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NBA Analyst

NBA Analyst

NBA Finals Preview

It’s that time of year again. At 9:00 tonight, the Bucks and Suns will tip-off to begin their battle for the championship, and I’m here to break things down for NBA fans around the world.

First things first, and everyone’s talking about it. Will Giannis be healthy for the Finals? As of right now, the status of Milwaukee’s star player is up in the air, and nobody knows for sure if/when he will make his debut on an NBA Finals stage. As I stated previously, if Giannis isn’t 100% for the Finals, it would be best for him not to play altogether. As we observed with Trae Young, a player not at 100% can hurt your team. Especially with Giannis’s game, gaining momentum and driving towards the hoop, knee soreness will make that task especially difficult, and therefore we would likely witness him settling for jumpers. This hurts the Bucks’ chances for a championship, and Coach Budenholzer cannot risk that.

Another key is the pick and roll game. Throughout the regular season, the Bucks allowed the 2nd most deep two-pointers on the 2nd best FG%. The Suns took the fourth most deep two-pointers and hit them at the highest rate in the league. We all are well aware that Devin Booker and Chris Paul are two of the best mid-range shooters in our game today. However, Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks have shown that they are capable of adjusting successfully as they did against Trae Young and the Hawks. Atlanta’s go-to move was the pick and roll game with Trae Young and Clint Capela or John Collins. It had worked wonders throughout the regular season, against the Knicks, the Sixers, and the Bucks until they made their adjustments. They ramped up their traditional and standardized defense which made it more difficult on the Hawks. They also ended up switching (literally) everything, even if that meant Bobby Portis or Brook Lopez had to go dance with Trae Young. The Bucks utilized the regular season to experiment and toy with multiple defensive coverages that would prepare them for any defense they could face in the playoffs, and that preparation will unquestionably come in handy for this series. That being said, Milwaukee will be thoroughly equipped and ready to prevent Booker and Paul from executing on pick and roll actions that conclude to a deep two-pointer. The final comment I have on the Bucks defense: they will do everything they can to confuse and fluster Chris Paul. Paul knows the game better than anyone, so the Bucks with their various defensive coverages will throw multiple looks at him to distract him in any way they can. It’s not going to be easy to rattle Paul, but Milwaukee just might have a chance with their numerous and diversified defensive playcalling. As for Chris on defense, the Suns could very well hide the 36-year-old on P.J. Tucker or any other mildly used player to dare Milwaukee to involve that individual in their offense.

I believe that the two X-factors in this series will be Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. With the Suns’ tough and rugged defense, Ayton plays an integral role as the man in the middle. The communication between him and his teammates surrounding him needs to be on point 100% of the time. Offensively, Ayton won’t exactly be in a starring role, but the points will pile up eventually. With all the switching Milwaukee does (again, adjustments will be made, but the Bucks have made it clear in their play that they want to switch), Ayton will obtain matchups where he is operating against a substantially shorter and smaller defender. Although Ayton won’t be the focal point of the offense, Chris Paul and Monty Williams need to utilize Ayton to the best of his ability (shooting 79.4% from the restricted area during these playoffs) on that end of the floor. As for Bridges, he will likely be the player tasked with guarding Khris Middleton. I acknowledge that most individuals perceive an ‘X-factor’ to be such on the offensive end. I choose Mikal Bridges because of his defensive impact. His 7’1 wingspan and 8’4 standing reach will make things challenging for the opponent. Middleton will have a tough time getting shots off let alone making them. Now, just because I selected Bridges because of his defense doesn’t mean he can’t hold his own on offense. Although he’s ‘only’ shooting 35.1% from three so far throughout the playoffs, he’s shown capability with his dribbling and ability to create a shot off the dribble. Considering his offense isn’t required for the Suns’ success, I don’t expect him to be overly involved in the offense given the defensive assignment he will be presented.

Lastly, the Bucks thrived on their ability to push in transition. How do fast breaks begin? Turnovers or defensive rebounding outlets. The Suns limit turnovers as we all recognize and they are immediately crashing on defense after a shot goes up, prioritizing defense over offensive rebounding. This will make it difficult for Milwaukee to get buckets in transition. Combine that with the fact that Giannis may or may not even be playing throughout the series makes things even more difficult for them. If Phoenix limits the number of fastbreak points the Bucks score, they force Milwaukee into setting up their offense every trip down the floor to create a good shot. You can’t argue, with two of the best defenses in the league, the Suns with Chris Paul are better at manufacturing points off of good shots than the Bucks are.