Milwaukee Bucks: Playoff rotation could lean a little undersized

(Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images) /

When the time comes for the Milwaukee Bucks to settle on a playoff rotation, they may well end up opting to lean into an undersized gameplan.

With a plan in place for the NBA season to resume, the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the NBA’s teams can start to think about the playoffs once again.

Unlike some of the other 22 teams who will be making the trip to Walt Disney World for the league’s restart, the Bucks will have the luxury of focusing solely on what they need to do to have a successful postseason run.

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Milwaukee needs just one win, or a Raptors loss, to ensure their position as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed. Therefore, outside of working on conditioning, the Bucks’ sole focus over the eight remaining regular season games may well prove to be fine-tuning their playoff gameplan.

On that front, Mike Budenholzer will have some really interesting decisions to make.

Conventional wisdom has long been that rotation sizes should shrink in the postseason, and starters should log significantly more minutes than usual.

That isn’t how Coach Bud has ever really approached things, though, which was in evidence in the playoffs last year.

On that occasion, Budenholzer came in for some valid criticism over how Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton were arguably not played for as long as they could have been. But with Antetokounmpo, in particular, looking fatigued, it could also be argued that the Bucks weren’t necessarily well equipped to ramp up minutes given how they’d pursued the complete opposite approach throughout the regular season.

That becomes interesting this year, as it remains to be seen how well any players around the NBA will hold up with playoff intensity, given they haven’t had the luxury of an 82-game warm-up as such.

In that regard, the Bucks’ approach to managing workloads throughout the season, and knowing they can trust in their depth in the shape of a larger rotation could pay off.

What will that rotation look like, though?

What’s interesting for the Bucks is that unlike a year ago when the Nikola Mirotic trade left the Bucks eager to work a big into a key role in their rotation, this season it looks like their key bench players won’t have anywhere near the same size.

Assuming Milwaukee’s starting lineup remains the same, there’d seem to be little doubt about George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo being the two players tasked with the most meaningful roles coming off the bench.

Pat Connaughton has often earned Budenholzer’s trust, and was an important role player for the Bucks in the postseason a year ago, perhaps opening the door for him to see meaningful opportunity once again. Meanwhile, given that missing open three-pointers proved fatal for Milwaukee’s postseason run last season, it would seem highly unlikely that Kyle Korver wouldn’t be afforded playing time given his stellar season.

Even in assuming that three of those four players will feature prominently, that would leave the Bucks at an eight-man rotation with the biggest of those reserves being wings.

The question is how would a frontcourt rotation be filled out. Robin Lopez has been very reliable and solid since signing in Milwaukee, and if a matchup calls for a traditional center, those minutes will be his.

But not every potential matchup will require that size, which is in part why the Bucks signed Marvin Williams.

With Ersan Ilyasova having fallen somewhat out of favor of late, Williams seems like the logical option to step in when Antetokounmpo needs to rest, or even when the Bucks go small and move the MVP to the 5. If Williams’ three-point shooting isn’t much improved when the season picks back up, though, that may yet prove to be a tough call.

If the Bucks want to run with a deep rotation similar to their regular season strategy, those questions will take care of themselves. And perhaps with the way the season has been disrupted, that strategy will have its advantages too.

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Conversely, if the Bucks look to narrow their lineup down to just their key contributors, Milwaukee could yet end up rolling with some unusually undersized, but highly skilled postseason rotations.