The Toronto Raptors will beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Bucks slogan has been fear the deer. Would a dinosaur like a velociraptor fear a deer/buck? No. People don’t even fear deer, but deer tend to fear people. Maybe I should start talking about basketball?
Who are the players to fear on the Bucks?
Giannis Antetokounmpo the “Greek Freak” is the player to fear on the Bucks. He’s great at creating for himself, good at creating for others, and terrific on defense. Giannis’s one weakness much like DeMar DeRozan is that he struggles with the three ball. PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka have turned the Raptors from one of the weaker defensive teams to one of the strongest in the league. Tucker is great at bodying, frustrating, and annoying the opposition. If he can take Giannis off his game just a little it will be huge for the Raptors. On the flip side, the expectation is that the Greek Freak will try to silence DeMar DeRozan. Should we be worried about that? Well, Paul George shutdown DeRozan last season in the first round of the playoffs and the Raptors would able to pull off a game seven series win.
Khris Middleton has killed the Raptors in previous seasons, but should we be worried about him? Prior to the Raptors getting Tucker and Ibaka the Raptors were notoriously bad at closing out on threes. That improvement and the fact that Middleton isn’t much removed from a major injury doesn’t massively scare me as much as he may have in previous seasons.
It’s interesting to note the Raptors have made five more threes than the Bucks this season. The Raptors trading Ross and the Bucks gaining Middleton back mid-season may tilt the three-point advantage slightly towards the Bucks. Plus, the Bucks have shot 37% from three whereas the Raptors have shot only 36.3%.
Malcolm Brogdon has had a very nice season for the Bucks. However, he is a rookie so it’s hard to imagine him being a mega-threat in his first time on the big stage. So at the same time, I have to be fair and admit Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam won’t be major threats either, but that’s not to say Poeltl won’t be useful for short stretches.
In theory, the Raptors should have an advantage against the Bucks at point guard and center. If Kyle Lowry is 100% it would be hard to imagine Delly or Brogdon shutting him down. Yes, George Hill played Lowry well last year, but Hill is in that group of elite point guard defenders. Since the Bucks don’t have a George Hill, Kyle Lowry should be able to give the Raptors a massive boost.
At center, whether the Raptors are rolling with Valanciunas or Ibaka it’s hard to imagine the Bucks having anyone that can matchup with either. Greg Monroe would be the guy I would expect to start against Jonas Valanciunas. Jonas is far more lethal and proved it by being the Raptors most consistent player in the playoffs last year against the Pacers and Heat before getting injured. Monroe tends to be on a super short leash with Jason Kidd. Greg only playing only 22.5 mpg is a joke considering the Bucks don’t have serviceable backups at center. John Henson had his share of starts and then would just not play when Kidd figured out he wasn’t good. Spencer Hawes isn’t good either in case you were thinking about him. Rookie Thon Maker has shown brief signs of life, but again he’s a rookie so he shouldn’t be a concern from a Raptors perspective. The Bucks were 29th in the NBA this season in total rebounding and rebounding per 100 possessions, so Valanciunas and Ibaka should feast on the glass.
Fear No Deer
Jason Kidd may have beaten the Raptors with the Nets. He had veterans that knew how to play the game that didn’t require much coaching. Now with the Bucks, Jason is in over his head coaching a team with a lot of young talent. You can bet Dwane Casey will be prepared for the rematch. The Raptors have been 204-124 over the last four years with coach Casey. You might not want to consider him an elite coach, but name a team with a better record in the Eastern Conference in that span. I’ll wait.