clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Extended Forecast: 2021 NBA Finals Rematch Before the Break

And the Trade Deadline and the All-Star Game

2021 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Milwaukee Bucks
I’m 99.99% Sure This is THE Block

Welcome to the latest addition of Brew Hoop’s Extended Forecast, where the Milwaukee Bucks find themselves back in the contention conversation. This is a season-long series, covering all 82 games and giving an extended forecast of what the schedule looks like for the Bucks. Obviously, the first and second upcoming games will be the easiest to predict, since we have more information on injuries, trades, COVID-19 cases, etc. But in general, we still should have an idea of what is coming. Or not?


Let’s start off with a quick poll

Poll

What Are You Looking Forward to Most?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    All-Star Weekend
    (17 votes)
  • 33%
    Rematch with the Suns
    (75 votes)
  • 53%
    Trade Deadline
    (119 votes)
  • 4%
    Other (Comment Please!)
    (10 votes)
221 votes total Vote Now

Hi Milwaukee Bucks fans! This is a special All-Star edition for the extended forecast, which will have us exploring the upcoming trade deadline, and re-celebrating the 2021 NBA Finals! Wait, why are we remembering the Finals? Well, if you can’t tell by the photo, and the title, this is our first rematch against the NBA Runner-Up and Western Conference Champions, the Phoenix Suns, since the Larry O’Brien Trophy returned to Milwaukee last July!!! And we are going to be celebrating this, at least I am, like the 1985 Bears do it. The way they talk about that team is like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers never happened to them, so that’s how I’m treating last season’s Bucks, until they add to it.

I do have a bit of a back story though to my connections to Phoenix, since I haven’t really talked much about the Suns here. First off, I spent a decent amount of time living in Tempe, and originally thought of that as my “dream destination,” or at least the Phoenix area. I have my mom’s sister’s entire family out there, including three cousins and eight of their children, and now another cousin who goes to ASU. Those are some of my connections to Phoenix, let’s just say that.

Backing up even further, the first season that I really remember was 2002-03, and I remember hearing a radio call from Ted Davis (miss him and Jim Paschke still), that Marcus Haislip was starting a playoff game. That made me realize that our franchise was not very good, and my uncle and dad (but mostly my uncle) kept saying Herb Kohl just wouldn’t be a good enough owner to get them over the hump. And while I did beg my dad to take me and my friends to plenty of Bucks’ games throughout middle school and high school, and I sat through three games during Giannis’ first season in person, I had to find another team to root for, since I didn’t like the Lakers or LeBron. Before I followed Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to Boston’s bandwagon that year, I found love liking in the Phoenix Suns. I know, I know, but those teams with Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion were so fun to watch. More fun than Marcus Haislip for sure. I hope the younger people out there that read this can go check out some highlights. Those were Mike D’Antoni’s glory days, and where small-ball kind of started. To sum up, Phoenix winning the Finals would have been my second-best outcome, but don’t get me wrong, I was in that bar across from the Harp downtown jumping and screaming when Jrue Holiday got that steal in game five, and if there wasn’t traffic all the way back in Oconomowoc, I would have been there for game six. So, I’m glad how things turned out, I just wouldn’t have been as disappointed say if it were the Lakers.

On another note, it’s also the trade deadline, and since my strength is my knowledge of teams around the association along with the Bucks, (which is why I thought up the Extended Forecast) I will be adding in a trade deadline portion to the normal overview of the games ahead. As for what do I think the Bucks need, I think they need to find their way back from the trudging along through the regular season. Aside from that, since we can’t rely on Brook Lopez at this point and Mamu is a reliable backup at this point in his career, we need a true center. It’s why I don’t entirely understand dumping DeMarcus Cousins, and for whoever commented last time “we play as big as anybody,” that’s just not true. We only have two players who regularly play that are taller than 6‘8“, and they are Giannis and Bobby Portis. We need a big, I don’t care who, but we need help up there to spell some time for Bobby and Giannis without being forced to play Mamu. As I wrapped up writing this, they did just sign Greg Monroe, but will that really last through after the All-Star break? I’m not sure it’s a better solution than Boogie, is it? At least, if they don’t find a player who isn’t on a 10-day.

Now, I will briefly sum up what happened in last time’s forecast, since I’ve already said quite a bit about other events with the Bucks. Starting off, the Bucks struggled to contain Kevin Love and Cedi Osman in Cleveland, but followed it up with stopping Julius Randle and the Knicks. Then, an embarrassing blowout from Denver at home followed, and we then were able to move on to the Wizards and somewhat get past them without Bradley Beal, so we lucked out with injuries again. We finished the forecast out west with games against Portland and the Clippers, and that included a blowout of a short-handed Blazers’ team. We finished off by beating the Clippers, albeit without Paul George. Here is my record prediction followed by the forecast itself.

