Charles Barkley on the TNT Inside the NBA when discussing the Cavaliers playoff chances,
“They (Cleveland Cavaliers) have too many distractions… “
– Charles Barkley
Stating many personnel issues including the uncertainty of LeBron’s future, new point guard Isaiah Thomas’ status in a contract year, Tristan Thompson’s trade potential. When asked by host Ernie Johnson, about who could dethrone the reigning three-time Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers Sir Charles responded with a surprising answer.
“The Cleveland Cavaliers are not going to make it to The Finals…I want to see the Milwaukee Bucks when @JabariParker comes back.” – Charles Barkley
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 17, 2018
“I want to see the Milwaukee Bucks when Jabari Parker comes back . . .”
“They are a really good matchup. The one thing they are missing is they don’t have a player in the half-court to put the fear back in your heart.” – Charles Barkley
Crazy to think that the inconsistent Bucks could take down the Cavs in a seven-game series, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
There is no question the Bucks have all the potential in the world when fully healthy, but are struggling with their identity right now on a consistent basis. Sir Charles does have a point when he talks about the lack of half-court scoring. The Bucks struggle mightily in the half-court especially in crunch time due to teams packing the paint and frustrating Giannis Antetokounmpo on the drive, causing a lack of fluency in big possessions. I’m with Chuck here with the thought that a healthy Jabari Parker could be the missing piece to the Bucks offensive attack late in games. Jabari’s athleticism would be huge in the half-court forcing defenders to worry about Parker making hard drives to the basket off of an Antetokounmpo drive. Another option Parker offers is his improved jump-shot that was apparent after his first ACL recovery. When playing Cleveland Jabari can bring out either Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson when the Bucks play small and will not only give Giannis more room to create, but create a mismatch for the explosive Parker on the wing.
The return of Jabari will give Coach Jason Kidd the flexibility he desperately needs in his game-to-game rotations. Jabari can run with both the second and first units, if Kidd plays his cards right there should be two sure-fire scorers on the floor at all times when you need to score against the high-powered Cavs offense. Another addition that could prove to be effective for the Bucks against Cleveland would be Mirza Teletovic, if he can return in some capacity after suffering from a blood-clot that was thought to end the sharpshooters season. Parker and Mirza would give the Bucks much needed spacing throughout the series and would force the Cavs to stretch it out rather than pack the paint.
It would be a tall task to completely shut-down the Cavs in a seven-game series, but the matchups aren’t too terrible on the defensive end of the floor. I would struggle with John Henson’s minutes although as a starter in this game, and I would try to match him up almost exclusively against Tristan Thompson. The Bucks should go with this lineup to go against the Cavs small-ball lineup.
PG: Isaiah Thomas- Eric Bledsoe
SG: JR Smith- Malcolm Brogdon
SF: Jae Crowder- Khris Middleton
PF: LeBron James- Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Kevin Love- Jabari Parker
This defensive lineup gives plenty of flexibility for the Bucks as you can switch on screens by Crowder, James, Love, and JR. There’s no question that Isaiah Thomas has struggled in the Playoffs defending opposing point guards and in my opinion he would have a very tough time scoring on the faster and stronger Eric Bledsoe for seven games. I think that the Bucks would need to heavily game plan for LeBron’s playmaking ability, and limiting the corner-three which is a staple of the Cav’s offense. Although Tony Snell might be a candidate for some minutes, his lack of confidence shooting the ball in a series that will be focused on offense may outweigh his defensive capabilities.
The series would feature two of the top 10 players in the NBA; LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. This would be a tough test for the Greek Freak with his goal being to slow-down the human freight train known as LeBron. It can be done though Giannis has the length to cause some discomfort in his jumpers and his attacks on the rim. Jabari Parker may be a candidate to guard LeBron in some moments of the game when Giannis needs to rest or focus his energy on scoring. There’s no question that Jabari has had his fair share of defensive mishaps, but purely based on size Jabari should be able to slow him down.
So far this season the Bucks have matched up with three times this season and have one win, which was the most recent game at home in December. The first game was a blowout early in the season, the second was a five-point loss, and the last was a three-point win. A positive takeaway is that the two-out-of-three were close and there is a fight in the Bucks when playing against the best.
I think that the series might be won or loss by decisions in the coaching box and playoff experience. The Bucks seemingly play to the opponents level in games this season never really putting a stretch of consistency together which could lead to a blow-out loss or two in the series. The other winnable games for the Bucks will be decided on personnel and the ability to get stops late in games. If Coach Kidd can instill a winning formula to steal a game or two in Cleveland, while defending the homecourt, the Bucks have a chance to knock off the Eastern Conference giant.