The Milwaukee Bucks are currently sitting third in the Eastern Conference with a 22-14 record. It has been a roller coaster season for the Bucks, but they are only two games behind the first seed 76ers. Going into the second half of the 2020-2021 season, though, there are some big questions the Bucks need to answer if they are to finally break through in the playoffs. We break down three of the biggest questions here.
Question #1- Can They Fix the Three-Point Defense?
Last season, the Bucks had the highest-rated defense in the NBA. Despite that ranking, they struggled to defend the three. Those struggles have continued into this season in a glaring way. Currently, Milwaukee has the 19th ranked three point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 37.4% from behind the arc. Among teams currently ranked in their conference’s top eight seeds, only the Spurs, Hornets, and Raptors have worse three point defenses.
The simple fact of the matter is that this three point defense is not good enough to compete for a championship. When the Bucks were dismissed from the playoffs by the Miami Heat last season, it was in part because of the three point defense. In that series, the Heat shot 37.3% from behind the arc, an almost identical mark to what the Bucks are giving up this season. If Coach Budenholzer cannot figure out a defensive scheme that will disrupt opponents’ outside shooting, the Bucks will be watching the Finals from their couches again.
Question #2- Can Donte DiVincenzo Bounce Back?
Donte DiVincenzo was almost shipped out of Milwaukee in the botched Bogdon Bogdonovich trade this past offseason. Since then, though, he has been the Bucks’ starting shooting guard, replacing Wes Matthews who signed with the Lakers.
At the beginning of the season, it looked as if DiVincenzo was going to be a bright spot in the lineup. He was shooting close to 50% from three and his defense was solid. However, as the season has gone on, his shooting averages have dropped and dropped and dropped. Thanks to his hot start, he is still shooting 38.6% from three, which is not bad overall. However, it keeps trending down and he must stabilize it, if not improve it. Most glaringly, though, are his inability to finish near the basket and his 63.6 free throw percentage.
DiVincenzo is a talented player with a high ceiling. However, if the Bucks are to make it in the playoffs, they need their starting shooting guard to improve his shooting
Question #3- Will There Be a Late-Season Addition?
The Bucks’ current roster looks a great deal different than it did last year. Gone are Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Robin Lopez, and Wes Matthews. Added were Bobby Portis, DJ Augustine, Bryn Forbes, Torrey Craig, and Jrue Holiday.
While the Bucks were unable to add additional free agents due to their proximity to the hard cap, they are getting closer to being able to afford a free agent as the waiver deadline approaches. The Bucks may be in the market for another center or power forward. As it stands, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, and Bobby Portis split time at these two positions. DJ Wilson plays sometimes, but never in close games.
Recently, Blake Griffin was bought out by Detroit and signed with Brooklyn. Perhaps the Bucks will also add a different big man in a similar manner. It would be nice to have a little depth at the four and five positions once the playoffs begin.