The deepest team (when healthy)
Not only do the Bucks have the superstar talent that playoff teams need to advance deep into the playoffs, but they also have arguably the deepest team in the playoffs.
The Bucks may have similar starting lineup talent to the 76ers or Celtics, but their bench significantly tips the scales back into their favor.
In terms of net rating, the Bucks had the second best bench in the NBA during the regular season, behind only the Indiana Pacers.
The success of the bench is even more impressive when considering that Mirotic, arguably the best player that could come off the bench for any playoff team in the East, only played 14 games in Milwaukee before his injury.
Injuries have hit at the Bucks’ depth, with Snell having not played since March 26 with an ankle injury, Mirotic being out since March 20 and Brogdon’s injury on March 17 likely to keep him out of at least the first round of the playoffs.
Also, I haven’t even mentioned the loss of Donte DiVincenzo, who didn’t play much during the season due to injury but was a prominent member of the bench rotation when he did play.
There is a philosophy among some NBA experts that bench depth doesn’t matter much in the playoffs as rotations tighten. I couldn’t disagree more. It’s easy to focus on the Golden State Warriors talent, but before they got Kevin Durant they were also incredibly deep with players like Leandro Barbosa, Mareese Speights, Festus Ezeli and, of course, Andre Iguodala.
The San Antonio Spurs’ depth has been the hallmark of their teams for decades. They just seem to find quality players off the street and all of a sudden they’re making a difference in the playoffs.
Depth off the bench matters in the playoffs. Having versatile and effective players who are able to come in and play well while allowing your starters to rest is a huge weapon to boast against more top-heavy rosters.
With Brogdon, Snell and Mirotic all out for the last couple weeks of the season, the Bucks’ depth has been tested but has proven reliable.
Brown, Hill and Wilson, especially, have proven themselves by taking on bigger roles due to the injuries and have performed well in the home-stretch of the season.
Each player has averaged over 20 minutes per game since injuries to Brogdon, Mirotic and Snell, and all have been solid on both ends to stabilize the bench and starting lineup.
Brown especially, filling in for Brogdon in the starting lineup on occasion, has been more than up to the task of a bigger role with scoring outbursts and stout defense.
The Bucks are almost guaranteed to be without Brogdon in the first round, and probably Snell for at least a couple of games too. But the Bucks’ bench is so deep and reliable that it may not even be noticeable against Detroit.
If the Bucks are able to get past Detroit and get all of their injured players back with a full-strength starting lineup and bench, there’s little doubt in my mind that they have the deepest team in the conference.
Now, all these things on their own don’t make the Bucks a guarantee to get to the Finals. But put them all together, and the Bucks have the home-court advantage along with the best player as well as the deepest bench in the conference.
Take all of that into consideration and I’m confident in declaring the Bucks the favorite to come out of the East, and my pick to make it to the NBA Finals.