobert is the clear winner.
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