Julies 2021-22 Prediction: 37-18

The Bucks’ Actual Record: 34-21

Turns out, I was 100% correct about my prediction, so it sounds like we need to listen to my pessimism more. The majority of you thought we would go 5-1 or 6-0, and that I “overestimated” these teams. Well, Denver and the Cavaliers had something else in mind.

To start, we finish off part two of the road trip against the Lakers and the Suns. I wouldn’t count on either of those being wins, but the one against the Lakers is much more advantageous, especially since that will be the Bucks’ third day or so in Los Angeles. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Giannis, Middleton (and others) took the Phoenix game off, since they will be in the All-Star Game. Following that and the deadline, the Bucks come back home for a six-game homestand (three of which will be covered in this forecast). It’s a pretty nice stretch post-ASB, since we get a rematch game against the short-handed Portland Trailblazers, and our last game against the Pacers, who may or may not have a completely different roster by that point. We then finish this forecast with a home game against the 76ers, who may or may not have flipped Ben Simmons for a star. Let’s move into the details on each team.

@LA Lakers February 8th

Well, it looks like Anthony Davis returned in the time of our last forecast, so that obviously makes this team much better. Let’s see if he actually gets to play against the Bucks though, since the Lakers are a team that rests players when they can. I do really appreciate that the NBA schedule allows us to play back-to-back games in LA, and gives the Bucks a nice rest heading into the All-Star break after the Phoenix game. What’s better than five days or so in nice weather, then three more days off?

As for how the Lakers are playing, it’s pretty average. LeBron James has done everything he can to hold this team afloat especially during the absence of Anthony Davis, and aside from having what looks like the best team 2013 could have to offer, he really doesn’t get much support from his supporting cast. Russell Westbrook has numbers and that’s about it, Carmelo Anthony is a nice bench option. Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan aren’t really working out. Avery Bradley has been doing solid, and COVID pickup Stanley Johnson has been nice. Malik Monk and Talen Horton-Tucker are averaging in double figures. But I really don’t see much here beyond LeBron and AD.

Speaking of them, LeBron is the scoring leader, Davis is the theoretical rebounds and shot-blocking leader, but those go to Westbrook and LeBron since he is out. Westbrook is the true assists leader, and LeBron leads in steals as well. As for injuries, any of those three could miss this game for a rest day, but we do know for sure that Kendrick Nunn will still not make his season debut by now.

As for the trade possibilities, I won’t talk about Westbrook here. Instead, here’s what I think the Lakers are going to need during the trade deadline, which is a way to mesh this roster together. At this point, it is pretty obvious that the Lakers switching out entire rosters every season doesn’t work well (see them not being a top-six seed) so I think they should try and be part of a trade that involves a bit of a roster shuffle. For instance, trading Jordan, Ariza and Horton-Tucker for three different players. They need a fresher roster.

@Phoenix February 10th

The return to the Valley of the Sun is the night before the All-Star break, so the NBA is really going to be marketing this game up. Why wouldn’t they? This was the Finals last season and very well could be again (see above). They are (the best) team in the NBA right now, and they have been without some depth players like Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric all season. Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker have also missed some time as well. But, it seems that Chris Paul really has this team pushing for the Finals, averaging around 10 assists per game. Ayton is averaging a nearly twenty-point double-double after coming up short in game six, and Booker is scoring as usual. Phoenix has also added some nice pieces to the regular season roster as well. Elfrid Payton, a capable starting point guard, is third-string here. Getting Landry Shamet for essentially Jevon Carter from Brooklyn was an underrated move, and who knew Olympian JaVale McGee would average 10 and 7 off the bench in about 16 minutes a night? This team really is a threat to the Bucks, should they both return to the Finals.

Booker is the scoring leader, Ayton might qualify by now, but for now it is JaVale with rebounds and blocks. Chris Paul leads in assists and steals. As for injuries, Saric, Kaminsky, Cameron Payne, Abdel Nader and Landry Shamet are all out until at least February 7th. Payne, Nader and Shamet will likely be questionable, with Kaminsky and Saric out.

Now on to the deadline, what does a team with the NBA’s best record and two role players injured long-term? Not much, but maybe some tide-me-over-depth, like players better than Abdel Nader and Jalen Smith, while they await the probable returns of Kaminsky, Saric and Payne.

