Hi Bucks fans! So, this is my playoff version of my extended forecasts, and now, we are going to analyze the six teams the Bucks are likely to face, and the advantages and disadvantages of playing each. Here are the six teams we will be looking closer at in approximately current order of seeding (as of Friday, April 1):
5 seed Chicago
6 seed Toronto
7 seed Cleveland
8 seed Brooklyn
9 seed Charlotte
10 seed Atlanta
I’m pretty confident the Bucks are going to finish in the top two seeds, since they have a sizeable lead over the 76ers and the Celtics are without Robert Williams. But you never know, which is why I’m including the Bulls and Raptors, who are one half game away from each other for the five seed. Both of these teams are perhaps exceeding expectations (for sure my expectations) but these cores haven’t been super-successful in the postseason before.
With the Bucks in the 1 or 2 seed, any of the other four options are possible. I’m sure you remember the postseason opponents from last year, and two of them (Brooklyn and Atlanta) are among them. They both took two games from the Bucks last year, and if Charlotte can beat the Hawks and Brooklyn that would be what I would wish for, with Cleveland obviously beating knocking out Brooklyn. There is also the possibility of an eight seed Charlotte, which would only require Cleveland or Charlotte defeating Brooklyn or Atlanta. Regardless, I hope it’s Cleveland or Charlotte. Both are very young and inexperienced playoff teams, especially in recent history.
Let’s now take a look team by team, in alphabetical order since seeds are nowhere near final at this point.
The Hawks have disappointed, but are surging similarly to how they were last year. Just much, much later and they won’t be a guarantee in the postseason. Let’s see what they look like.
Why I don’t want to face the Hawks is because of how dangerous than can be. Trae Young is electric, and they have a lot of potential, as we saw last year, to stop us. I still don’t know how we got past them without Giannis, but the fact that they got us in a losing predicament is scary. They also have a lot of depth here, and probably are hungry for revenge.
Atlanta didn’t feel like the same team, and still don’t, even though they’ve been hot lately. They were bad for a reason, and it wasn’t all just injuries because aside from De’Andre Hunter the other six top players played in at least 55 games. They simply just don’t feel the same.
Projected to be the NBA champions heading into the season, the Nets have really underperformed. With Joe Harris and probably Ben Simmons unlikely to be in the postseason mix, the Nets are without two clear starters. But, they get Kyrie Irving for every game, and he and Kevin Durant both should be fresh for the postseason.
Let’s start with why I don’t want the Nets in the postseason. This is like that team with a 30-4 record in the NCAA tournament (I guess I’m still in March Madness mode) and you’re wondering why having such a good season earned you this team. I don’t care about that awful stretch, if you get rid of it they would be on pace to be around where the Bucks are. They didn’t have Irving, Durant or even James Harden for some of the stretch, so it’s not like they were fully healthy. Only Patty Mills, Bruce Brown and rookie Cam Thomas have played in 3⁄4 of the games, so they really struggled with injury. They also have two dynamic late-game scorers, and regardless of how the recent game went in Brooklyn, if Durant hits a shot the Bucks lose. I don’t like those odds, he’s been there, done that. So has Irving.
As for why I wouldn’t mind the Nets, I think we can beat them. Are they my preferred option? Definitely not. But we are 3-1 against them this season, we beat them last year, and we will have home court advantage against everyone in the first round, likely the second round. The lack of congruency also might make this a lost year for them. We also have the potential for better defense.
I would say if you flipped Charlotte’s record around, that’s right around where people thought they would be. Just under .500, maybe a few under, and right around the play-in mix. But, with an All-Star campaign from LaMelo Ball, a breakout season from Miles Bridges, and some others as well, the Hornets might have their best team ever. That doesn’t say much though.
Charlotte has seven players averaging double figures, so depth is a strength here. Playoff rotations shrink, but not in the first round as much, and Charlotte’s 9-10 deep top to bottom could arguably be better than the Buck’s. Hold on before you get up in arms, I’m saying their players after their top six might be better than ours. They also have Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier, both of whom were on that team that shut down Eric Bled-no-show in Boston, and bring that experience with them. This is a different team though.
