*** Over the next two weeks the Cream City Central Staff will be previewing how the Bucks would match up with each of the Eastern Conference Playoff teams.
What a season it’s been Bucks fans! Against all odds and predictions we have secured the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. The acquisition of Greg Monroe has paid off, with him being one of the most dominant big-men in the league and Jason Kidd has developed Michael Carter-Williams as one of the league’s top-shooters. In the first round of the playoffs, they will play the 44-38 Detroit Pistons who are making their first appearance in the postseason since 2009.
The Piston’s Probable Lineup for the Playoffs.
G Reggie Jackson 6’3”, Boston College
G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 6’5”, Georgia
F Tobias Harris 6’9”, Tennessee
F Marcus Morris 6’9”, Kansas
C Andre Drummond 6’11”, Connecticut
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Pistons
A big strength that opens a lot of eyes for the Pistons is the scoring of their two guards, along with having arguably the best center in the league this season. Reggie Jackson is averaging almost 19 points a game while Caldwell-Pope is averaging 14.5. To top it all off Drummond averages 16 a game down low while snatching a league high 15 rebounds. Another great strength the Pistons have is their midseason acquisition Tobias Harris whom they traded Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova for. Harris a young scoring forward averages 16.5 points while grabbing 6 rebounds a game. A major strength Detroit also has is their team rebounding. They rank 2nd in the league with 46 boards a game. The Pistons have a lot of scoring options which is apparent as all five of their starter’s average double-digit points a game but they have a lot of weaknesses. One of their weaknesses is lack of consistency as a team, exemplified in their team field goal percentage. At 43 percent they rank 25th in the league only in front of New York, Charlotte, Phoenix, Philadelphia and the Lakers. They do rank better in 3-point percentage but they are still in the bottom 10 at 21 with a 34.5 percentage. Detroit also distributes the ball very sparingly, only averaging as a team 19 assists which gives them a league ranking of 27. This may be due to many of their players such as Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Harris and Drummond having the ability to create their own offense since they are all known as scorers first. Last and probably their biggest weakness is their bench. They have the worst scoring bench in the league only scoring 26 points a game. Their top scorer off the bench is rookie forward Stanley Johnson who has shown impressive flashes but only averages 8 points a game in 23 minutes. Their bench also ranks last in the league in field goal percentage only garnering a 40 percentage. This is all a huge weakness because a big aspect of an NBA bench is being a spark-plug and it can’t be that with the lack of scoring.
How the Bucks Would Matchup
As Central Division rivals these two teams faced each other four times this season and Detroit took the series 3-1. Game One was the Bucks lone win winning in Milwaukee 109-81, while Detroit would take the next three games 102-95, 102-91 and 92-91. Milwaukee averaged 96.5 points a game against the Pistons with a 49 field goal percentage. Interestingly enough Detroit struggled the most against Milwaukee out of any team with 3-point shooting as the Bucks averaged a 48 three-point percentage. Also very interestingly enough Milwaukee was the 6th best team against Detroit in rebounding which is the Pistons specialty. Milwaukee managed to get 45 rebounds a game in their season series against the Pistons which is very impressive. What gets even more interesting was during the season Detroit only averaged 96 points a game against Milwaukee while pulling down 45 rebounds. That’s right Milwaukee averaged more or equal points and rebounds than Detroit but still managed to lose 3 out of 4 games. A big reason is obviously the point differential in their first game which was a Bucks blowout while all 3 of Detroit’s wins were fairly close.
Enough about the past, let’s talk about player matchups and do we have some juicy ones in this series. Because the Bucks starting five this season was very inconsistent, particularly with the point guard and center position, it’s very difficult to go on past head to head stats. The one big matchup that sticks out is Giannis against former Buck Tobias Harris. As a Magic and a Piston Harris was held under his average points per game when he faced Giannis. In Giannis’ games against Harris he went well over his average except for one game where he only got 7 points. Giannis also has a 2-inch height advantage which is largely significant in his style of play. Another intriguing matchup is the potential of former Piston Greg Monroe against Andre Drummond. Since Monroe did not start in all games against the Pistons his averages are not complete but Drummond boasted very good numbers keeping with his season point average but get near or more than 20 rebounds a game. Both are in similar stature but Drummond has had the by far more impressive season establishing himself as an elite center while Monroe hasn’t fit well with the team and even losing his starting spot to Miles Plumlee. The last intriguing matchup is of the benches. The weakness of Detroit’s bench was mentioned before but Milwaukee’s isn’t much greater averaging a single point more than Detroit’s this season. The one player and factor the Buck’s bench has over Detroit is a single player who can score and that’s Jerryd Bayless. Bayless averaged 10.5 points a game this season but he ranks among the league’s top 3-point shooters, shooting at 43 percent, which is leaps and bounds better than anyone on Detroit’s bench. Even individually the players on the Buck’s bench have more of a potential to score and make plays than the individuals on the Pistons. Because of injuries and lineup changes, statistically it hasn’t shown for their bench and much like the Pistons the Bucks lacked outside shooting which would space out the opposing defense. The series and matchup of these two teams will very much happen in the paint but the immergence of an outside shooter could be the winning difference.
What the Future Holds
Both team’s days are brighter in the future. Milwaukee will try to develop as a team now that Jabari is completely healthy and MCW will have to get healthy. If they cannot get production as a team with MCW and Monroe they will probably trade them and be happy starting Ennis and Plumlee as they both looked impressive and fitting in their starts. For the future Milwaukee will probably be desperately seeking outside shooters as Middleton and Bayless are the teams only true shooters if Mayo doesn’t get resigned. With acquiring new shooters they will have to develop the jump-shots of Giannis, Jabari and Rashad Vaughn if they want to stretch the floor and be more offensively efficient.
As far as the Pistons they will need to continue to stay on track of Coach Stan Van Gundy’s system. Van Gundy led the Magic to the finals in 2010 with a lineup that in many ways is similar to the Pistons. The big thing the Magic had was their depth and that is something nearly existent for Detroit. They have Stanley Johnson who is very promising and they will probably try to develop him as a starter but they will have to totally gut out their bench for the future. They have two solid anchors to build around in Reggie Jackson at point and Drummond who is the best center in the league. If both teams develop to plan this could be a solid playoff rivalry in the next couple years.