Milwaukee Bucks: Why Bobby Portis will rejoin Conference Finals rotation

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 24 (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MAY 24 (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks are officially headed to the Eastern Conference Finals after defeating the Brooklyn Nets in a thrilling seven-game series.

There were many questions left in the aftermath of Milwaukee’s series win against Brooklyn, but one of the most recurring was the absence of Bobby Portis. The big man missed the latter portion of the series by not playing in Games 5, 6, and 7, which raised suspicion of whether the team’s leading reserve was battling through some unseen injury.

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However, that was not the case as Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer cleared any speculation by assuring that leaving Portis on the bench was a schematic decision, in addition to shortening the overall rotation.

Despite three consecutive games where he did not see the court, Portis was met by Giannis Antetokounmpo following the Game 7 victory, where the two-time MVP assured him, “We’re going to need you, stay ready.”

Perhaps Giannis was trying to keep his teammate in good spirits after he spectated for the final three games of the series, but the Greek Freak might not be too far off with his assumption.

Will Bobby Portis make a return to the rotation as the Milwaukee Bucks are set to square off against the Atlanta Hawks in the ECF?

Portis was placed in a difficult predicament versus the Nets because of the lineups conjured up by Brooklyn’s head coach Steve Nash. Starting Blake Griffin at center and primarily running small to better space the floor, it was not the best matchup for Portis out on the floor defensively.

Against the Hawks, the Bucks will face a more traditional center in Clint Capela, who is not equipped with a 3-point shot and does most of his damage close to the basket. That is a much more favorable matchup for Portis out on the floor defensively rather than having him camped out on the perimeter sticking with Griffin or Jeff Green. That is certainly not a knock on Capela. It is just a variance on the playstyles each player possesses and how Portis fits defensively.

Capela will demand attention down low, as he asserted himself as one of the highest octane scorers in the paint this season. According to, Capela ranked fourth in paint points per game during the regular season by totaling 13.1 on average. The big man has formed a lethal pick-and-roll combination with starting point guard Trae Young this year to bolster his scoring numbers, and they will look to utilize that in this series. Defending Young’s signature floater will be a tough cover, but time will tell how the team strategizes for that.

Portis will likely get some burn to put a bigger body on Capela defensively when stating big man Brook Lopez needs a breather. He will be put to the test defensively in the likelihood that he sees the floor in this matchup, but he must also get his offense going. During his four brief appearances in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Portis scored just 12 points total on 6-for-18 shooting from the floor, including 0-of-4 from 3-point range.

After leading the team in bench scoring and boasting the fourth-best 3-point percentage in the association during the regular season, that typical offensive boost Portis provided was nowhere to be found across his 58 minutes played. Likely gearing up to see action against Atlanta, Milwaukee will need their sixth man to regain his shooting stroke off the bench. His offensive contributions were crucial throughout the regular season and could have a massive impact in this series.

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The Bucks will embrace Portis with open arms if he is fortunate enough to return to the primary rotation. In addition to his statistical contributions, the forward has provided an immeasurable dosage of intensity and hustle every single time he checks into the game.