The Milwaukee Bucks are not the favorites at BetAnySports to win the NBA title, and maybe that is indicative of a lack of respect. On the “totem pole,” they are below the Los Angeles Lakers (+250) and tied with the Los Angeles Clippers at +320.
The great Giannis is likely to win the MVP, and rightly so, because he is not only the ultimate all-tool player on the offensive end, he is a stopper and legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
And that suits this culture just fine. Mike Budenholzer has built a foundation around defense, and the Bucks have a rather unconventional approach. This is a crew that will allow its opponents to shoot as many threes as they want, but they are not going to give them much of a chance to follow up.
And that is a critical part of defense – not to stop people once, but to finish it.
Milwaukee has the best defensive rebounding percentage in the NBA, and maybe that’s not so difficult when you have someone like Giannis pulling down 11.5 of them per game. Then you have the guys like Khris Middleton (who made the All-Star team), Robin Lopez and even Dante DiVincenzo (former Final Four hero at Villanova) helping to fill in the rest.
Perhaps it was fortuitous that the league shut down, because the Bucks had lost their last three games going into this forced break.
But the super-prepared Budenholzer should have them ready for anything.
They’ll get started on the restart on Friday at 6:30 PM ET at the HP Field House against the Boston Celtics. Milwaukee is a five-point favorite, with a total of 219 points, according to the folks at BetAnySports.
We thought that Milwaukee may not be able to so easily get over the loss of Malcolm Brogdon, a member of the exclusive “50-40-90” group (50% shooting, 40% triples, 90% free throws) But they have adjusted – that’s obvious. And Brogdon missed quite a bit of time, while the Bucks did well without him.
And how well are they doing now? Well, let’s put it this way – they are fourth in the league in three-point shooting and tops in TWO-point shooting; they are they best at shooting percentage defense (allowing 41.3%), mainly because they are incredibly stiff inside the arc (allowing just 45.3%). They are #1 in total rebounds, #3 in blocks, tops in Pace AND Defensive Rating, and by virtue of all this, are comfortably #1 in average margin of victory (11.3 points), which in fact is the fifth best figure in the history of the league.
Eric Bledsoe, who has blossomed into an All-Defensive performer under Budenholzer, might miss some early games because of his quarantine. It’s okay for now, because Milwaukee is leading the East by 5.5 games with only eight being played in the “seeding” period.
What I have found most remarkable about this team is that everybody on the roster – with the exception of Brook Lopez and Marvin Williams, who was acquired not long before the shutdown – was drafted outside of the top ten. These guys really know how to find the diamonds in the rough. They even saw more value than most in Giannis, who was a #15 overall pick.
It hurt quite a bit last year blowing a 2-0 lead against Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals. They can only remedy that one way; by making their way through the conference with as little wear and tear as possible so they can do battle with the Lakers or Clippers or whoever survives the West playoffs.
We’re not sure they are going to cover the number in the restart re-opener against Boston, and they might not even provide a heck of a lot of value at -125 for the “over” on 5.5 wins in seeding, because they aren’t in danger, But they are the class of the East, make no mistake about it, and we could see our way clear to take the +320 odds on them to go all the way.
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