I can’t really believe I had that much to say about why I don’t want to play Charlotte. I mean, they were somewhat successful against us this season, so that says something, but overall we are much better. The three best players on these rosters are on the Bucks, we have one of the better coaches in basketball, and we have the playoff experience both from winning and losing. This would be a nice warmup team that isn’t as bad as an Orlando, so we would get a challenge that is beatable to start.
The Bulls have been very good, and have done a good job of being able to exceed expectations outside of Chicago. I didn’t think signing up a washed-up, seemingly, DeMar DeRozan would be beneficial to this team. I thought they would be too small to be successful, not having a backup for Nikola Vucevic would work, but they have destroyed my expectations. I thought they’d be around the playoffs, but not what they did the first 3⁄4 of the season. DeMar had his best season, and Billy Donovan’s team is going to be a threat.
This team will likely get up to play the Bucks, after the recent beatdowns in the Budenholzer era, and the recent beatdown on Alex Caruso. That hasn’t been enough to this point as the Bucks have been very successful against the Bulls this year, but this team will fight us. I’m also nervous about the DeRozan-Zach LaVine duo, who have the highest scoring pair in the NBA.
I’m not worried about the Bulls. I don’t want to get the four seed and play them due to that, but it wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize. The same reasons I explained in my preseason analysis are the same reasons why they struggle against us, and with our experience we are in a much better position. DeMar has postseason experience, but he hasn’t been that far. Aside from him, Vucevic has played in the first round. Will Tristan Thompson’s four years with LeBron be that influential? Caruso with LeBron? I don’t think if James Jones or Eddie House went to an upstart roster, they would be more dangerous because they have LeBron experience. I’m grasping at straws as to why the Bucks could lose.
Cleveland has been successful this season, and they are really surprising as to how successful. I said that they could be a dark-horse playoff team, for the actual playoffs, and here they are. This is with Kevin Love only starting four games and Collin Sexton only playing in 11. All-Star seasons by Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, and a potential Rookie of the Year in Evan Mobley is why this team rose up. Injuries killed them lately, but they still have a chance at the five seed.
I don’t like the length of this team, if anybody could build a good wall against the Bucks, wouldn’t it be Cleveland? Allen, Love, Mobley and Lauri Markkanen are all power forwards and small-ball centers, and they defend and/or rebound well. Darius Garland is having a 22 PPG, 9 APG season. Kevin Love also has plenty of playoff experience to lead this team, and seems to be flourishing on the bench. He’s an underrated option for Sixth Man of the Year. They also have playoff Rondo.
This team is still battered by injuries, as I said in the Extended Forecast, and will for sure be without backup big Dean Wade. Allen, Mobley, Rondo and possibly others are hurt. None of the starters are that experienced in the postseason. They are super young. I feel like they are probably fading out.
Toronto looked like an awful team, especially without Pascal Siakam to start the season. But, here they are, possibly the five seed, and they have the best starting lineup in basketball. No superstars are here, but all five starters are very good. Nick Nurse might be basketball’s best coach.
Okay, so we didn’t beat the Raptors this season. Some think that is a coincidence, but ever since we went up 2-0 on them we just have struggled with this team. I think the Raptors are not the same team, but until we can actually beat them, we have to be concerned, no? They also don’t have a weak link in the starting lineup.
The Raptors are not very good on the bench. Toronto doesn’t have much depth, backup point guard and at the wing is not very deep. Aside from Chris Boucher, they really don’t have much here. They also don’t necessarily have that clutch player.
This is the order of who I want the Bucks to face top to bottom:
Cleveland, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Toronto
It came down to Chicago and Cleveland, and Cleveland likely means it is because we got a top two seed and currently has more injuries. Toronto is scarier to me than Brooklyn, just because of past success only. Brooklyn is a better team in appearance, but with matchups I’m more scared of Toronto. What do you think? Vote and comment below.