Portland February 14th

The Bucks blew out Portland without Lillard on Saturday, so I’m going to skip analyzing this team. Instead, here is what I realized when I watched that game. Portland just did that trade that involved Norman Powell for Eric Bledsoe and Justise Winslow (and two irrelevant players to this train of thought). The Bucks’ also just signed Greg Monroe. Monroe was the key piece in the trade that brought Bledsoe to Milwaukee. Bledsoe and George Hill were the key pieces that brought Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Rodney Hood was the key piece that brought Powell to Portland, from Toronto where he became our nemesis and stopped the Bledsoe-Bucks in 2019. Powell was drafted by the Bucks, who for some reason wanted Greivis Vasquez. Winslow and that Duke guy were Duke teammates for that blasphemous title run, and last season in Memphis. It’s like it all came full circle in this game.

What does Portland need at the deadline? I think moving CJ McCollum might not be a bad idea, especially to let Anfernee Simons get some more minutes. But in my honest opinion, I think that was their big move. Amongst active, current and qualifying Blazers, Simons leads in points and assists, and Nurkic leads in rebounds, blocks and steals. Lillard, Cody Zeller, and Nassir Little will for sure be out, and Bledsoe, Keon Johnson and Larry Nance Jr. are toss-ups. None of those latter three players played during our Saturday meeting.

Indiana February 15th

The Pacers are one of the teams that is likely to get rid of a lot of the roster and try and restart, since that has finally become an inevitable process for them. They have been floating since the LeBron James/Miami Heat days when they made the conference finals, and with being the third-worst team in the East (which really says something), they need to start over. Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis are still the two stars of this team, and they have solid complementary pieces such as Myles Turner. The Bucks are 3-0 against this team so far, and while I was concerned about not being able to sweep the Pacers last time, I don’t have that concern anymore.

Sabonis leads in points and rebounds, as well as assists due to Brogdon missing quite a bit of this season. Turner is the NBA’s shot-blocking leader, and solid rookie Chris Duarte leads in steals. Lance Stephenson has also played about 20 minutes per game in 15 games, and has been doing well enough to be signed for the season. As for injuries, TJ Warren, TJ McConnell and Myles Turner will definitely be out. Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis likely won’t play before the All-Star break, but with the trades that should happen here, it’s hard to speculate anybody else being out.

Indiana needs to tear down the roster, with only Brogdon and Chris Duarte as untouchable (but not super untouchable), and they started that by trading LeVert. Getting Turner and TJ Warren off the books with nothing in return can expedite what this roster looks like in the future.

Philadelphia February 17th

I don’t care if Simmons is around, this team is good regardless of his presence, and I think they are starting to realize they may even be better. They have rapidly climbed the standings since last time we saw them back in November, or even since Christmas Day. An 11-3 month of January will do that, as well as an MVP kind of season from Joel Embiid (why did we take Jabari Parker again?). If the 76ers finish in the top two or three in the East and the Bucks don’t, Embiid is my pick for MVP.

Joel is the leader in points, rebounds and blocks, and has played in 80% of the games which is a lot for him. Tyrese Maxey is the leader in assists, and his emergence as the third option behind Embiid and Tobias Harris has been key for the ascension of this team lately. Matisse Thybulle leads in steals. As for injuries, Ben Simmons won’t be playing whether or not he is here, and Shake Milton has been battling injuries and may be out.

When it comes to trades, Philadelphia isn’t going to find a taker for Simmons, but they should try to. Aside from Simmons, I think trying to flip one of the many guards on this roster for a quality forward to backup and maybe play alongside Tobias Harris could be useful. Not predicting this, but something like Shake Milton for Dorian Finney-Smith. Even without Simmons playing, this team has a lot of guards at its’ disposal.

Julie’s Prediction: 3-2

The Bucks have just been too mediocre for me to really believe in them at this point. Having Phoenix in this forecast is basically making me feel a loss is for sure in this group. I also think beating Portland and Indiana are pretty much certainties. So, that makes the road game in Los Angeles and the home game with Philadelphia the ones up for debate. So, I divided that in half, but I think it realistically could go either way here. 4-1 and 2-3 are both realistic, but I think this is too tough of a group to believe that 5-0 is possible. The Bucks also won’t let themselves turn back the clock 15 years, will they? What do you think? Vote and comment below.

Poll

What Do You Think the Bucks’ Record Will Be Over the Next Five Games?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    5-0 (Phoenix Is Not That Good, Obviously)
    (23 votes)
  • 48%
    4-1 (Julie Needs to Exorcise the Demons from the Early 2000’s and Get More Optimistic)
    (77 votes)
  • 31%
    3-2 (Julie’s *Correct* Prediction)
    (51 votes)
  • 5%
    2-3 (We Found Someone/people More Pessimistic!)
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    0-5 or 1-4 (Remember, This Isn’t 2013-14)
    (1 vote)
160 votes total Vote Now